Saturday, October 24, 2015

Celebrating Concorde

In the picture to the right, is the most famous nose in the world. Well, perhaps I should have added a qualifier like ‘arguably’ or ‘possibly’ or ‘perhaps’ in the previous sentence, but the Pinocchio-ish nose of Concorde is rather distinctive. Of course, Concorde itself is unique for it is one of only two supersonic airliners or supersonic transports (SST) to have flown commercially. 
The rather distinctive nose (and the body behind it too) in the pictures in this post is of the Concorde referred to as ‘Alpha Golf’, with the registration number G-BOAG. Now on display at Seattle’s Museum of Flight, Alpha Golf was the plane that operated the final scheduled Concorde flight on 24 October 2003. 
It was 12 years ago today that Alpha Golf flew from New York’s John F. Kennedy airport to London’s Heathrow airport. Or to put it a little differently, it’s been 12 years since ‘Speedbird Concorde 002’ operated from JFK to LHR, executing a Canarsie climb on take off.  
For 27 years, Concorde operated by British Airways and Air France almost put ‘time in a bottle’ as they flew faster than any airliner before them or since. They could, for instance, fly from London to New York and back in the time it took an ordinary aircraft to fly one way. As the British Airways site says: “Concorde’s fastest transatlantic crossing was on 7 February 1996 when it completed the New York to London flight in 2 hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds.” And the Concorde flew for many more years than its rival, the Russian Tupolev Tu-144. 
I came face-to-face — almost, since it towered over me — with my first Concorde at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia a few years ago. My more meaningful Concorde experience was a recent tour of G-BOAG. Among the most striking aspects of this aircraft that defines the age of glamorous and luxurious air travel is just how cramped its cabin is.   
Besides operating British Airways’ last Concorde schedule, Alpha Golf also has another record under its wings. On its very last flight to The Museum of Flight in Seattle, on 5 November 2003, Alpha Golf set a New York to Seattle speed record of 3 hours, 55 minutes, and 12 seconds. 
There’s some talk of getting Concorde flying again. I’m not too sure if that’s going to pan out.
I know, though, I’ll never fly on Concorde, probably. And yet, I can’t help wishing I had, for there’s something about this aircraft. Even something as ordinary as a recording of the final conversation between Kennedy air traffic control and the pilots of Concorde feels special. That’s the magic of Concorde.

No comments: