On October 24, the Concorde will fly for the very last time. After that day, there will be no more traveling at twice the speed of sound, no more traveling 60,000 feet up in the air, no more paying upwards of $10,000 for a round-trip ticket. And no, there’s not an extra zero in that price. That’s the reason why even if the Concorde flew another decade, I — and most of the world — would never get to experience it.
But that’s not what’s important. Whether you’ve flown on it or just read about it, it is an amazing work of art and technology, as well as a time-traveling machine. With the ability to fly at up to 1,360 miles per hour, the Concorde could get from London to New York in three hours and 15 minutes (on a 777 it will take you more than 7 hours). Thanks to time zones, that meant you’d arrive in New York an hour before you left London. (On second thought, I might pay more than $10,000 to add more hours to my day!) Paris-New York was a little longer, at 3 hours and 45 minutes.
What is even more amazing to me though, is the number of non-celebrity types who were able to indulge. In a New York Times article earlier this year, interviewers talked to bankers, stockbrokers, doctors, lawyers, and the like who had not only flown on the Concorde, but done so numbers of times (ahhhh, remember the days of corporate excess). One lawyer had flown on it at least once a month for 20 years — which means he started flying on the Concorde almost from the very beginning.
But despite the celebrity and non-celebrity passengers, both British Airways and Air France could no longer justify the expense of this nifty vehicle under today’s economic circumstances. What a shame.
That said, this isn’t the time to dwell on the significance (what it means for technology, air travel, the economy). It’s time to look ahead to what the future holds. There are great minds at work on developing larger, faster, and more fuel-efficient airplanes every day. Even BA’s chief pilot of the Concorde operation predicted that we’ll see an even faster model some day.
Until then, while we wait out our own personal Jetson-like cruisers, we’ll have the opportunity to see the Concordes (there are 12 of them) up close at their retirement homes in museums around the world. And we can continue to travel to almost anywhere in the world at more than 500 miles per hour while we watch movies, listen to music, work on our laptops, or just catch some z’s. I don’t know about you, but I can’t complain. Maybe the Concorde was just ahead of its time.
SHERRI GULCZYNSKI BURNS
Above Right Photo: Ah, parting is such sweet sorrow. Traveling at twice the speed of sound, the Concorde makes its exit.