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Eric's Concorde Tribute Page
Today, 25 July 2000, a Concorde crashed. Some of you may be thinking "That's sad, but it was just another airplane." If so, you can stop reading now; this isn't for you. You just don't get it, won't get it, and that should make you sad. Concorde is many things, but it is not "just another airplane."
Concorde first flew on 2 March 1969 and entered scheduled commercial service 21 January 1976 with Air France and British Airways. In March of 2000 it celebrated 30 years of accident-free service. That safety mark will likely remain untouched by any aircraft.
I've seen the news reports on many plane crashes over the years, I've even survived one. I'm always saddened when a plane goes down -- loss of life, friends, family, and property. But this one touched me a great deal more than usual. It touched all of us who have flown Concorde over the years.
I'm very lucky, for I've actually flown on Concorde, and it remains one of the most singularly memorable experiences in my life -- if not the most memorable. To fly on Concorde is to literally leave earth and fly so high that you are in the deep, dark purple of the outer reaches of the atmosphere. There are no clouds, no bumps, and you experience an impossibly smooth ride; it's as if you aren't moving only you are moving, and unimaginably fast. Out of the tiny window you see the curvature of the earth whilst sitting in the lap of luxury 60,000 feet above the planet, far, far higher than any other commercial aircraft, and many military aircraft. Seeing the curvature of the earth with your own eyes is indescribable -- you will understand how small and fragile our planet really is. As youlcontinue to look out your window, tiny spots appear to be sitting on top of the clouds far below you: these are jumbo jets, also crossing the Atlantic Ocean, five miles below you. The air outside the plane is over 75 degrees Fahrenheit below zero!
Concorde is unique is many ways: it actually lengthens as it flies from the friction of its speed; the metal literally stretches. Concorde has fuel that is moved to different compartments in its hull to change the balance of the aircraft. Concorde has many unique engineering features, and if you're interested, the links at the bottom of this page will allow you to learn all there is to know.
On Concorde I flew with a slew of celebrities (whom I politely ignored), which made it seem even more elegant than it was, if possible. The oft-maligned airline food is not to be found on Concorde because the food here is bountiful and very good. But Concorde is not only a means of absurdly fast transportation, she's a majestic, beautiful creature, full of grace and glamour.
Concorde used to visit Miami every afternoon and it passed over my head every evening whilst I was sitting in rush-hour traffic near the airport. Every single time I saw it, I was in awe and always hoped to one day fly that magical metallic bird. As a child, I had a list of five things I wanted to do before I died. I realized I'd likely never achieve any of them. The first was to go into outer space. The second was to fly on Concorde.
One day that dream came true. I have many souvenirs from that trip. One of them is a picture of me inside the terminal at CDG with Concorde in the background. This Concorde very well could be the same one that went down today. I have not found the courage to see if that's the case. I have so many other souvenirs of my trip: menus, tickets, brochures, and more. Looking at them now is a bitterwsweet journey.
Concorde can still fly, perhaps until as late as 2007 as originally planned. The amazing stress on Concorde's exterior metal skin will ground her much sooner, three to five more years I'd imagine assuming she does resume service again. Yet, right now the fleet of Concordes remains grounded. The fleet will likely be grounded for some time, but it will take again to the air; I firmly believe this. Even though it's grounded, it remains the safest commercial airplane to ever fly. I'd get on Concorde at any time without a second thought for my safety.
It's too bad Concorde is grounded and it's ever so sad. This is the end of an era. With no company actively developing a modern commercial-use SST, it's likely supersonic travel will cease to exist for the rest of our lives. If you were of a mind to, I might have encouraged you to splurge on a trip on Concorde. Yes, it was a lot of money, but it was well worth it. The sheer joy of cruising at Mach Two is not to be believed, and never to be forgotten. It would have been the most memorable experience of your life. Concorde has ferried about 2.5 million passengers on 50,000 total flights, many of them repeat customers. So less than 2 million individuals have flown Concorde, making it a most exclusive club (less than 0.0000416% of the world's population).
The view of earth from a perspective only an astronaut or a Concorde passenger can see is not to be believed. The deep, dark purple of space as seen along with the curvature of the earth from the edge of the atmosphere is an awe inspiring thing. The knowledge that there are no other human beings as high above earth as you are is a humbling thought.
This piece I've written has no point whatsoever. Maybe it's a eulogy to a way of travel that's no longer here. Maybe one of you will decide to try Concorde when she returns to the sky. It's a work of modern mankind that is beyond belief and description.
As I type this, I stopped several times to look at the momentos of my Concorde trips. It makes me sad. But save your condolences for those who died. I'll end with this excerpt from John Gillespie Magee Junior's poem High Flight:
"... with silent lifting mind I've trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand and touched the face of God."
Thanks for reading,
Update: 10 April 2003, AF has announced that Concorde flights will cease from 31 May forward. BA has announced that scheduled Concorde flights will cease soon and all Concorde flights will cease from October 2003. This means if you have not flown Concorde soon, you will never be able to again. I would encourage anyone who has enough money to do so, book a flight now. Although Concorde is very expensive, there are packages with outbound regular and return on Concorde (or vice-versa) that are relatively inexpensive. One might consider this.
Update: 31 May 2003. AF Concorde has flown its last commercial flight. A few days ago, I was interviewed and quoted in an AP wire release on Concorde. There wasn't much there that isn't on this page, but it's very satisfying to me that my name was associated with Concorde on media around the planet. I archived a few of those pages for interested parties.
Update: 24 October 2004. Yesterday the last commercial Concorde flight flew. The last Concorde will fly today, full of invited guests. Two tickets were put up for bid, but I was unable to afford them. I hope the lucky winner will appreciate the flight as much as I would have. Today is a very, very sad day.The worst part is most people don't realize what's been lost. They just don't understand.
The background music is: R. Kelley's I Believe I Can Fly
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