View Full Version : Concorde Grounded - No longer a quick hop across the Pond

April 10th, 2003, 11:14 AM
From the New York Times

April 10, 2003

British and French to Halt Concorde Flights

LONDON, April 10 — After 27 years of supersonic travel lofting rock stars, executives, and the rest of the champagne set across the Atlantic Ocean, British Airways and Air France said today that they would retire their fleet of Concorde airplanes later this year. The decision will bring to an end an era when the needle-nosed jet stood for the ascendancy of technology and economic hope in the late 20th century.

The airlines said they made the decision because of falling passenger demand and steadily increasing costs of maintaining the fleet of delta-winged airplanes. But in recent years, Concorde has been battered by safety fears among potential passengers after a crash outside Paris in 2000 that killed 113 people, and the broader slow-down in air travel since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Successive years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq have further dented the mood of business confidence that once made Concorde an emblem of worldly success. Airlines across Europe and the United States have been reporting steady declines in passenger numbers, especially on long-haul flights to and from America.

The airlines say 12 of the original 20 Concordes are still in service. British Airways has seven and Air France has five.

In recent months, Air France's Concorde's have flown at less than half capacity.

Sara John, a spokeswoman for British Airways said the withdrawal of concorde will be "permanent as of October this year" but did not say when the last flight would take off. Air France set May 31 as the date for its last scheduled flight of Concorde.

With global economies slowing and stock markets falling, moreover, Concorde has come to stand as an emblem of high-rolling luxury at a time when many people are facing layoffs and declines.

Rod Eddington, the chief executive of British Airways, a radio interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, said "If you're laying people off and telling people in your business to tighten your belt, senior executives then find it inconsistent to go to the airport and get on Concorde rather than subsonic aircraft."

But he insisted that the retirement of the planes was not related to the crash on July 25, 2000, when an Air France Concorde burst into flames on take-off and crashed close to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. Following the crash, all Concordes were grounded while safety modifications were made. Supersonic flights were re-introduced 15 months later, on Nov. 7, 2001.

We have complete safety at Concorde, complete confidence in its ability to fly safely," Mr. Eddington said. "This is the end of a fantastic era in world aviation but bringing forward Concorde's retirement is a prudent business decision at a time when we are having to make difficult decisions right across the airline."

Air France said in a statement: "This decision is motivated by deteriorating economic results observed over the past months and which accelerated since the beginning of the year."

Concorde has been flying in commercial service since January 1976 although its first test-flight took place in 1969. Since then British Airways said its Concordes carried 2.5 million passengers — not in the same great comfort as in the First Class cabin of a subsonic airliner but at greater speed, crossing the Atlantic in less than four hours at more than twice the speed of sound. Its record crossing was just under three hours.

The airplane was not a commercial success but stood as an emblem of British Airways' and Air France's prestige and their wider offering to top-end travelers like celebrities and corporate bosses. Its four gas-guzzling engines made so much noise that it could not be used on regular flights over populated areas and, carrying only 100 passengers, it was not as cost-effective as wide-aisle subsonic planes flying at slower speeds. For all that, passengers paid up to $13,500 for a round-trip ticket, judging that their time — or their image — was worth the extra money.

Writing off costs related to closing the service will cost British Airways $132 million, Mr. Eddington said. Air France's chief executive, Jean-Cyril Spinett, said it will cost $65 million to retire the five Air France Concordes.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

(Edited by ZippyTheChimp at 11:17 am on April 10, 2003)

April 13th, 2003, 03:26 PM
Air France's chief executive, Jean-Cyril Spinett, said it will cost $65 million to retire the five Air France Concordes.

It's Spinetta.

He's corsican I think.

Well, this is a saddening news. I really loved that big bird.

April 13th, 2003, 04:46 PM
But did you ever use it?

April 13th, 2003, 05:02 PM
I used to live on the south shore of Long Island, where you hear its sonic boom and then look up to see it fly over. *I thought it was the most beautiful airplane ever, and still is. *No other civilian craft even comes close. *Maybe I'll see one up close in a museum some day. *Or I could spend much of my life savings on a round trip before time runs out in May.

April 13th, 2003, 05:21 PM
There's already one in a museum, at Le Bourget, near Paris.
I've been several times in a Concorde. Never flew it, though.

I remember seeing the AF001 flight take off at Charles-de-Gaulle airport, while waiting aboard my pathetic, regular aircraft.

The destruction of the WTC and the withdrawal of Concorde, without replacement, were never supposed to happen in the world in which I grew up.
Now, I have the impression that our civilization is starting to reverse its course.
The second law of thermodynamics (everything turns to sh*t) would be true after all ?

And, btw, I'm sorry for violating the rule about the WTC.

April 13th, 2003, 05:42 PM
Riis Park is right in the flight path. At 08:45 it would fly over the beach, turning west.

The best view was from a fishing boat off Howard Beach. This May I'll remember to bring a camera.

April 26th, 2003, 07:48 AM
April 26, 2003
The Future Is Past

As with all that goes up, that magnificent bird, the Concorde, is about to come down. I was lucky enough to have crossed the Atlantic on either the French or British version a couple of dozen times, and on each trip I couldn't escape the feeling that I was appearing in a film. A very high-budget film. As an extra. I needed only look at my fellow passengers — Wall Streeters, rock icons, and stars of stage, screen and rehab, each with a ton of Vuitton — to realize that I was soon to travel faster than the speed of sound, sitting across the aisle from some very high rollers.

There were never long lines at the Concorde check-in counter (had there been, no doubt the overprivileged passengers would have hired people to wait for them). Watching the exclusive Concorde tag, yours for only $9,000 a ticket, being looped around your luggage handles, you knew that you — and your bags — would henceforth receive preferential treatment at the major airports and majestic hotels of the world (especially since you would now feel obliged to start overtipping everyone in sight).

But more than the prestige, what the very rich and shameless who belted themselves into the world's most expensive baby seats in the world's stateliest sardine can cared about was getting to wherever it was they weren't in the shortest possible time — the better and faster to make millions and millions of dollars more. The Concorde's four Rolls-Royce engines sent them on their way, propelling the plane down the runway at a speed that made your heart feel as though it might burst before it ever made it to your mouth. I remember thinking, the first time I was propelled forward at this furious velocity, that without even taking off, we would be in London in 20 minutes flat.

Once airborne, one wondered what all the hype was about. It wasn't all that fast; there was maybe even a bit of plebeian turbulence. A deceptive letdown after takeoff while the plane was still subsonic. Only when it was commanded to do its stuff did the real ride kick in; only then, could you enjoy seconds (or thirds) of caviar, cruising along with nary an airy speed bump at up to 1,350 miles an hour, 55,000 feet above the rabble below.

Little was denied a Concorde passenger, from canapés to the crème brulé — and everything in between. Real food was served on real plates, in the company of real silver, real linen and real crystal. The only plastic to be found was the passengers' black Centurion American Express cards. Before the airlines reluctantly banned them, there were so many cigars lighted up on board that you often felt as though you were streaking through the skies in a flying humidor. In those relatively terror-free days, you could even visit the cockpit without fear of being shot by the pilot. The last bit of pampering came at the end of the three-hour flight. Then, because one of the best things about being rich is how much you get for free, passengers were awarded "prezzies" — a pen, a pill case, a picture frame, a clock, a leather diary — the distinctive Concorde logo engraved on each supersonic tchotchke.

No longer able to make a buck or a euro Air France will end its Concorde flights in May; British Airways will do the same in October. Those of us privileged enough to have been hurled through time and space while being forced to subsist on smoked salmon and Dom Perignon must resign ourselves to what passes for luxury among the unfortunate first-class peasantry.

The grounding of the Concorde means the end of an important symbol, one that made what seemed an impossible feat — traveling faster than the speed of sound (while wearing street clothes) — possible on a regularly scheduled basis. As a boyhood fan of such interplanetary travelers as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, I never dreamed that the future might arrive during my lifetime. It makes me especially sad to see that part of the future disappear.

Larry Gelbart, who developed the television series "M*A*S*H,'' has written for the stage, movies and television.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

April 27th, 2003, 08:54 AM
April 27, 2003
Ears Ringing? It's Cheering Over the Demise of the Concorde

Stand in the eastern Rockaways and wait for the plane noise to die down. Then listen carefully. What you will hear is the sound of supersonic rejoicing.

Air France has announced that on May 30, Concorde jets will stop flying out of Kennedy Airport and over local rooftops twice a day en route to Paris. The other Concorde carrier, British Airways, likewise plans to stop all of its Concorde flights on Oct. 25, including its twice daily flights to London from Kennedy.

No more jet wake vibrations to sweep across the peninsula and trip car alarms to whoop in a group like a threatened pack of dogs. And no more simmering indignation that years of outcry - especially the protests that preceded the jets' arrival in 1977 - failed to bar the Concorde from what residents feel is the Rockaways' already noisy skies.

"Good riddance," said Assemblywoman Audrey I. Pheffer, who lives in the area. She is annoyed that economics has accomplished what citizen outrage couldn't do: Air France and British Airways have been losing tens of millions of dollars annually on the Concorde's underbooked flights.

Carol Berman, a former community activist and assemblywoman from Long Island, recalled last week that hard bargaining had set the stage for the Concorde's eventual demise. "We made the Port Authority agree to limit the number of aircraft to be built to 13," she said. "And obviously, the planes are going to wear out."

She added that opponents successfully lobbied to limit the flights to two a day per carrier. "And we knew that could never be economically feasible with its small number of seats," she said. While Concorde tickets recently cost $12,000 a round trip, the planes have only 100 passenger seats.

Ms. Berman recalled that opponents persuaded Port Authority officials to sit down with them by staging two traffic-clogging protests at Kennedy Airport: "We had two cavalcades of 250 cars coming from Queens and Nassau County drive through the airport at five miles per hour."

Even nuns staged guerrilla protests against the Concorde, then known as supersonic transport or SST. Sister Mary Lou Tressy recalled that when the jets started rumbling over Our Lady of Grace School in Howard Beach, where she was principal, the building shook harder than for any other plane. "You really had to put your hands up to your ears when it was taking off," she recalled. So she and several students got 15 gallons of white paint and wrote "Stop the SST" on the roof.

Jonathan L. Gaska, district manager of the local community board, said he was doubly thrilled at the Concorde's eventual grounding. "We won't have the noise aggravation," he said. "Plus, the French are losing money."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Lightning Homer
April 28th, 2003, 02:47 PM
The problem with Concorde : YOU pay 9.000 $ for YOUR ticket. Taxes pay the rest, which means YOU and ME. What ? You really believed that you could afford to drink a Dom Perignon at a supersonic speed for that few ? Is that capitalism ? Yes, USSR-style !

Concorde didn't make money but wasted the people's money.

Let the Concorde rust in peace !

(Edited by Lightning Homer at 2:49 pm on April 28, 2003)

(Edited by Lightning Homer at 2:51 pm on April 28, 2003)

April 28th, 2003, 03:35 PM
Do you mean US tax dollars?

Lightning Homer
April 28th, 2003, 04:34 PM
Course not ! English and French pay taxes to make this fly. It would be gross if US-Citizens would also be forced to pay for that, kss !

(Edited by Lightning Homer at 4:36 pm on April 28, 2003)

April 28th, 2003, 05:23 PM
Concorde made a profit when it flew at full capacity.
That was the case during most of the 80s and the 90s.

April 28th, 2003, 06:43 PM
Other forms of transport lose money and are subsidized:

Lately, most airlines.
All NYC express buses.

April 28th, 2003, 07:14 PM
Not to mention virtually every rail service in Europe.

April 28th, 2003, 07:57 PM
Passenger rail was only ever commercially viable in the US when the railroads could rely on freight routes to make a profit. *I wish congress would realize this and subsidize a real national high-speed rail system -- for what it would cost to bail out one airline. *The free market has become a religious dogma in this country.

April 28th, 2003, 09:23 PM
Except when it comes to subsidizing the construction and maintenance of highways, for instance. A national high-speed rail system wouldn't be viable. There should be a focus on a select few corridors, starting with the Northeast and California.

April 28th, 2003, 10:08 PM
Milwaukee, Chicago, South Bend, Detroit, Toldeo, Cleveland, Pittsburg is another corridor often discussed. The estimates for ridership are much higher than in California.

Lightning Homer
April 30th, 2003, 06:16 AM
When we will have those Hydrogen cars on the market, we won't have to mind that much about public transportation. They work, they have a great range, they go fast and they don't pollute : 2H+O=H2O !
One of the main problems is the reservoir : too bulky for now...

April 30th, 2003, 06:28 AM
What do you mean, they don't pollute ?
H2O is a heat trapping gaz.
Not to mention the increase of humidity in the traffic jams.

April 30th, 2003, 07:23 AM
My hair! This damn traffic jam is giving me the frizzies.

Hydrogen cars may solve the pollution problem, but not the traffic problem. Even driving upstate is becoming a pain.

April 30th, 2003, 11:26 AM
Quote: from Lightning Homer on 6:16 am on April 30, 2003
When we will have those Hydrogen cars on the market, we won't have to mind that much about public transportation. They work, they have a great range, they go fast and they don't pollute : 2H+O=H2O !

That is not exactly true. To say that the hydrogen cars do not pollute is the same as to say that electric cars do not pollute – it’s not saying the whole story. You need electricity for the batteries of the electric car, and you need electricity to produce the hydrogen for the fuel cells of the hydrogen car. And if this electricity comes from the dirty coal-burning power plant, it would not be truthful to say that these cars do not pollute.

April 30th, 2003, 08:38 PM
Even if cars stopped polluting, they would still cause sprawl and be dangerous.

May 1st, 2003, 04:08 PM
Bad drivers are dangerous.
Most of the cars are safe, they animate the city and their contribution to the economy is undeniable.

I still dislike them, though.

May 1st, 2003, 04:35 PM
Even good drivers don't have perfect control of the tons of metal they steer. Cars don't animate the city in a beneficial way, pedestrians do. And cars are a danger to pedestrians, which is why they hinder their movements and the animation they create.

May 2nd, 2003, 04:31 AM
As a pedestrian myself, I understand what you mean.

But do you know what happened when a part of State Street, in Chicago, was turned into a pedestrian section ?
Well, it didn't work. People complained that it was too hazardous after commercial hours.

Another failed experiment is La Défense, near Paris. The huge esplanade is pedestrian, as well as most of the district. Well, you won't be hit by a car, but it's so empty that it makes you want to kill yourself.

Lightning Homer
May 2nd, 2003, 06:47 AM
Fabb, H2O is nothing else than... WATER !
I wouldn't drink it, you know me, uh ? But I couldn't say it pollutes...
Hydrogen can be produced through many ways : electric, chemical, whatever. But it is SURE much easier to handle a few dozens factories than several hundred million cars to make them pollute as few as possible. It's even possible to produce Hydrogen using the sunlight ! We have lots of that in states like Nevada, New Mexico, and so on.
We could first use that energy for public transportation, there's alway room in a bus to put a big reservoir.

We could also use Hydrogen to produce electricity !

Hydrogen is a powerful energy, unlike some ersatz we use nowadays like LPG and Hydrogen is everywhere. It's the most common stuff in the whole Universe !

May 2nd, 2003, 08:26 AM
Converting all vehicles to hydrogen-fueled would drastically
reduce pollution. However, your statement...

Quote: from Lightning Homer on 6:16 am on April 30, 2003
When we will have those Hydrogen cars on the market, we won't have to mind that much about public transportation.
...assumes vehicle emissions are the only argument of public vs. private transportation. As vehicle use increases, more roads need to be built.

The best way to get 200 people from NY to Chicago is not in 100 cars.

This is painful for me to say, because I love cars.

May 2nd, 2003, 12:51 PM
The Plane That Does Hong Kong and Back in a Day

VISION: A supersonic business jet.
WHY: High-powered executives want to travel the world and still be back in time for their kids' basketball games.
VISIONARIES: Kimberly Ernzen, 31; Cathy Downen, 33.
DAY JOBS: Manager of the Propeller Aircraft Group (Ernzen) and supersonic research manager (Downen) at Raytheon Aircraft.
BREAKTHROUGH: Computer simulations show that dramatically lengthening a plane's body in proportion to its weight -- the six-seat plane is the length of a Boeing 737 -- and reshaping the wings can quiet the window-shattering double boom that restricts today's supersonic jetliners to transoceanic flights.
BREAKTHROUGHS NEEDED: The designers still have to figure out how to get more miles out of each gallon of fuel. Engine technology needs to minimize takeoff emissions and decibel levels to win over the FAA.
WHO'S PAYING ATTENTION: Backing has come from NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). General Electric (GE) is working on the engine, and Northrop Grumman (NOC) did some early development. Boeing (BA), Gulfstream, and Lockheed Martin (LMT) are also watching.
QUOTE: "The ability to fly from Los Angeles to New York in two and a half hours, or New York to Hong Kong and back in one day, will change the way business is done," Downen says.

From Time Magazine.

May 2nd, 2003, 01:01 PM
Let's show those Frenchies and Brits what us Yankees can do...

Maybe we can actually learn from their mistakes for a change.

(Edited by dbhstockton at 1:03 pm on May 2, 2003)

May 2nd, 2003, 04:17 PM
Six seats???

Just how long would a 100 seat plane have to be? :)

May 2nd, 2003, 05:07 PM
I imagine that most of the weight of the plane is not its passengers, 200 people don't weigh as much as a single engine, so I imagine it wouldn't have to get proportionally much longer for the extra weight that people would add.

May 2nd, 2003, 05:28 PM
Not the people that wind up sitting bext to me...plus all their carry-on.

Anyway, it was a mistake for the US to drop out of research.
I remember when Concorde was introduced, there was a Boeing SST model that was considerably larger. After the project was cancelled, the US severely limited Concorde flights. I don't think the French ever really forgave us for that.

Lightning Homer
May 3rd, 2003, 06:16 AM
Quote: from Lightning Homer on 6:16 am on April 30, 2003
When we will have those Hydrogen cars on the market, we won't have to mind that much about public transportation.


"...assumes vehicle emissions are the only argument of public vs. private transportation. As vehicle use increases, more roads need to be built."

Nope ! Haven't sayed that. But it's one of the main problems : pollution and waste of energy. And as I wrote, H2 would do a great job on buses, but also on trucks and... trains !

It would be nice to devellop railways too. Airplanes is the most polluting way to travel. And it's so much more convenient to go from city to city, while you have to waste your time at airports, taking a cab, waiting for your luggage, then waiting for a cab. Especially for mid-range distances, like NY-Boston. It would be faster with the train !

Just a French-Brit example -nooooo, not again- the Eurostar. Much more convenient to do Paris-London this way...

(Edited by Lightning Homer at 6:22 am on May 3, 2003)

May 3rd, 2003, 06:25 AM
The Eurostar is convenient.
And the ride will be even faster next fall.

Lightning Homer
May 3rd, 2003, 04:28 PM
You mean "autumn" ? ;)

May 3rd, 2003, 05:05 PM
Is there a difference ?
I think fall is more evocative...

Anyway, Eurostar loses money. Then, something similar would probably not happen in the US.

Lightning Homer
May 4th, 2003, 02:10 PM
Doh !
It's a good job I put the ";)" !

NyC MaNiAc
May 6th, 2003, 11:55 PM
Homer saying "Doh!"...classic.

I wish I did get a chance to ride on the concorde...first time for everything I always say...

Lightning Homer
May 7th, 2003, 04:13 PM
Come here, you little... :biggrin:

October 24th, 2003, 04:38 AM
October 24, 2003


Uppity, Loud and, at Last, Gone for Good


BY the time many of you read this, chances are that you will have missed the moment.

That elegant sliver known as the Concorde supersonic plane is scheduled to leave Kennedy International Airport for London at roughly sunrise today, a final flight for a technological marvel that failed the test of the very thing it was supposed to conquer: time.

There will be Champagne and boldface-eligible names aboard this last three-and-a-half-hour hop across the Atlantic. There will be melancholy explanations of how the British-French plane had finally become an intolerable financial burden for British Airways, as it had six months ago for Air France. There will be toasts to faded glamor and reflections on how man's eternal yearning to go ever faster, ever higher, will now go unfulfilled.

But there is at least one place where none of those things will happen. It is Howard Beach.

For more than 25 years, that patch of Queens along Kennedy Airport's western flank has deemed the Concorde a mortal enemy, a plaything for the well-heeled that it paid for in rattled walls and jangled nerves. Once the Concorde roars its last, the main sound likely to be heard in Howard Beach will be a collective cry of "good riddance."

"When they'd put that thing in gear, your teeth would vibrate — that's how bad it got," said Joe Ulino, owner of Class Act Hair Designers on Howard Beach's main drag, Cross Bay Boulevard.

Plain and simple, there is no way, not yet at any rate, for a plane to fly faster than the speed of sound without being excruciatingly noisy for those on the ground. When the Concorde took off, you knew it, said Betty Braton, a Howard Beach resident and chairwoman of the local community board, No. 10.

Granted, there is no escaping noise when you live next door to Kennedy, she said. But the Concorde pushed the envelope of endurance. Its piercing whine plunged deep. "Our environment subsidized travel for the very rich," Ms. Braton said. "Some businessman's going to Europe for ten grand so he can get to a meeting in three hours? People here don't relate to that."

For some, the noise was one more reason to dislike the French (who always seem to fare worse than the Brits). "I was ready to give them back the Statue of Liberty," said Sal Coticchio, a retired supermarket employee.

New Yorkers who are middle-aged and beyond may well remember the Battle of Concorde in the 1970's: large protests held by people from Howard Beach and other parts of southeastern Queens to keep the plane out of Kennedy. Again and again, they formed motorcades to clog the airport's main roads, but ultimately could not block the supersonic flights.

Ms. Braton was one of the demonstrators. "We had the support of everybody but the United States government," she said. "It was an unnecessary affront. Our own government was allowing two foreign governments to impose something on us that nobody wanted."

She is convinced that the protests did not entirely fail. In their wake, she said, airplane-noise controls were tightened. And Bryan F. Levinson, a lawyer who led those demonstrations, feels that they helped limit the number of daily Concorde flights at Kennedy to four. "The application was for 50 operations a day," he said.

At one point, Mr. Levinson said, British Airways offered him and his family a free supersonic flight to Europe. Did he go? "Absolutely not," he said. "I'm not taking a vacation on this thing."

Perhaps it was just as well. A Concorde flight is not particularly comfortable, just blessedly short. Space is extremely tight, and a cramped feeling unavoidable. Still, many who have flown on the plane consider that a small price to pay for a chance to see the world from 11 miles up, at the doorstep of space.

And from the ground, Mr. Ulino acknowledged with no prompting, the plane is "a beautiful sight." His receptionist, Karen Mitchel, agreed. "Too bad it makes so much noise," she said.

In Howard Beach, it inevitably boils down to that. Unlike the plane itself, "it's an issue that's survived the test of time," said the local city councilman, Joseph P. Addabbo Jr.

It is why some people plan to gather today in Frank M. Charles Memorial Park, on the northern edge of Jamaica Bay, to raise a Champagne toast of their own to the last flight. Mr. Levinson says he, for one, won't be there.

He intends to celebrate "with a wave of the hand." Then, he said, "I'll put my hands over my ears and say, `So long. Don't come back.' "

Farewell to Supersonic Flight

The long but ultimately sterile era of commercial supersonic transportation will come to an end today, when the last scheduled Concorde flight, by British Airways, is scheduled to leave Kennedy International Airport for London. Neither snob appeal nor the allure of crossing the Atlantic in only three and a half hours could overcome the draining costs of trying to maintain the aging high-speed jets.

The elegant British-French Concordes were a technological and aesthetic triumph. But the slender, needle-nosed planes had limited passenger capacity, guzzled fuel rapaciously and caused sonic booms that made it impossible to fly supersonically over land. Even in subsonic flight, their engines set off car alarms and shook houses on the ground.

The economic prospects for the Concorde evaporated three decades ago when the United States dropped its own plans for a supersonic plane, prompting a mass defection from supersonic travel by the airlines. The coup de grâce was administered when the recent global economic downturn left few customers willing to pay $12,800 for a round-trip ticket.

Now many of the existing Concordes are headed toward museum displays. It will be up to a future generation to decide whether there is room for a more advanced supersonic plane, perhaps on the long trans-Pacific flights that the Concorde could not handle. Or perhaps future engineers will leapfrog to even faster hypersonic aircraft, leaving the Concorde as a technological dead end with no direct successors.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company