Bye Bye Concorde
April 10, 2003 1:45 AM   Subscribe

The Queen of the Skies retires Undoubtedly the most elegant plane out there, Concorde is being put into retirement, some say too early. She flies over my office every morning and it's a beautiful sight. I feel very sad - is it normal to miss a machine?
posted by jontyjago (37 comments total)
I don't know, but I agree...
posted by twine42 at 2:08 AM on April 10, 2003

I sympathise entirely. Despite being a fuel guzzling, uneconmical relic of the cold war Concorde was both beautiful and visionary. In some ways it was part of those '50s predictions of the future, where we all wore silver suits, drove flying cars to work and flew on holiday in supersonic jets. I think it will be a long time before we see her like again [wipes away a little tear].
posted by prentiz at 2:12 AM on April 10, 2003

£6,800 for a final flight. Time to start saving :(

Or £1,800 to friends and family of BA .... time to start sleeping around ;)
posted by MintSauce at 2:15 AM on April 10, 2003

Sorry, special retirement prices makes it more like £1999 for one way tickets.
posted by MintSauce at 2:17 AM on April 10, 2003

Don't forget the concorde was built on engineering of the 60's. A more modern plane can be built. buti dont htink anyone has anythign realistic on the drawing board.
posted by MrLint at 2:20 AM on April 10, 2003

No-one mourns the passing of last year's model of DVD player, but I think it's entirely normal to feel something when the object is as iconic as Concorde.

For me, though, the Concorde era ended with the fatal crash in France a few years back. This is but a footnote.
posted by plenty at 2:45 AM on April 10, 2003

Apparently NASA was working on a next generation Concord that looks something like this .
It's called the High Speed Civil Transport. Nifty, but the program was phased out in 1999.
posted by SimStupid at 2:47 AM on April 10, 2003

My Master's thesis as an aero engineer has a SuperSonic Transport. SSTs are definitely feasible with today's tech, although they would very likely look much like a Concorde --but would be a bit more profitable.

What killed the SST era was regulation, pretty much worldwide, that banned supersonic flight over land. That basically allows only two profitable routes: Europe to US, US to Japan. I think the latter was longer than Concorde's range, so in reality Paris/London to NY was the only realistic route left. That's what killed the Concorde. Too bad; it is/was a hell of a machine.
posted by costas at 3:00 AM on April 10, 2003

I feel lucky to have flown on it....Paris / New York, January 1993. It was amazing, although the food was awful haute-cuisine type stuff ;-)
posted by tomcosgrave at 3:11 AM on April 10, 2003

Blimey, Tom, you must have been just a nipper! Well, teenager, anyway. You weren't a rich child star, by any chance?
posted by rory at 4:32 AM on April 10, 2003

My own Concorde memory: watching pictures of it on a French news broadcast in a third-world hotel room, and guessing (because my French ain't too hot) that the only reason they were showing them was that one must have crashed.
posted by rory at 4:37 AM on April 10, 2003

'is it normal to miss a machine?'

- Does it vibrate?

Sorry, sorry.
posted by asok at 4:38 AM on April 10, 2003

Very beautiful, but I always thought the Sud-Aviation Caravelle was le dernier cri in airborne elegance.

Sadly, the Caravelle didn't join the Mirage III here, but the F.27 Friendship did.

And the ticket clerks loved it when all the seats were sold and they could intone, "Sorry, ocker, the Fokker's chocka."
posted by emf at 5:00 AM on April 10, 2003

Wonder what MeFi said about the crash... ah, here we are. And there's tomcosgrave, preemptively answering my question.

Only 19 comments on a MeFi thread about a major disaster. Man, have times changed.
posted by rory at 5:08 AM on April 10, 2003

I have to say I feel precious little sadness at its passing. Whilst it was undeniably an impressive piece of engineering, it was somewhat redundant. I can't really feel much for a project so expensive and yet (by and large) only of practical use to those with far too much money to burn. Remember that around the same time BA and Air France were working on Concorde, Boeing were designing the 747. Which of the two aircraft has had a more profound impact on the way people think about travel, and encouraged more people to see the world? For all it's aesthetic appeal, flying Concorde was never anything but an extravagance, a status symbol. Which isn't to say I wouldn't have liked to fly it once, although it strikes me that the ageing fleet (coupled with the cannibalisation of parts as they fell to bits) made the planes something of a liability, and the tragic crash in 2000 really was the point at which they should have gracefully retired them. Of course, this might just be bitterness bred by taking far too many super-economy flights in the wee hours of the morning in the interests of saving cash. Ho hum.
posted by zygoticmynci at 5:09 AM on April 10, 2003

look east
posted by pekar wood at 5:15 AM on April 10, 2003

I just looked on the BA website, and it appears that (if you're flexible with your timescales) you can scoop up a flight from around £4000 in July and August.

Not too bad ;)
posted by sebas at 5:28 AM on April 10, 2003

My father was posted to Paris when I was nine, and whenever we went to Charles De Gaulle airport to pick up relatives/friends it was always a thrill to see Air France's fleet. Even better was to get there when they started spooling up the engines. What a glorious racket that was!
posted by smcniven at 5:30 AM on April 10, 2003

Yes, you can miss a machine, especially one as elegantly beautiful as the Concorde.

Not to worry -- something *better* will be along soon. I have no doubt.
posted by davidmsc at 6:29 AM on April 10, 2003

zygoticmynci: you're forgetting that the 747 was a re-vamp of the YC-4 (? IIRC), the Boeing competitor for the army's very large cargo transport, which was eventually won by Lockheed's C-5 Galaxy. In other words, its design was just as expensive (and taxpayer-backed) as the Concorde. And at around the same time, Boeing was trying to build the SST, which was eventually abandoned (IIRC, the last remaining prototype is a backdrop for some church in Florida... Google that story for a laugh).

As for its influence, I agree with you, although I think it's unfortunate that other SST, or at least near-Sonic Transports never came to be.
posted by costas at 6:30 AM on April 10, 2003

Only 19 comments on a MeFi thread about a major disaster. Man, have times changed.

It didn't happen in America or to Americans.
posted by Summer at 7:22 AM on April 10, 2003

I always remember my time in London as a student a couple of years ago. I was living in West London. Occasionally, you'd hear a rumble, like distant thunder, and then this incredible delta shaped plane would fly over. Damn it was loud. A plane that would make people in the street stop what they were doing and look up.

I'm going to miss that plane...
posted by derbs at 7:24 AM on April 10, 2003

davidmsc: "Not to worry -- something *better* will be along soon. I have no doubt."

I respectfully disagree... Other, better commercial airliners may come along, perhaps even soon. I am not, however, aware of anything being publicly discussed that even comes close to Concorde's awe-inspriring design. In fact, when today's commercial jet companies decide to try and build a truly next generation aircraft, one seems to want to buy the plane. Not a single airline has stepped up to say that the time saved by flying so fast is worth the higher price, greater fuel costs, and schedule disruption. So Boeing is backing away from the project, laying the blame on a weak market and shifting customer preferences. [from 2nd par.]

And that is even before you get into any consideration of aesthetics - Sonic Cruiser may have been technically advanced, but it utterly lacked the grace and balance of Concorde's flawless shape. When I look at the last set of renderings before Boeing abandoned the Sonic Cruiser project, looks to me like a big ol' stretched out ball of rolling ugly...
posted by JollyWanker at 7:31 AM on April 10, 2003

It didn't happen in America or to Americans.

Ho hum, Summer turned to winter. BORING!!! Give it a rest already summer. Day after day after day of your crap is nauseating.
posted by a3matrix at 7:59 AM on April 10, 2003

Thanks a3m. Love you too.
posted by Summer at 8:08 AM on April 10, 2003

In other words, its design was just as expensive (and taxpayer-backed) as the Concorde. ... As for its influence, I agree with you, although I think it's unfortunate that other SST, or at least near-Sonic Transports never came to be.

I stand corrected, then! (Google has failed me on story about the Boeing prototype but I shall keep looking...) My main point really was just that Concorde always struck me as elegant but ultimately pointless. I agree, though, that it's sad that Condorde was the only supersonic jet, and perhaps a missed opportunity. I think it was expected that super-sonic travel would be more of a revolution than it was... the technology never really made the leap from the extraordinary to the ordinary in the way that slower passenger aircraft did, and in the way that BA/AF must have expected Concorde to.
posted by zygoticmynci at 8:34 AM on April 10, 2003

Condorde was the only supersonic jet

I'm guessing you mean it was the only wasn't.
There was the Tu144 as well, although it didn't fly that much and it was a clone of the Concorde. But still...
posted by tomcosgrave at 8:56 AM on April 10, 2003

There is another supersonic jet...

SR-71: Blackbird!
posted by davidmsc at 9:07 AM on April 10, 2003

We were wandering through Hyde Park in London when one flew over, and we paused to watch, three Americans, two huge flight fans and one a private pilot.

A Brit noticed our staring and we exclaimed over its beauty. He smiled, shook his head, and said "you wouldn't think it was so great if it flew over you twice a day!"
posted by GaelFC at 9:29 AM on April 10, 2003

Virgin enters the fray.
Apparently the UK gov't sold 7 Concordes to British Airways for one pound apiece, with the proviso that if BA wanted out another British company could have a shot at the same price. So, all may not be lost.
posted by beagle at 11:00 AM on April 10, 2003

Virgin could really make a go at this, it'd be just in their b-plan... Useless trivia of the day: I am at Heathrow often, and one day I noticed a pattern in the tail numbers of Virgin jets: G-VHOT, G-VBIG, G-VSKY, G-VSEA (no, I didn't see a G-VSEX...) I am wondering what Branson will call the 7 Concordes :-)...
posted by costas at 12:29 PM on April 10, 2003

Even more useless Virgin trivia, off their site, (About us - Fleet) a complete list of the 3-letter suffixes (I believe the G is for Great Britain, V is for Virgin, and then they can designate their own code): ROS, GAL, LIP, ROM, ROY, FAB, HOT, BIG, SHY, MEG, FOX, EIL, SSH, GOA, ATL, BUS, AEL, SKY and FLY.
This doesn't match the fan page list here, but that list is probably out of date. SEA is not listed on Virgin's site but is on the fan page and seen by costas.
posted by beagle at 12:51 PM on April 10, 2003

It's all but forgotten now, but this would have been a great basis for a US SST (scroll down for pictures).
posted by TedW at 1:31 PM on April 10, 2003

It didn't happen in America or to Americans.

Er... more like the place wasn't full of five-digiters who didn't understand what the site was supposed to be about.

Damn, that seems like such a long time ago. I was just a lurker then and hadn't even registered yet. I don't think there were even many four-digiters then.
posted by jammer at 3:20 PM on April 10, 2003

Technocoolness aside, the main reason the Concorde is being scrapped is because it was never cost effective, except for people with money to throw away and burn.

London - New York:

Concorde flight - $10,630 USD

conventional flight $500-600 USD (on a well known ticket site)

The problem with bleeding edge engineering is that the eggheads rarely consider costs. No problem if you're building stuff for the Pentagon; big problem for everyone else.
posted by mark13 at 5:17 PM on April 10, 2003

This was sad news indeed. What a beautiful aircraft -- I still crane my neck and hope to see one each time I'm at JFK, LHR, or CDG. (and I usually get to see 'em at JFK.)

And is a great the pix of scary approaches at Kai Tak and amazing landings at St. on their "Most Popular" button for some fun ones.
posted by Vidiot at 6:59 PM on April 10, 2003

by the way, I think this is the best Concorde site out there.
posted by Vidiot at 10:19 PM on April 10, 2003

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