Dusting Off: The Concorde
It was the crown jewel of aircrafts from the moment it lifted off in 1976 until its sudden, catastrophic extinction 27 years later. The Concorde.
On the outside: a supersonic, transatlantic rocket ship with four Rolls-Royce engines cruising along the outermost layer of the earth’s atmosphere at Mach 2. On the inside: the last of the 1960s’ international jetsetters and the wealthiest of the 1980s’ Wall Street tycoons sipping champagne and moving twice as fast as everyone else in the world. “You can be in London at 10am and in New York at 10am,” said Sir David Frost, a Concorde regular. “I have never found another way of being in two places at once.”
And then, like Keyser Söze, poof: it was gone.
The Heyday: 1976-1990: the golden age of air travel, when passengers dressed to the nines even for Pan Am flights from Dallas to Cleveland.
Advantages: A three-hour jaunt from JFK to Heathrow; passengers dined on caviar while peering out upon the curvature of the earth.
Disadvantages: Air France Flight 4590, which crashed on July 25, 2000, killing all 100 passengers and nine crew members. A semaphore of red flags was raised about the safety of the sleek yet aging fleet.
User’s Guide: Though commercial supersonic travel looks to be grounded for good, the American jet company Aerion has held several test flights and predicts a 2015 launch of 50 privately owned mini Concordes capable of transporting eight to 12 passengers from New York to London in slightly less than three hours.
For $85 million, you can be two places at once.
- — C. Brian Smith