The Dreamliner Of Space
When space was still the ultimate goal and perfect fantasy, Concorde was a dream come true.
Now a group of Concorde fans have raised £120 million to try and get one of the decommissioned Concorde aircraft back in the skies by 2019. They’re ex-captains, ex-charterers and people passionate about Concorde, and the models they want are in France. They would like to operate it as a private, heritage aircraft under neutral livery, but there’s a huge stumbling block.
The Concorde’s manufacturer – formerly British Aerospace-Aerospatiale, now Airbus – refuses to lend its support to the restoration project because the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK will not entrust the safe upkeep of its systems to a bunch of enthusiasts. It doesn’t help that an Air France one crashed horrifically.
Some time back British Airways looked into the idea of restoring a single Concorde, but decided it would be too expensive. In other words, it’s a nice clickbait story but it’s not going to happen.
Which is a great shame. I flew Concorde twice because of a peculiar trick I’d heard about. It turned out that the first flight of the season to the West Indies was a kind of ‘dry run’ for Concorde every year, and was available at half price because passengers were concerned about safety. It was easy to get a ticket and an absolute thrill-ride for me. The interior was so small that you really felt the G-force. It cut the travel time in half, and when you broke the sound barrier the speed came up on the cabin wall. The windows were very small and you had a definite sensation of being in a narrow tube – not one for bad flyers.
But the most fabulous part was that, at Concorde’s peak height you could see the curvature of the earth and glimpse the darkness of space beyond. It was the closest anyone could get to being an astronaut in my lifetime. You were given a pen and a Concorde clip, and something else (maybe a certificate? I can’t remember; typically I lost them all) just to say you’d done it. I wish it was still flying; it represented a dream of the future, but of course was impossible to sustain because it had no economy of scale. You couldn’t herd hundreds of people on board and make it pay. But while it lasted, what a dream!