2003-04-19 / Front Page

Will Concorde Be Missed?

By Brian Magoolaghan
Will Concorde Be Missed?

Will Concorde Be Missed?

All Service to End by OctoberAll Service to End by October

For every Concorde that flies over the Rockaway peninsula, there are some residents who cover their ears, while others shield their eyes from the sun and gaze skyward at the impressive, albeit thunderous, jet.

When British Airways and Air France retire their Con-corde aircraft, as they ann-ounced they soon will, many residents are going to be happy, others won't notice at all, and some will miss the sexy supersonic that used to slice air overhead.

"Too much noise. It sounds like a train going overhead," said Beach 122 Street resident William Martinez. Will he miss it? "Heck no," he said and called Concorde a "plane for the rich."

Martinez is right about the jet that has been called "travel's ultimate status symbol." The price of a round-trip ticket on Concorde rose to more than $13,000, roughly a third of the average yearly household income in Queens, in 1999. Among the amenities Concorde offered her wealthy passengers was a wine cellar stocked with the "finest classic vintages."

One Rockaway resident who flew aboard Concorde said, "They treat you like royalty." Appropriate since British Roy-alty reportedly flew on her as well.

While some of the aircraft's jet set passengers have said they will miss her, the lack of business is ultimately what has caused the speed bird's demise. British Airways attributes its decision to steady falling passenger revenue and rising maintenance costs. In recent years Concorde has suffered rudder, fuel line, and engine problems. In 2000, a Concorde being operated by Air France crashed, killing 113 people. The airlines say the jets, which have been in commercial service since the late 1970s, are youthful in terms of their number of take-offs and landings, and flight hours logged, when compared to a five-year-old 747 or 737.

Safety issues and noise were the major complaints raised Concorde opponent, Congressman Anthony Weiner.

"This is great news for the long suffering residents of the Rockaways, all of the neighborhoods surrounding Jamaica Bay and JFK Airport," said Weiner. He added that the jet is "unreliable" and "has been literally falling apart for years," in addition to complaining about the "rattling roar" she makes.

Although hundreds of airplanes fly over the Rockaway Peninsula every day, Concorde is the loudest. Truly in a class by itself, not only in terms of luxury, Concorde is exempt from noise pollution standards according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson.

But just because she's loud doesn't make her a problem for everyone-whether because they are used to it, or just aren't close enough to the flight pattern, some say they rarely hear it.

"I've only heard it twice this year," remembered one man who works in the Beach 116 Street area during the day. "It's a shame, but realistically, I don't think I'd ever ride on it anyway," he said.

Some see Concorde's retirement decision as a milestone. British Airways will permanently end Concorde service by October of 2003. Air France has said their last scheduled flight will be on May 31. "This is the end of an era in world aviation," said Rod Eddington the Chief Executive of British Airways. Others say they will miss it as well.

"It's the most beautiful, graceful plane ever," said a long time Rockaway resident. When it soars overhead "I always look up," she said.

The Concorde crosses the Atlantic in just three-and-a-half hours, almost five hours faster than subsonic crafts, and passengers flying to New York from Europe arrive "earlier" than when they left. The jet has many special innovations including special heat dissipating paint, and a droop nose that allows pilots clear visibility despite the jet's steep landing angle. She travels at a maximum altitude of about 11 miles, or 60,000 feet-high enough to see the Earth's curvature. Cruising at 1,350 miles per hour, her body actually expands in length by as much as ten inches.


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