Thursday, April 10, 2003

Watty asks for a moment's silence:

Hardly surprisingly, but all of a sudden, Concorde is to be retired. Quite apart from the entirely selfish reflection that I would have liked to have flown on her one day, it seems to me to be a terribly sad day for aviation, and technology in general. It seems that one of the leaps forward in technology has turned out to be a dead end, and yet it is still a staggering achievement by any standards. Launched into a fuel shortage, it really never had a chance on economic or ecological grounds - only mass-production, and acceptance by US airlines, could have made the critical difference - in the end a truly staggering amount of money was poured into the project, and even at today's hyper-inflated fares, it could never have recouped its development costs. But it was - is, still - the ultimate proof of the axiom that if an aircraft looks beautiful, it will function well. Supersonic passenger flight at the edge of space has been commonplace, if not common, for 30 years and more, and rarely, if ever, can an aircraft have fulfilled its design brief so well.

And - although it seems unlikely - I do hope that somehow, one can be kept flying. Not just because it is a symbol of what the European aviation industries could do when determined; not just because it is the last great airliner (I can't tell modern jet airliners apart, and I'm interested in the subject); not just because it was the only aircraft to always be referred to as if there was only one ("Oh, look - there's Concorde"; never a Concorde); and not just because of the extraordinary sight and sound of the takeoff. No, I'd like to think that we could keep one flying as a demonstration that late twentieth-century technology could make things of beauty and utility, in that order. And I'd like to think that it could be kept flying long enough for the rest of the aviation industry to catch up...

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