I had not been warned beforehand (the night before). So without a passport, my ID will have to do! The consulate sent an assistant to the airport, for the police and immigration. I had my papers for rent, electricity, water, telephone, social security, mutual, driver’s license (which was not registered to the correct address), homeowner’s insurance and automotive insurance. Everything checked out, phew! Seven travelers failed to show up to the departure; so since the seat to my left was open, the aisle seat, I had the row to myself: living the good life. Luckily, two passengers had brought their cameras (as I had not), or else there would have been no picture of the Concorde in May of 1990.
I didn’t have a camera. Only two passaners had brought cameras. Here is the picture of the group before the departure from Lyon, France.
The take off was uncomfortable; lots of vibrations and loud sounds coming from the four turbo-reactors. Similarly, the arrival was not smooth: passengers were warned before the plan reached the ground. The landing consisted of a hard and dry landing, the tires were smoking, the plane rolled for 2-3 km on the lane, loud sounds from te breaks – sudden heat in the cabin and the flight attendants trying to reassure passengers.
To leave the ground, and attain the 20,000 meters (in altitude), the plane required 7-8 metric tones of kerzonne I was sitted next to the porthole under the "R" of the word "LeProgres" painted on the right side of the plane.
The Concorde has been rented for wedding ceremonies. A Saudi princes, with his 4 wives: resulted in having the seats removed and they inserted a piano and the altar. An American celebrity, whom I can no longer remember? Jackson? Prince? Preslay or someone else? To be alone and in the cockpit.
Here, we are flying over the eastern bit of Canada. The Concorde was already on it’s way down from the cruising altitude. I’d say about 350km before landing, maybe 400km?
Concorde etait un prodigieux planeur par la forme de ses ailes Delta. Il pouvait planer (sans moteur) et en pleine charge (185T) sur 500 kms, en descente lente. Example: en arrivant de New Yprk, de la cote atlantique francaise, il pouvait (moteurs arretes) se poser, non pas a Roissy, mais a Lyon. Securite? A mon avis, non; et sur l'ocean? ou ailleurs?
The central walkway was too narrow for even two passaengers to walk next to each other. I sat closer to the front, on the “right” side.
The serious part: all three pilots must pay attention as all the controls are manual. The Concorde has been studied since 1959. It was first tested in Toulouse, France in March of 1969. It flew between the dates of March 2nd, 2969, until October 24th, 2003 – for exactly 34 years and 3 months. The first commercial flight occurred in 1978 – after 10 years of trials.
Look at this photo taken from a bulb (+ magnifying glass). The screen reads M 2.01, which means Mach 2, 2010 km/h, which is twice the speed of sound. We reached 2024 km/h, which is recorded by a mach meter rather than tachymeter. For the passengers, there is no physical effect from the speed. There is nothing outside to show us that we are moving, as there are also no clouds and no other planes in the sky. So nothing. It’s like we do not know that we are moving..
My name was drawn for the contest on Wednesday, May 16th at 6PM. So my name was published in the newspaper “Le Progres” on May 17th, which I never read. I did not wait anxiously for the contest, as I had signed up for it without realizing. Did I learn of my luck through the mail? No. Instead, I was telephoned. It was lucky that I was home when they called! So, I only had the Saturday to get everything together. I now have the cutout from the newspaper – the sweepstake and my name.
After that flight, I saw the Concorde another three times: at the airport Bourget-Paris, at the Heathrow airport in London and of course at New York, in 2009, at the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum Pier 86, on Hudson River 46th Street, close to my hotel on 52nd street.
In May of 1990, a returned ticket cost 65,000 francs, or 10,000 euros. In January of 2011, the cost of a First Class ticket (not the business class), with Air France, cost 9,655 Euros. However, it takes 9 hours one-way. What would be the price of a Concorde ticket these days? 20,000 euros?
During the flight, we were allowed, one by one, to visit the cockpit with the three pilots. This bearded man was from Tarascon, Bouches du Rhône, France. The board of buttons and switches stretched from in front of him, to on the ceiling and all the way on the back wall – the number of buttons and switches is truly incredible.
The cockpit is very long, about 20 meters ahead of the first passenger seat. The glass company, Saint Gobain, of the 1959/1960s, had difficulties creating a windshield for this aircraft (as there were no computers to help with the calculations and research). Thus, success was attained. The company used the 700 glass blocks from the pyramid of the Musée du Louvre (in Paris) and, more importantly, the portholes that were used on the spaceship that went to the moon (USA) in 1969 and subsequently, the Trump Tower in Manhattan. The best for Saint Gobain.
The central alleyway, only a couple centimeters wide, with a tiny service cart. Tight and very uncomfortable seats; your elbows hung out in the alley, or were squeezed up against the window. Stretching your legs was impossible. You could only go to the restroom if no one else was already standing, etc… “Ladies and gentlemen, please stay seated, do not move.”.
Thank you Mr. C from Lyon, France.
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