Concorde confronts middle age

It seems like yesterday when the British and French governments were having one of their unique battles: how to spell the name of the new supersonic plane they were jointly developing. Whether it would it be the “Concord” or the “Concorde” was the subject of great debate and consternation on both sides of the channel. Of course the French won out in the end.

The Concorde was born 30 years ago, amid great expectations for a whole new way of travelling. While the still elegant plane continues to turn heads wherever it goes (even in France) the future of supersonic travel remains cloudy.

The 13 Concordes flown by Air France and British Airways are old by airline standards, and there is no sign of a new plane to take the Concorde’s place. U.S. aircraft giant Boeing Co. recently withdrew from a research group studying a new supersonic passenger plane, citing the very high cost of coming up with a replacement for the Concorde.

Those who have flown the Concorde usually say that it is one of those unforgettable life experiences that is best not repeated. The plane offers its trademark speed and a thrilling ride, but a cramped cabin and lack of modern on-board facilities make e experience a little too uncomfortable for most.

The Concorde flies at 60,000 feet (too high for turbulence) and crosses the Atlantic in 3 ½ hours, half the time of a regular flight. Champagne is served, and the food is reported to be good, but the planes are getting old. So if you have your heart set on going supersonic, book your Concorde flight soon.