Supersonic Dud


The Concorde makes its last London-U.S. flight today, causing infantile observers whose vision of the future peaked around the time 2001: Space Odyssey came out to weep. Here's a Wired News story quoting one of these aeronautical Miss Havershams:

"She represents the hopes and dreams of a generation of people for whom nothing was impossible; the future was there for the taking," Sira said in an e-mail message. It was all about Mach 2 airliners, fast cars, man walking on the moon, manned space stations and moon bases. The technology used in Concorde was decades ahead of her time. She is still decades ahead of our time and needs to be saved and kept flying at Mach 2."

As this peppery op piece in the International Herald-Tribune points out, the technology that literally underwrote the Concorde is as old as taxing poor Peter to subsidize well-off Paul's affluent lifestyle:

No, I don't admit it's a beautiful sight, this engineering's answer to the mosquito, nose drooping as though ready to stick a taxpayer.

The taxpayers paid, it's reported, well over a billion 1960's pounds to develop it. The full cost is as secret as only something really embarrassing to governments can be.

At today's prices, that billion-plus would get you a great start on a new airport, one that wouldn't have to route hundreds of daily landings over the most populous city.Small-minded of me, of course. Concorde's legion of defenders puts down to jealousy the reluctance of New Yorkers to have this plague fly over them.