CONCORDE: The Supersonic Angel

This post is dedicated to the angel behind the supersonic angel, Barbara Harmer (1953-2011).  Even though your life was short, it soared to many heights at record speeds over many waters.  God bless and may your legacy shine down over every pilot dreaming of success.

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Belt Parkway.  Those two words alone are enough to turn someone’s day from good to worst day ever.  It was a hot and humid summer afternoon as I crept, literally, past the Aqueduct Race Track and the hotels near JFK westbound.  Even though I left my apartment on time, I knew very well that I couldn’t have left early enough as what might take ten minutes to reach in any normal town would take forty-five plus minutes extra to reach in New York City.

Sweating bullets and pissed, I was sitting in a literal parking lot not moving anywhere already late for an appointment in Brooklyn.  With the inability to move I stared out into space with the gear in park waiting for car in front of me to move at least five feet.

As I stared out into the hazy sky, it appeared.  a white particle smaller than a snowflake.  Only seconds passed by when it started to take shape in the form of a small, white triangle. 

 

 

I thought to myself, “No, it can’t be.”  (Should I start quoting the famous line from “Superman?”) It came sweeping down like an angel from the skies ready to rescue me up from the traffic below and take me to where I needed to be in no time.  Those two words “Belt Parkway” were about to turn my worst day into my best.  I was in shock and disbelief as it rarely took an approach like that.  A 13L Canarsie?  Rarely, as its charts indicated for the most part direct into Kennedy’s 31L/R or sometimes into the 22s or 04s.

 

 

As it came closer, it came lower and I was at that point on the highway that when we would intercept it, those four Rolls Royce Olympus SNECMA 593Mk 610 after-burning powerplants could prove deadly to my windshield less alone the windshields of the other people around me.  I said to myself, “To hell with it, it will be worth the 300 bucks just for this one experience.”  Passionate about this aircraft?  I was, am, and will forever be.

My windshield was spared.  The appointment was understanding.  My day: was made.  Thank you, British Airways.

Another supersonic event occurred as I took the “A” train (only outside of New York is it referred to as a “subway”) from Far Rockaway into Brooklyn, the days before I started to drive in NYC.  I was half asleep as it was too early to be up.  My wake-up call came when it felt as if 10 semi trucks were trailing us on the train tracks as we went above and over Jamaica Bay past JFK towards the Queens neighborhood of Howard Beach vibrating the train a bit even though nothing was trailing us.  With my eyes half open, the sound of 10 F-16s came flying over as I thought to myself annoyed, “What the ‘F’ was that?”  Little did I know, I looked out the window of the train and saw Air France 002 rocketing 500 feet above us, afterburners ablaze, trails of black smoke dispersing  into shapes of mist and nothingness from the shapes of tubes.  The shape of its narrow body was like a sword slicing through the air faster than a bullet shooting out of a rifle.  After that visual, I wasn’t so “annoyed” anymore.

My mind that day was flying higher and faster than that airplane would ever see in its short existence.  Je vous remercie, Air France.

Having moved to New York in August of 2000, I didn’t have my first Concorde visual experience as quickly as I had hoped, as the Air France tragedy near Gonesse, France was still too fresh and Concorde was still under investigation to help explain to the families why all 109 souls on board perished that fateful day of July 25, 2000.  Despite the fact 9/11 happened, (which actually made matters, if not excuses, to discontinue the program worse), I was still fortunate enough to have my first visual of a Concorde through British Airways as it rocketed over Rockaway Beach one sunny afternoon in October of 2001.  From then on, whenever I passed the JFK, I made it my business to look at both Terminals 1 and 7 to ensure myself that either one of them were there, even if it was for an overnight stay.  And rest assured, there was.  Every morning, (as I was living in Far Rockaway at the time), I would get my 8am wake up call from Air France and my 9:30 “snooze button” wake-up call from British Airways.  My wake up calls were always loudest when they departed 22R or even a very rare 13R.

 

Photo courtesy of British Airways

 

Despite the fact that its departure from service came much more quickly than its induction, it gave many technological features that are used into today’s aircraft such as “fly-by-wire” technology (even though it was analogue in Concorde) using hybrid circuits.  Despite the fact that many have tried to discredit this aeronautical achievement by stating it’s either overrated or a “threat to the Earth’s environment” by “eating up the ozone”, it has been a huge asset to the aviation industry and an outstanding product for both British Airways and Air France and their customers.  (Not to mention eye candy for all aviation enthusiasts, spotters, and photographers.)  Concorde has given to many what others have not, a different perspective.  That day that I was sitting in traffic, I should have been thinking with the glass half full.  It should’ve been a positive experience.  Even though I wasn’t going anywhere, I made the best out of the situation by admiring something, even taking something, which reaches many levels beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, at record speeds, and using it to my advantage.  We should all take a bad or difficult situation and make it soar.  It will be hard work rest assured.  But it’s that dedication, hard work, and commitment (which is a scary word nowadays) that was put into such a project.  A project that was a  cornerstone for many future ones to come.

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3 thoughts on “CONCORDE: The Supersonic Angel

  1. Jeremy, I’m now a true believer that all the most wonderful aviation sightings are in N.Y. I would have jumped out of my car and snapped that photo on the beltway.
    This is a beautiful post. Also… thank you so much for teaching me what the F… truely means…. A Fighter!

    • Karlene, I won’t forget when the A380 first came to town. I thought that the thrill of it would replace that which I had for Concorde when it was still in commercial service. Boy was I wrong. Nothing will ever replace the excitement that we had with Concorde. Unfortunately I don’t remember if I was using a cell phone during the time of the Belt Parkway spotting. I will say that had I had something on me quick and ready to take a shot, I would have. Now I have a digital camera on me at all times. And yes, I will never look at the ‘F’ word the same way again. ‘F’ is for fighter (especially jets).. and sometimes we have to use our FIGHTER JETS!

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