Amitabh Sharma, Contributor
She has been described as elegant, ravishing, sensational, or beautiful, and it is very seldom that a machine is deemed as romantic or even orgasmic. But this is no ordinary machine - Concorde, a precise, heady mix of beauty, technology and style.
The British Airways G-BOAE (Alpha Echo) sits in its omnipresent charm and aura and generates myriad emotions at first sighting. The
.pencil-shaped supersonic flying machine is out of a science fiction flick, and it actually flew in the stratosphere.
Described as the design classic of the 20th century, Concorde, which in French means harmony or union, was the creation of a path-breaking collaboration between British Aircraft Corporation and Aérospatiale. The harmony, not only among the collaborators, but in their successful marriage of an engineering marvel and captivating design is evident in every inch of this lean, mean flying machine.
The 202 foot 4 inch machine incited emotions as kids would have in a candy store - visitors with gaping mouths, craning their heads as they passed under the fuselage clicking zillions of photos, trying to get the best frame.
Concorde redefined class, at £8,000 for a London-New York round trip, the price of luxury at 60,000-ft, it cruised twice the height of Jumbo jets, was faster than a bullet and the speed at which the Earth rotates - the price and experience were truly out of world.
The tall, steep flight of stairs to enter the Alpha Echo transcended into a space-age fuselage - the cabin was low and narrow.
For the aura, exclusivity and reputation Concorde carries, the interiors are far from being ostentatious. The narrow fuselage with four grey leather seats across the aircraft with low headroom was simplistic and minimalist.
Built in an age when technology was analogue, Concorde's cabin couldn't accommodate a television (because flat screen wasn't yet invented and the cathode ray tube would eat into the already crammed space). The in-flight entertainment, excitement and adrenaline rush were possibly generated when the LED panel lit up to indicate a Mach 2 speed and through the small windows, where the travellers could see dark blue space above them and the curvature of the Earth below.
Carrying a supersonic price tag, Concorde was graced by royalty, heads of states, corporate gurus and the like who washed down their flight experience with top-of-the-line champagne and gourmet lunches as they jet-setted across the Atlantic in just over three hours. Concorde, flying at 2,140 km/hour, generated so much heat that its fuselage stretched by up to 12 inches in flight.
From the first flight in January 1976 to its retirement in November 2003, only 14 of the 20 Concordes went into service. Alpha Echo, which first took to the skies in March 1977 flew for the last time to Barbados, which was one of Concorde's four regular destinations, and made its final journey to its new home in the Caribbean on November 17, 2003.
Alpha Echo, even as it sits quietly in its hangar, still manages to pulsate hearts. Concorde, as a flying machine, will remain aviation's jewel in the crown, for it wowed and awed the skies like no other plane ever did or perhaps ever will.