Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hurled Through Time and Space: Concorde Episode 6:What 60,000 ft. looks like from the Flight Deck

Concorde Flight Deck, Flight 9091, June 26, 1988
What we must have looked like!
"Altitude: 57,600 ft. Filling out U.S. Customs forms. Only 760 miles to go to New York."
The Captain invited us up to the flight deck to say hello. They were very cordial but pretty busy and pretty cramped. Didn't have nearly the space the flight crews enjoyed on the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser back in the 1950's, but then what aircraft ever did? Especially a supersonic one.
"Just clearing 59,000 ft and on our way to 60,000 ft." The Concorde was flown as high as 68,000 ft. in experimental flight, but with passengers 60,000 ft. was as high as the aircraft were certified to fly. Still at Mach 2:00.
"So what does it look like out there on the horizon? Clear. Kind of a hazy blue, fading into an orchid hue where the horizon curves. Yes, curves! Ever so slightly, but clearly, we witness the curvature of the earth. That was worth the price of admission right there.
Beginning our descent into New York we left 60,000 ft at Mach 1:85 airspeed. The Captain announced he was taking us "out of orbit" now. His exact words.

Next Post: Hurled Through Time and Space: Concorde Episode 7: Return to Earth


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hurled Through Time and Space: Concorde Episode 5: Fine Dining at Twice the Speed of Sound

After the appetizer and salad courses, our dinner tray arrived. Dressed with five pieces of silverware and a Concorde linen napkin, each tray had an individual china butter dish and salt and pepper shakers, and was decorated with a fresh carnation with a pin, should we elect to wear it. We did.

The dinnerware was white china, banded in silver and black. We had earlier made our selection of entree, having to decide between Three Filets, "Fillets of beef, lamb and pork, seared on a hot griddle and flavoured with a light savoury gravy" - or - Salmon with Chablis, "Poached Scottish salmon finished in Chablis sauce enhanced with Beluga caviar." (Diane, as before, was the happy recipient of my caviar.) As we tucked into our salmon, we were holding altitude at 51,000 ft. and speed at Mach 2:00; twice the speed of sound.
At 1320 London time we had 2300 miles to go. Our altitude was 52,000 ft. Still at Mach 2:00. Our entree trays were removed and dessert was on the way. We soon were enjoying "a variety of fresh fruit and berries set in a light Champagne gelee," with "a selection of English Stilton, Farmhouse Cheddar and French Tomme de Savoie cheese with butter, crackers and crudites."
As we finished dessert, we were at 53,500 ft. with 1470 miles to go. Soon coffee, laced with four-star brandy, arrived with a selection of chocolates. Our outside temperature read minus 57 degrees celsius.
Each of us was presented with a scale model of a Concorde about 10 inches long.

Next post: Hurled Through Time and Space: Concorde Episode 6: What 60,000 ft. looks like from the flight deck.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Hurled Through Time and Space: Concorde Episode 4: The "Being Hurled" Part

Digital readout at Mach 2:00-twice the speed of sound

There is a large digital display on the bulkhead facing the cabin giving us readouts of Mach, altitude and outside temperature. We are presently at .96 Mach, 28,000 ft. and outside temperature of minus 39 degrees celsius, as we are being served champagne and hors d'oeuvres.

Mach 1 at 29,000 ft.

My champagne glass hasn't even moved. My champagne glass filled with Mumm's, that is. I gave Diane my Beluga caviar.

Mach 1.85 at 46,000 ft.

Diane is in the rest room. Upon returning to her seat, she exclaimed about the fancy linen towel she used. One hour into our flight with 3130 miles to go.

Now linen cloths are being laid on our trays, followed by more champagne and lobster hors d'oeuvres.

Mach 2:00 (1340 mph) at 49,000 ft.

Diane put her hand on the window and it is very warm, although the outside temperature now is -58 degrees celsius.

Next Post: Hurled Through Time and Space: Concorde Episode 5: Dining at Twice the Speed of Sound

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hurled Through Time and Space: Concorde Episode 3: Boarding The Airplane

Loathe to leave the sumptuous Concorde Lounge at Heathrow, but eager to board the Concorde itself, we entered through a jetway that bore absolutely no resemblance to any jetway we'd seen before. This one was large, with windows, and plush carpeting underfoot.
We found ourselves ushered into a small, but very elegant airplane cabin; its interior tastefully decorated in shades of grey with touches of red. Our seats were grey leather!
Digital displays on the forward bulkheads would give us readouts throughout the flight of airspeed, altitude and outside temperature.
We were given a packet containing a small leather journal, a book about the Concorde and In-Flight magazines. Upon getting settled in our seats we were presented with a beautiful large menu (more about this later), which I still have today. We ordered champagne to be served after takeoff (our second glass of the morning-remember the lounge?) and were then given hot Oshibori Towels, presented with silver filigreed tongs, so we could freshen up before takeoff.
Next, our French Food Service Director (who seemed to be the senior cabin attendant) introduced the rest of the crew and announced that meal service would begin 40 minutes after the takeoff roll. Why, oh why, when I took such meticulous notes about events, did I not think to record the names of the crew members?
The four Rolls-Royce Snecma Olympus 593 engines provided 38,000 lbs. of thrust at take-off for each engine. The surge of acceleration pressed us into our plush leather seats. We knew we were in for the ride of our lives when we broke ground and immediately began climbing at an astonishing rate.

Next Post: Hurled Through Time and Space: Concorde Episode 4: The "Being Hurled" Part

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hurled through Time and Space: Episode 2: Concorde Lounge - Heathrow Airport - London - 1988

The Concorde experience begins long before takeoff, in the special lounge for Concorde passengers at Heathrow Airport, London.
Very spacious, and with conversation groups of overstuffed furniture and marble-topped tables, the focal point of the lounge was a buffet about 12 ft long along one wall. The buffet was laden with fruit juices in crystal pitchers, steaming coffee and pots of tea ready for Wedgewood cups and saucers. Open bottles of champagne and wine stood in ice buckets, and every conceivable call-brand of spirits and beer, including after-dinner cordials, awaited our selection.
It was early in the morning, so Diane elected to have coffee.
Copious amounts of croissants and sweet pastries snuggled into lace doilies, and bagles and toast, ready for top-of-the-line jellies and jams, tempted us.
Given the early hour, we resisted the amazing variety of alcoholic beverages and, both having finally freed ourselves from old devil nicotine, the various brands of cigarettes adorning end tables. We appreciated, however, the selection of daily newspapers from major cities around the world.

Next post: Boarding the Concorde.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Hurled Through Time and Space: Episode 1: Concorde Flight 9091, June 26, 1988, London to New York

From the Flight Deck:
"Our flight time today, London to New York, will be 3 hours, 17 minutes. We'll be flying at an altitude of 58,000 ft. (almost 12 miles high). We'll be taking off on runway 9-R at full power with the afterburners on. Shortly after the takeoff roll afterburners off. We will fly at .95 the speed of sound to Bristol and supersonic after that. We will reach Mach 2:00 at an altitude of 60,000 ft."
No, I don't have an incredible memory. I had the presence of mind 21 years ago to record this awesome experience in a little leather journal embossed in silver with the Concorde logo. It was just one of the many gifts we were given during the flight and I am so grateful that I chose to put it to use immediately. My way of trying to "bottle" the experience. I think it worked!
I ran across the journal this week while mourning the death of my dear friend and travel companion, Diane Goulett. She and I celebrated our respective retirements by taking what we called "the trip of a lifetime." We sailed to Southampton on the QEII, spent 10 wonderful days hanging out in London and returned home on a BOAC Concorde. (I must note here that we eventually added the Orient Express to our exotic transport modes.) We delighted in the fact that it took us 5 days to sail from New York to Southampton on the QEII and 3.25 hours returning on the Concorde.
Tomorrow: the Concorde Lounge at Heathrow Airport.

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