End Of An
The Concorde’s Final Queens Departure
TThe Concorde will make its final flight from Queens on Oct. 24 and local residents will bid the noisy aircraft goodbye with a champagne toast.
Tribune Photo by Ira Cohen
Residents of Howard Beach, the Rockaways and Jamaica will remember the supersonic jet’s roaring sound and how the noise disrupted the quality-of-life in their neighborhoods.
Since the jet first appeared over Queens in the 1970s, there have been constant protests and problems with the noise level.
Those issues will be a thing of the past after the plane’s final flight this week. And for the residents affected by the sonic boom of the Concorde, it’s about time.
As the rich and famous sip champagne on the Concorde’s final take-off, Queens residents who have fought tooth and nail to regulate the jet or change its flight path for the past 30 years were preparing to break open the bubbly themselves.
Congressman Anthony Weiner – a representative of the area that suffered the noise – and the local environmental group Sane Aviation For Everyone (SAFE) are hosting a champagne toast for Queens residents at Charles Park in Howard Beach to celebrate the Concorde’s last flight – as the plane roars overhead for the last time.
According to Weiner, the plane was known for “rattling windows, setting off car alarms and piercing residents ears.” He added, “To make matters worse, the Concorde has a dismal safety record, losing engine parts mid-flight, dropping hundreds of feet and catching on fire.”
Calling the Concorde noisy, inefficient and unreliable, Weiner described the final flight as a “time for the rich and famous to shed a tear. For those of us who live in the shadow of this noisy monster, there aren’t too many of us who are sorry to see it go.”
Franz Verhagen, SAFE founder and president, said, “It’s a great joy that we can finally say goodbye to it.”
Citing environmental reasons for opposing the supersonic jet, Verhagen added that he thinks the Concorde should have been stopped long ago. He explained that the nature of the high speed jet, which cruises at 1,350 miles per hour using engines designed decades ago, results in an excessive amount of noise and pollution.
“They’re fuel hogs,” he said, “and they’re based on bad economics.”
An Uphill Battle
Despite constant demonstrations, published op-eds and letters to the airlines over the years, Verhagen said, “Very little could be done.” He noted that the Concorde didn’t stop because of protests, but rather by its own economic failure. Regardless, he said, “We’re very happy it worked out this way.”
According to SAFE’s website, the green organization established in 1994 “is a coalition of independent citizens groups and individuals dedicated to stopping and reversing the environmental and health impacts of JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Airports and the fair sharing of these impacts.”
While reports predict that hundreds of fans will gather at Heathrow Airport in London on Oct. 24 to welcome the landing of the final Concorde flight, Weiner said, “We’re thrilled to see it go.”
Weiner has a long history of dealing with the jet, and actually wrote legislation earlier in the year that would put an end to Concorde flights – legislation that ended up being unecessary.
His most recent battles with the line involved the safety of the jet, which he said, “Is beyond questionable.” He added, “There are people living underneath the flight where the Concorde flies in Queens.
In February, a Concorde jet flying from Paris to New York lost its rudder, marking the sixth time since 1989 that a Concorde experienced rudder problems.
The issue came three months after an Air France jet flying from New York to Paris lost one of its four engines, and plummeted from an altitude of 60,000 to 30,000 feet, before stabilizing.
That was in addition to the Air France jet that struggled across the Rockaway Peninsula in July 2002, waking numerous residents and setting off car alarms. In that case, a Weiner initiated Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation that uncovered that the jet had departed JFK at an unusually slow rate of ascent, and the Port Authority confirmed that it had followed an abnormal flight path.
A Matter of Decibels
According to Weiner, the issues surrounding the Concorde are directly caused by the plane’s decibel level. Decibels are units that measure the impact that noise has on matter. The impact is the result of vibrations in the air caused by sound.
The Concorde operates at a decibel level of 111-115 – the same level as a jackhammer. The force of sound that powerful causes dishes to break, lightbulbs to shatter, frames to fall off walls and cracks to form in walls.
Weiner proposed legislation that would place a ban on the Concorde until it could comply with the FAA’s standard for airplanes known as Stage 3 – a decibel level around 70.
At the time the legislation was introduced this year, Weiner said, “Why should we suffer? The Concorde should have to comply with federal standards.”
The legislation was not necessary, something Weiner was pleased about. “It was a tough fight, but we’ve come out on top.”
Still A Piece of History
While most Queens residents will sleep easier with the Concorde grounded, British Airways officials remind the public that the SST is still a piece of history.
Martin George, British Airways director of marketing, said, “This is the very last chance many people will have to see Concorde fly. People on the ground can say their own personal goodbyes and, of course, those traveling as passengers on the last flights will become a part of history.”
For those people who consider themselves Concorde fans, they may soon have a chance to own a piece of history.
Air France – which is donating most of its fleet to museums – is reportedly asking Christie’s France to auction off Concorde parts in November in order to raise money for a children’s charity.
Some of the items to go on sale include two Olympus 593 engines, a radome – the cone at the tip of the aircraft’s nose – fins and ailerons. Parts from the instrument panel, as well as crew seats and kitchen items, will also be made available to Concorde buffs.
Related items to be sold at the auction include scale models and photographs charting its 27 years of commercial flights.