METRO PLUS

No more CAVIAR at Mach 2

Farewell, beautiful bird...

Farewell, beautiful bird...  

IMAGINE CLAPPING your hands, whizzing forward 334 metres a second, and still have half a second to spare before the sound caught up with you. Imagine seeing that cosmic divide over the earth where the night meets the day. That was what was possible in a Concorde.

All week, this reporter hunted high and low for a Bangalorean who had travelled in the supersonic passenger aircraft that ferried the well-heeled across the Atlantic for some three decades. One had to cough up a minimum of $11,000 plus for the privilege of making it in three-and-a-half hours, and even four minutes short of three hours on one memorable occasion. Last week, the entire world watched with a collective lump in its throat this icon's final flight from New York to Heathrow in London.

For a vicarious glimpse into the aircraft's glory days, I set out to look for anyone who had had the good fortune (and money) to guzzle champagne and dip into caviar, flying at twice the speed of sound. Several phone calls and Google searches later, and with help from a local company, Bhatia Aerospace, I homed in on one Andre H. Riviere, Sales Director at Intertechnique, a French aircraft systems company, who did business with some Bangalore firms, and who, fortunately, was visiting the city.

Mon. Riviere recalled how, 15 years ago as a novice on his first flight on the Concorde, he was hurled violently back into his cramped seat at take- off. However, he regained his composure and sought comfort in caviar and goose liver, cruising at Mach 2 (about 668 metres a second). "The thrust at take-off pushed us back into the narrow seats. They didn't have an oven, so only cold food was served, like caviar and goose liver! But there were other interesting experiences. At supersonic speeds, the windows actually felt warm, due to the friction, as the aircraft tore through the air. That it was almost all the time climbing made it point slightly upward through most of the flight."

For the romantic who ignored all the noise and the vibration, its altitude — more than any other aircraft — offered "a darker sky". It was also a bit surreal. "Initially they had no partitions inside, and as the aircraft accelerated, it looked as if the (aircraft's) body got bent a bit, and this used to scare passengers who could see from one end to the other. Later, the partitions were introduced, so people couldn't see the aircraft `getting bent'!"

HARICHANDAN A.A.

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