I thought about going for a spin on the Concorde when the famous plane was here for our air show last month but I was short of cash and besides I’ve already had the pleasure of flitting across the Atlantic on the craft.
As a matter-of-fact, it was aboard the Concorde that I was treated like an idiot and the captain pointed at me after we landed, then whispered rude things.
My wife and I boarded the Concorde in New York on our way to London.
At the time there were 14 Concordes — that was a few years ago, I don’t know how many are left. I usually keep track of such things because of my interest in aviation. Once I even took two lessons on how to fly a Piper Cub before I got into a fist fight with the instructor because he stopped me from flying under a bridge. No guts. No glory. The guy was a washout.
Back to the main story.
I noticed the crew referred to the Concorde without the article. In other words it was “Welcome aboard Concorde.” A pretty serious bunch.
Our flight across the Atlantic took under three hours and since it’s a small craft (holds about 98), there was no space to show a movie. The crew plied us with champagne and caviar and tried to entertain us with facts and figures.
I told my wife I figured I could get one of them to laugh. My wife gave me one of her looks but I was undaunted. I vowed I would break through that famous British reserve before we touched down in London.
The purser approached and told us in hushed tones that if we wished we would have an opportunity to visit the cockpit.
Further we would be allowed to ask the pilot of Concorde one question. Did we want to? You betcha.
We were escorted to Concorde cockpit.
It had some of the most intimidating instrumentation I had ever seen. One thing seemed out of place.
In the center of the high-tech instruments, was a crude paper model of Concorde. A paper nose was attached to its paper body by a brass rivet.
Having read all about Concorde I knew what the paper plane was for. The nose of Concorde droops like a shriveled weenie when it lands. This is so the pilot can see the runway.
Obviously the little visual aid (that paper model on the instruments) was to explain to others, less knowledgeable than me, how the nose “hinged” out of the way for landings and take-offs.
The pilot asked me if I had a question.
“Yes,” I said, realizing I could make him laugh, “I understand you droop your nose when you land.”
“Uh, yes — “
“Do you lower the actual nose of Concorde by wiggling the tip of your paper cut-out?” I leaned over and waggled the end of the paper model —
— in order to underscore what any fool could tell was an “inside joke” among colleagues as we approached a velocity three times the speed of sound. No one in his right mind could possibly think I thought anyone could control the nose gear of Concorde with a toy model. I figured this would get the captain to giggle. Penetrate his British reserve.
The captain, however, was simply not bright enough to appreciate my humor, the idiot apparently thought I was going to do something foolish like fly his stupid plane.
“Don’t touch, Sir!”
He slapped at my hand.
I instinctively jerked back.
The pilot missed me and hit a button and Concorde tilted and dove.
I grabbed the captain’s neck to…keep my balance.
My wife pulled me off him.
He adjusted the flaps or something.
Must have worked because the plane regained equilibrium and a moment later the passengers stopped screaming.
The captain had turned the color of chalk.
I tried to put him at ease and said, “I was just going to wiggle that paper plane as a joke. I would never have touched the controls without your permission, after all we are going faster than a speeding bullet.” (I was speaking aviator to aviator.)
He spoke in a flat monotone. “You damn fool, the mechanism for —
— Concorde’s nose assembly involves computers and sophisticated hydraulics which, I assure you, are not controlled by a bit of paper.”
“I know that. By the way, my compliments on regaining control of Concorde but don’t you think you pulled her up a bit quickly, old man?”
The captain eyes narrowed as he rose from his seat. I was afraid I might have to restrain him but the co-pilot got him to sit back down.
The purser insisted we return to our seat.
Later in the airport I saw the captain point at me and I heard him telling a flight attendant that I was stupider than a speeding bullet. I guess that’s an inside joke among the Concorde staff. Not very funny and not very professional in my humble opinion.
Next time I sell a screenplay I’m going to fly Concorde again. My wife says she is going to stay home. I don’t understand how she could resist traveling with such a knowledgeable expert on aviation.
A quick tour of the last Concorde to fly:
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