Simon Calder: 10 years after Concorde – newfound landings

The man who pays his way

As Concorde made its final turn into a technological cul-de-sac, Phillip Atcliffe was watching. "I was at Filton Airport waiting for her to come in."

The supersonic jet's ultimate flight took place a month after the final, ceremonial commercial arrivals at Heathrow. On 26 November 2003, Concorde flew from British Airways' base back to the womb – in the shape of Filton, north of Bristol. It was here that the British half of the Anglo-French grand projet was born, in the days when the future for travellers was seen as the ability to cross the Atlantic in under four hours.

Now, 10 years after that sad, wet Wednesday, Dr Atcliffe is senior lecturer in aeronautical engineering at Salford University – and a hypersonic hotshot. But he is pessimistic about ultra-fast flight happening anytime soon: "You need money and political will – which aren't forthcoming."

In the absence of any collective appetite to break the sound barrier, there is an alternative. I am delighted to reveal that you will soon be able to cross the Atlantic in under four hours – so long as you fly from St John's in Newfoundland to Dublin between 15 June and 5 October next year.

The "block time" is four hours and 15 minutes – less than BA schedules for its Gatwick-Tenerife flights. Allowing for pushback and taxiing in Newfoundland and Ireland, the time in the air should be just shy of four hours.

I wrote only a fortnight ago about how the one big opportunity in no-frills aviation was a transatlantic link to and from St John's, which is the nearest North American airport to the British Isles. I speculated that Belfast was in with a shout.

Right island, wrong city.

This week a successful and ambitious low-cost airline announced flights from Dublin. It will use short-haul Boeing 737s – the only jet the airline flies. But it may not be the carrier you first thought of. Ryanair tells me "transatlantic flights are still some years away". Instead, the airline taking a giant leap with the smallest step across the Atlantic is WestJet of Canada. This Calgary-based carrier is just three months younger than easyJet. Until now, it has flown only within North America and the Caribbean. But for an airline that flies to the corners of Canada – the world's second-biggest country – the Atlantic is hardly a challenge. Dublin to St John's, at 2,050 miles, is shorter than Toronto to Vancouver.

Don't expect startlingly cheap fares. Flying out on the last Saturday in July, back two weeks later, you will pay the equivalent of £550. Add perhaps £150 for a return flight from your local airport in Britain to the Irish capital, and the "low-cost" trip totals £700. But that is 40 per cent less than Air Canada is quoting on the same dates for its non-stop service from Heathrow to St John's.

It's a breeze

A slightly cheaper supersonic substitute? In terms of sheer speed over the ground (or the ocean), the best a mere mortal can hope for is a flight from the US to Europe in winter. With luck you will benefit from terrific tailwinds, which the flight crew will seek out in order to reduce flying time and fuel burn. On my last flight from San Diego to London, in early December, the ground speed shown on the seatback screen touched 723mph. The speed of sound at the plane's cruising altitude is about 660mph, but no sound barrier was broken because the Boeing 777's speed through the air was only 535mph.

With the help of the supercharged jet stream, I arrived at Heathrow 70 minutes early – and paid a lot less for the experience than that summer trip to St John's would cost.

Along the way, you may fly over BA's son-of-Concorde. The airline reserves flight numbers 1-4 for its links between London City and New York. A specially adapted Airbus A318 flies the Atlantic with just 32 business-class seats aboard. Two drawbacks: the lowest fare is about five times the cheapest economy seat on BA's standard 777. And, unlike Concorde, its offspring is slower than a conventional jet. The Airbus must stop on the outbound leg in Shannon to refuel; 777 passengers can depart five minutes later yet arrive 80 minutes earlier. Even coming back, the schedule shows the exclusive plane taking 20 minutes longer.

For a lower-cost Concordesque experience, book a short-haul flight on British Airways from London City airport. You will fly from the Docklands airport on a Brazilian-made Embraer jet, hopefully the 190 version. This plane is a lot less pointy and graceful than Concorde from the outside. But inside it has a cabin profile almost identical to the supersonic jet, with the same two-by-two seating and generous legroom. And it is just two seats short of Concorde's capacity of 100.

Sitting aboard, you can enjoy an intimate, clubby and (dare I say) elitist atmosphere. But don't expect an elaborate meal and free champagne: on BA CityFlyer, pretzels and a beer are more the style.

Outrun the Sun

The most magical of Concorde's many achievements was the ability to outrun the Sun, crossing time zones more quickly than the rotation of the Earth. Well, there is precisely one transatlantic flight that still offers the experience of arriving before you took off, local time – and it connects Iceland with Alaska.

Icelandair flight FI1679, which restarts next May, departs Reykjavik at 5.10pm. It spends most of its flight north of the Arctic Circle, ticking off time zones and reaching the terminal in Anchorage at 4.20pm. It is an enthralling journey, revealing the vast expanses of Greenland and Arctic Canada in all their extreme glory. Judging from Concorde's short lifespan, nature's version of extreme glory is more durable than man's.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
music
News
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
news
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'