Simon Kelner: That beautiful and long-dead symbol of the future

Kelner's view

Share

 

A court case taking place in Paris at the moment may have passed you by. Continental Airlines and some of its engineers, who were blamed for the Concorde crash in 2000 that cost 113 lives, are appealing against a conviction for negligence.

What struck me about the case was how quickly Concorde – that most potent symbol of an era of technological revolution – seems such a distant memory. Next year will mark the 10th anniversary of the last commercial flight of the plane which, for those of us of a certain vintage, was a thing of ceaseless wonder.

As a schoolchild, I vividly remember the footage of Concorde taking off for its maiden flight from an airfield near Bristol. I bought the commemorative stamps. I recall the sense of national pride and the feeling that our horizons, almost literally, had expanded. It wasn't quite man-on-the-moon stuff, but it left a deep and lasting impression.

It wasn't a demotic means of transport, being out of the reach of all except the very, very rich. But that's not the point. Unless you lived under the Heathrow flightpath, it was something of an event every time you saw this magnificent craft in the sky.

And then came the Paris crash. And then the attacks of 11 September.

Suddenly the sort of people who could afford to fly on it weren't quite so interested. Thus it was that Concorde made its last passenger flight on 24 October 2003.

I was fortunate enough to be on that last trip from New York to Heathrow, along with a sprinkling of celebs. It was a quite moving experience.

A grandstand was built at Heathrow to welcome the big bird and news programmes had live coverage of our final approach over London. There were tears on the ground and in the air.

It seems incredible that so many people could get so emotional about an inanimate object. But Concorde was so much more than that and still its legend lives on. Discovery Channel has recently been showing an excellent documentary on the last flight – remarkable for many things and not just how much younger we all look – and there are campaign groups determined to get the plane in the sky again for heritage flights and there has been some talk of a ceremonial role for the Olympics.

Several years ago, British Airways removed the mini-Concorde at the entrance to Heathrow when the owners of the airport increased the rent on the plot five-fold. I still miss it every time I go to Heathrow.

But the most overriding feeling I have is that, in years to come, people will look back at the end of the Concorde era with astonishment.

"Just a minute," they'll say, "you invented a plane that meant you could arrive in New York before you took off? And you did what? You scrapped it?"

The disbelief of future generations will be as acute as the sense of loss felt by those of us who saw Concorde as symbolic of a time when anything was possible.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Direct Mail Machine Operative

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an i...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: a duchess by any other name is just wrong

Guy Keleny
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The officials are caught in the web of US legal imperialism - where double standards don't get in the way

Caught in the web of legal imperialism

The Fifa officials ensnared by America's extraterritorial authority are only the latest examples of this fearsome power, says Rupert Cornwell
Bruce Robinson: Creator of Withnail and I on his new book about Jack the Ripper

'Jack the Ripper has accrued a heroic aura. But I'm going after the bastard'

The deaths of London prostitutes are commonly pinned on a toff in a top hat. But Bruce Robinson, creator of Withnail and I, has a new theory about the killer's identity
Simon Stephens interview: The playwright on red-blooded rehearsals, disappointing his children - and why plays are like turtles

Simon Stephens interview

The playwright on red-blooded rehearsals, disappointing his children - and why plays are like turtles
Holidaying with a bike nut: Cycling obsessive Rob Penn convinces his wife to saddle up

Holidaying with a bike nut

Cycling obsessive Rob Penn convinces his wife to saddle up
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef pays homage to South-east Asia's palate-refreshing desserts

Bill Granger's fruity Asian desserts

Our chef's refreshing desserts are a perfect ending to a spicy, soy-rich meal
Fifa presidential election: What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison