The Concorde, the European supersonic airliner often called the world’s most graceful white elephant, celebrated 20 years in the air today and its creators billed it as the plane of the future.
The Franco-British plane, which can fly faster than the speed of sound, is still without equal in engineering terms, said Capt. Brian Cathcart of British Airways, the first British pilot to fly the Concorde commercially. “There are only a few military planes that fly faster,” he told reporters.
At the time of Concorde’s maiden flight, 16 major airlines had taken out options to buy 74 of the planes. But faced with a decision by Washington not to allow supersonic flights in American skies, those options were never taken. Only 16 Concordes were ever built, at a cost of $3 billion, and critics complained that so much was spent so a few thousand rich or rushed commuters could enjoy a 3-hour champagne breakfast over the Atlantic.