London, Oct. 23 (Reuters): For celebrity commuters, Concorde was the ultimate status symbol — a transatlantic taxi that got you to New York before you left London.
The Anglo-French jet dubbed “Speedbird One” by controllers will retire from service tomorrow after 27 years whisking the well-heeled across the Atlantic at supersonic speed. Pop stars thrived on the hedonistic excess of it, quaffing champagne and gorging on lobsters aboard the queen of the Jet Set travelling at twice the speed of sound.
Sting lost count of how many times he took the sleek-nosed supersonic airliner that put the romance back into flying.
Paul McCartney once picked up his guitar and had a bunch of sombre executives singing along to old Beatles hits.
Rod Stewart flew his stylist over so he could get an emergency haircut before a big concert. And, perhaps most famous of all, Phil Collins performed at the 1985 Live Aid charity concert in London, hopped on Concorde and played again in Philadelphia hours later.
Jamiroquai lead singer Jay Kay summed up the thrill of a Concorde flight: “It’s a fantastic thing to watch the sun set and then watch it rise and then set again.
“You fly so high I mean I've actually seen the curve — the black line between night and day on earth — because you’re traversing it so much more quickly. So it’s a beautiful thing,” he told Reuters Television.
Many a nostalgic tear will be shed when the British Airways Concorde makes its last flight from New York to London.
Veteran British broadcaster David Frost, who once entered the Guinness Book of Records for making the most crossings of the Atlantic when he was doing shows in London and New York, said it will be an emotional final flight for him.
“It’s odd,” he told Reuters Television. “Usually when things work technologically they survive but in this case it works technologically and it’s not surviving and that is rather sad.”
Opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, a man of ample girth and ample voice, did not balk at the size of the cramped cabin. “I will definitely miss it,” he said.
But the same may not be said of Diana Ross — the singer was arrested for assaulting a female security officer who tried to search her before she boarded a Concorde in 1999.
Stealing time from time as you soared above the earth proved an irresistible magnet for celebrities and Frost was not alone in setting records.
British singer Suggs from the group Madness claimed to have hit the world’s longest putt — his golf ball travelled 8 km in the two seconds it took to roll down the aisle of Concorde.
The biggest regrets are being voiced by flamboyant entrepreneur Richard Branson. The Virgin Atlantic boss offered to take over Concorde from his arch-rival but British Airways said no.
Reflecting on the end of a chapter in aviation history, he said: “The idea that it will never fly again just seems completely and utterly wrong.
“The (World War II fighter) Spitfire is still flying — I flew in one last week — and so Concorde should be flying in 30, 40, 50 years’ time.”