Bibliophile Lass (bibliogirl) wrote,
Bibliophile Lass


And now, the bit you've all been waiting for (well, at least vicarage has).

Our flight was at 0900 so we wanted to be at the airport by 0700, which meant that we wanted to get a taxi at 0615; this, in turn, meant getting up at 0530.

I slept appallingly. Apart from a sub-28 Days Later nightmare which woke me at 0300, I spent most of the rest of the night in an advanced state of 'Do We Need To Get Up Yet?' You know the sort of thing; you wake up with a start, absolutely convinced that you've missed the alarm and thereby your flight (or whatever other time-critical event you need to get up for), only to find that it's not nearly time to get up yet and in fact it is only about twenty minutes since the last time you woke up in the same fashion.

On arriving at JFK, there was, of all things, a queue at the Concorde check-in. Not a long one, but a queue nonetheless. Heavens, what were things coming to ;)

We negotiated the check-in procedures, including the slightly arcane X-raying of the luggage that you have to stick around for if you want to be able to check your luggage in locked (well, the alternative is that they will break the locks if they want to see inside your hold luggage, which isn't exactly attractive). I do question what a travel insurance company would say if you tried to claim for theft from a bag that you had checked in unlocked. (I also hear rumours that you're not allowed to check in hold baggage which is locked on internal flights within the US, which should make for an interesting life when we go to GenCon later this month - but I digress).

The Concorde lounge at JFK is rather pleasant, if a little Seventies in appearance. It's just about large enough to hold the hundred people that a fully-laden Concorde carries; I infer this from the fact that it was very full (to the extent that finding empty seats was starting to become an issue) and so, too, was the plane; I didn't see any empty seats in our section (the forward cabin) at all. We enjoyed some breakfast (bagel, bacon and sausage for rotwang and scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for me) and also some champagne, in my case at least.

Disappointingly the plane was not boarding from the gate next to the lounge, so we couldn't sit there and admire it while we waited (that gate had an American West plane waiting at it, Concorde was further down).

The flight was called a little late, due to what was described as "a minor technical problem with some of the instrumentation". (Boggle.) We boarded along with the rest, many of whom were showing similar symptoms to me of being passengers on the special offer (cameras... bouncing up and down with excitement... that sort of thing). When they were welcoming us aboard they mentioned that the majority of passengers on that flight were probably first-timers, so I guess the Wednesday flight from JFK to London is not generally quite that full ;)

Drinks orders were the first thing, for the drinks that would be served after takeoff. I mentioned yesterday that staying sober enough to walk off the plane at the other end could be an issue. I counted at least six possible servings of alcohol and I might well have missed one or two; after-takeoff drinks (vintage champagne, in our case; come on, what else?!). Refills of same. Wine with brunch. Refill. And another refill. After-brunch liqueurs/port served with a generous hand (to the extent that your author asked for a small brandy, having watched the person across the aisle being poured what looked like approximately a triple, nice though it was...)

The takeoff is... exciting. Faster than that of a normal plane (no surprise there), there's a definite sense of 'pedal to the metal' as the plane tears down the runway. It's made even more exciting at JFK by the fact that they make a left turn at 50(!) feet so as to take them over the water more quickly and annoy the neighbours less. I've read Arthur Hailey's Airport enough times to remember what his pilot characters think of such manoeuvres, but this one seemed to go without incident.

The plane itself has been through a well-publicised refurbishment of the interior, while they were doing those other little useful things like lining the fuel tanks. The seats are comfy and leather-covered, the interior fittings are nicely designed, the bathrooms, though tiny (to the extent that it apparently requires some level of limbo-dancing for men to urinate, even if they are of normal height... so I'm told...), are well-appointed. The interior itself still isn't exactly large, but somehow it doesn't matter, since you're only on the plane for a bit under four hours rather than seven or more - basically a shorthaul flight rather than longhaul. And there's more legroom than in cattle class, anyhow.

Brunch was great. Prettily presented on china (though the nicely-wrapped napkin still disgorged plastic cutlery... oh well). Poached salmon with caviar, followed by a choice of tasty-sounding main courses (I went for the sea bass), followed by dessert or cheese.

Of course, during all this, we were keeping a close eye on the indicators at the front of the cabin. The refit has replaced the LED indicators of what Mach number you're travelling at, that I'm sure I have a picture of in some Blue Peter book somewhere (for our US readers: children's TV programme), with screens which give the Mach number, the altitude, the outside temperature (sometimes replaced by the distance left to fly), and the current speed (mph). It really doesn't take long to get to Mach 1. (Cue much clicking of shutters. Whether my pictures of that bit will come out are anyone's guess, as I'd picked up the useful information online that using a flash wouldn't work well as it would just reflect off the screens.) The reheaters on the engines, which are cut back in after getting clear of land, stay on until Mach 1.7, and soon enough we were cruising at 1350 mph, aka Mach 2 (at that altitude). Whee. ;)

By the time we'd got through food and drinks, there really wasn't too much time left. We read for a bit, perused the souvenir selection - no surprises, they had sold out onboard of any of the cheaper items, but you can mailorder them, and we did - and received our souvenir envelopes including the certificate saying we'd flown supersonically on Concorde and the photo of the plane.

We were cruising around 52000 feet for most of the journey, rising to 54000 and then 57000 later on, just before we started our descent. It didn't seem to be too much of an issue if we moved up or down, I don't think there's much traffic up there ;)

Eventually we started our descent and slowed down a bit (don't think Concorde is allowed to be supersonic over the UK). No holds at Heathrow, and we landed about ten minutes ahead of schedule.

A nice touch is that, once everyone's off the plane, they allow visitors up to the cockpit, two by two. I'm sure on a 'normal' flight there would be perhaps ten people wanting to do this; on our flight it was nearer thirty ;). We went in to the TINY, TINY cockpit and said hello and thanks to the pilots, then got them to sign our certificates. The cockpit really is small, to the extent that I suspect claustrophobia is a disqualification for a Concorde pilot (maybe it's better when you're sitting down). And every available surface bar the floor is covered in dials, indicators, etc. etc. How they make sense of it all is beyond me; I can't even think of enough things to be indicated by all those dials.

Ambled out through an all-but-empty Terminal Four, and then home ;)
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