PC's Opinion: Fly the Silver Bird
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Fly the Silver BirdBy Peter Cresswell
It’s flying again!
As the ground war in Afghanistan begins - as white powder seems to be pouring out of the post everywhere from Taihape to Tallahassee - as Islamic mullahs in London cry that "it’s now time for martyrdom" - it’s good to remember that it’s good to be alive, and it’s good to be reminded that making it good to be alive is what civilisation has always been about. That is what the news of yesterday’s transatlantic Concorde flight reminded me.
Yes, it’s true! Concorde yesterday completed its first supersonic transatlantic flight since last year’s crash in Paris. The sleek silver bird cut through the Autumn fog at Heathrow Airport with ninety two passengers and crew aboard, soaring above the Atlantic twice as it completed the round trip through New York's JFK airport in just over ten hours.
What a wonder this plane is. Ironically, it would have celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of its first transatlantic flight in September this year - yet even at thirty years of age its sleek profile with the delta wings and the droop snoop symbolises what is possible to man every time one catches a glimpse of it - for every human being everywhere it has always been impossible to ignore as it flashes overhead. I remember working on a building site at Heathrow where work ceased every time a Concorde took off or landed (our Irish Estimator ingenuously claimed that from past experience he had already allowed for these unplanned stoppages; our figures unfortunately didn’t show it).
The Concorde’s impeccable safety record before last year underscored its supersonic reputation. When a piece of metal from the Charles de Gaulle runway pierced its fuel tanks last year, the resulting fireball sent shock waves around the world that, in retrospect, were a precursor to those felt after the Trade Center disaster this year. The great difference of course was that the New York tragedy was not an accident.
Sure, Concorde wasn’t produced by private enterprise, but by an Anglo-French government programme. But like the majestic Hoover Dam - produced by a similarly socialist government programme - and like the World Trade Center towers themselves - these things symbolise the greatness this species is capable of when individuals puts their minds to it. Such magnificence is the result of an inordinate effort: it takes intelligence, planning, ingenuity, expertise and - in the case of these three wonders - enormous style and 'chutzpah.' To create on this level takes sheer, unadulterated brilliance.
To destroy takes nothing except an unspeakable evil - a very human evil that can only continue to exist when good men do nothing. Fortunately, as we speak, good men are doing everything they can to exterminate human evil.
At times like these, it is good to remind ourselves just what heights men are capable of when left even semi-free to do so. We would also do well to remind ourselves that the achievements of man's creative spirit are far, far beyond the ability of the vermin who seek only to destroy.
According to reports, both British Airways' and Air France’s Concordes are already fully booked for their first scheduled flights, with British Airways alone having sold ten million pounds worth of tickets. These are passengers who can afford to choose how they travel, and ten million pounds shows they have correctly discounted any safety or terrorism concerns - they have concluded there is a greater risk of drowning in the bath than encountering a terrorist; they are satisfied that stronger tyres, kevlar lining in the fuel tanks, and new hydraulic and electrical systems will prevent any future recurrence of the Paris tragedy.
They have no doubt that life is for living, and that flying Concorde is one hell of a way to live. And they’re right.
To paraphrase P.J. O’Rourke: Concordes, Trade Centers and Hoover Dams - these are the products of free, civilised men. What would the uncivilised automatons know of this? And what, pray tell would those barbarians who seek to destroy it all?
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