Last year I was lucky enough to have flown Concorde, it’s truely amazing what corporations will do when the need an engineer in a hurry. My flight was on a British Airways jet from London to JFK in New York.
The first thing I noticed as I bumped my head stepping into the jet is how incredibly small it is. There are two seats on either side of the isle, no first class (the whole jet is first class) and the seats are rather small. It felt kind of like I was riding on a bus. There are about 100 seats on the Concorde and in almost all of them were crusty old men. The windows were really tiny, making it difficult to see out of any window except the one next to my seat.
On takeoff the jet felt like it was shooting straight up for about 20 seconds when it quickly straightened out a bit and climbed slowly all the way to about 60,000 feet, which I could watch on a large LED display at the front of cabin. There was also an LED display for outside temperature and speed.
The jet did not break the sound barrier until it was over the Atlantic (apparently sonic booms qualify as noise pollution) and the captain announced it just before they did. I didn't hear anything as we broke the sound barrier, I only felt a slight acceleration that I probably would not have noticed if I didn't know it was coming. The top speed was about Mach 2.1. The view from 60,000 feet was amazing, I really felt like I was at the edge of space, the bottom half of the sky was blue fading into purple and the top half was black. The curvature of the earth was really apparent from this elevation (I no longer subscribe to the Flat Earth Theory). There was a strange heat coming from the windows, at first I thought it was from radiation, but after doing some research I found that the heat is actually caused by the friction of the jet travelling so fast through the air. The entire jet stretches up to 10 inches during flight from the intense heat.
The meal was seriously good for airplane food, complete with champagne and caviar. After the meal and before landing they give everyone a gift, which changes every month or so. Perhaps they feel that somehow this helps make up for the four or five grand (U.S. dollars) that the ticket cost. I got a fountain pen, it is really nice and has the Concorde logo on it, to bad I’m a ballpoint pen kind of guy. I've heard they have given out ties and small models of the Concorde, perhaps a Concorde Gift Meta-Node is in order.
As the jet slowed down and prepared to land the nose once again went way up in the air, I could feel the jet struggle with the slow speed as it comes down onto the runway. This thing was really not meant to go slow. Once the rear wheels touched the ground the front slammed down hard and fast and the jet quickly slows to taxiing speed. The landing was much rougher than I expected.
The entire flight took about three and a half hours and when I arrived in New York it was earlier than when I had left London.
A few months later I got to take an Air France Concorde from Paris to New York. The experience was very similar except the Air France jet was not as clean, the service was not as nice, and Air France doesn’t give you a gift. I wish I had written down the registration as Air France only has 5 Concordes there is a good chance I was on the very same jet (F-BTSC) that burst into flames and crashed on July 25, 2000.