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Page 183
AUSTIN EXECUTIVE AIRPORT
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
R
on
W. H
enRiksen
Chapter 11
At the time our two boys, James and Mat-
thew, were young and our unwritten rule
was that she and I not fly on the same air-
plane (unless the boys were with us), on the
off chance that the ship went down and our
sons suddenly found themselves parentless.
This family custom was recently amended
when my oldest, James, now seventeen, an-
nounced that it was fine with him if his moth-
er and I started flying together. In the event
of a disaster, he could, he said, take care of
himself, which he could, of course--news no
parent especially wants to hear.
If I had to endure the long flight to Paris
without my wife, I reasoned, why not take a
turn at flying on the Concorde, by then an
aging aircraft--the first prototype (Concorde
001) had taken flight on a cold day on March
2, 1969 from Toulouse, France, and the first
commercial flights took off simultaneously
on January 21, 1976 when British Airways
departed London Heathrow (Concorde 206)
and Air France departed Paris (Concorde
205). Aging or not, the aircraft was still the
only turbojet-charged supersonic passen-
ger jet in operation and I was thrilled to be a
passenger.
I boarded a commercial, non-supersonic
flight out of Houston Intercontinental Air-
port bound for John F. Kennedy International
Airport where I transferred to the Concorde
bound for the Charles de Gaulle Airport in
Paris. At the time, Air France ran one flight
a day, New York to Paris nonstop. The draw,
of course, was that the Concorde rocketed
across the Atlantic in record time, about three
and a half hours, compared to a slumberous
eight-hour or longer commercial flight on a
Boeing or Airbus widebody.
As a pilot and aviation buff, I knew a bit
about the Concorde's history. I knew, for in-
stance, that the aircraft was a product of an
Anglo-French government treaty (thus the
name, Concorde) which combined the manu-
facturing efforts of Aerospatiale and the Brit-
ish Aircraft Corporation. I knew that only
twenty airplanes were built between 1966 and
1979. The first two were prototype models,
one built in France and the other in England,
a second pair were pre-production prototypes
built to refine design and test systems before
the production runs. A third pair (the first two
production aircraft), were used for flight test-
ing. Of the remaining fourteen Concordes,
British Airways and Air France ended up with
seven each.
What now seems obvious, and should have
been in the gas-rationing Seventies, was that
Concorde was an expensive airplane to oper-
ate. So expensive that Aerospatiale/BAC had
a tough time finding takers. Even after more
than a dozen years of development, construc-
tion, and testing, a viable market hadn't been
created for the airplane. In the early 1970s
both Pan American World Airways and TWA
passed on options to buy the aircraft. Pan Am
balked at purchasing seven of the French-
British airplanes because studies showed
they had less range, less payload, and higher
operating costs than other wide bodied jets
available at the time. Air France and British
Airways, on the other hand, were subsidized
by their respective governments and operat-
ed their fleets out of a sense of national pride