background image
Page 185
AUSTIN EXECUTIVE AIRPORT
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
R
on
W. H
enRiksen
Chapter 11
passenger. On the outside was the deep blue
Air France logo and on the inside was a comb,
a toothbrush, a small can of shaving cream
for me and a small bottle of perfume presum-
ably for my wife.
I plopped down in row eight, not far from
the cockpit, buckled in and listened to the en-
gine's low rumbling noise. We taxied out to
runway 22L, when the captain came on the in-
tercom and announced in a cinematic French
accent that he would be activating "reheat"
on takeoff, a system which injected fuel di-
rectly into the exhaust mechanism and con-
sequently boosted thrust on takeoff by about
20 percent. What the captain was saying was,
"Get ready for a ride."
The engines grew louder, the aircraft accel-
erated, and for long moments I felt a pressure
in my chest as we zoomed out over Queens,
New York, and moments later skirted the
western end of the Rockaway peninsula far
below. We banked and buzzed along at a lei-
surely 650 miles per hour out over the choppy
gray Atlantic Ocean for some time when the
captain once again announced he was activat-
ing reheat in order to accelerate through the
speed of sound. The bulkhead in front of me
held a large speed indicator and I saw that
we were traveling at Mach .93. When the cap-
tain activated reheat I didn't notice a thing,
not a speck of acceleration or any change in
engine noise. Nonetheless, I saw the Mach
meter continue to climb--.95, .97, 1.01--until
we reached Mach 1.3 and this time I heard a
slight change in the hum of the engine, most
likely the captain switching off the fuel-guz-
zling reheat system.
Even with reheat turned off we continued
to accelerate. As the airplane burned fuel, it
got lighter and as it got lighter it could either
go faster or go up. We didn't want to go any
faster than Mach 2.02, our maximum cruise
speed (about 1,334 miles per hour), so we
soared upward into the ever-thinning air until
we reached about 60,000 feet.
At some point, I politely stopped one of the
flight attendants and told her, hesitantly, that
I was a pilot and asked in my most affable
voice, well, if there were any chance I might
see the cockpit, maybe have a word with the
captain.
"Sir, we are in flight," she stated matter of
factly, as a way of discouraging me, I think.
"I understand," I said.
The woman was attractive and off-putting
at the same time, her short hair pulled back
flatteringly behind her ears, her light gray
dress pressed with fresh creases, and a blaz-
ing red bow for a belt that hit me, seated as I
was, at about eye level.
"I don't want to break any rules," I said, but
my tone said otherwise.
She stood straighter, furrowed her pretty
brow, and appeared to ponder my request as
if it were the first she'd ever heard of such a
thing (which couldn't possibly be true) and
said, "If you like, I will speak with the captain."
"If it's not too much trouble."
She left me and returned a few minutes
later, chipper as could be, and invited me to
come on up.
As hard as it is to believe in our post-9/11,
always-alert-to-a-terrorist-attack world, the
cockpit of the Concorde didn't have a solid