Michele has a nice tribute to the retiring Concorde. Since she lives near the airport in New York, she’s witnessed the supersonic jet’s comings and goings on a regular basis. It was a little bit bigger deal when the Concorde flew over my house in Hermon, Maine.
Bangor International Airport was created in 1968 when the Department of Defense closed Dow Air Force Base. “People thought the end of the world had arrived,” said former Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen. “They gave us the base for a dollar, and we still didn’t have enough money to plow the runways.”1
The reason I’m from Maine is because of that air base. My dad was stationed there when he met my mom. And our house was right in path of incoming flights. When they were on their final approach to land, jets would come across our yard. They sometimes seemed close enough to see the passengers waving back at us as their jet clipped the top of the oak tree near the garage.
Because it was used as a B-52 base, it has a really long runway–more than 11,000 feet, one of the longest in the world. It’s even an emergency landing site for the space shuttle. On top of that, it’s got a reputation as an “always open” airport. When Boston and New York are shut down because of snow storms, flights are diverted to Bangor.
So, with its military history, long runway and other attributes, it sometimes gets used for things like transatlantic test flights. And on November 7, 1974, we got to witness a British pre-production model of the Concorde coming in for a landing on its record-setting trip from Fairford to Bangor. It crossed the Atlantic in just 2 hours and 56 minutes. I can’t say that I saw that particular flight land. I was probably in school. But I do remember it being a noteworthy news event for our small city, and I do recall seeing it come across our path on one of its subsequent refueling stops.
This morning the world’s only supersonic airliner took off from New York’s JFK Airport for its final flight.