Concorde Folds Its Wings

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We can argue about its usefulness. We can gag at the overstuffed egos of celebrities who reveled in the supersonic cachet. We can shake our heads over the Ohio man who bought the last two tickets for $60,300 in a charity auction. We can even sympathize with the folks in Queens who are relieved to be rid of the cacophonous takeoffs. But we have to take to heart what news-anchor-emeritus Walter Cronkite wrote last week: "The grounding of the Concorde is as if, after a dozen locations had been interconnected, Alexander Graham Bell and his associates had decided to go no further in their development of the telephone." Concorde, after 27 years in service, still fully functional and unique, flew its last scheduled flight on Friday. Most of the fleet has been promised to museums -- one was delivered this summer to the Smithsonian's new Udvar-Hazy Center -- but it's rumored that British Airways may keep one in flying condition for special occasions, and even return to the U.S. in December for the centennial celebration of the Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk. However, at its Web site, BA says "it would be too costly to maintain [a Concorde] for occasional use." Which leaves us with the Citation X as the fastest civilian airplane in the sky -- a functional jet, but hardly a romantic or beautiful one, and one that never makes that dazzling, if somewhat unnecessary, drive through Mach 2.