Rockford Flashback: 1985 Concorde Visit
I remember it like it was yesterday, but then again, how often does someone who is not at all rich or famous get to take a free ride on the British Airways supersonic luxury bird, The Concorde?
The answer to that question, at least in my case, is once.
In October of 1985, I was hosting the afternoon show on WROK, along with my partner and newsman, Rick McLaughlin. One day, we were called into the operations manager's office. When we sat down, he asked, "Either one of you two ever flown on the Concorde?" We all then laughed, because we all knew what kind of money we were making. Not Concorde-flying type money. Not even close. So, in a nutshell, the answer was no.
That was about to change. We were told that British Airways was looking to expand outward, and had initially approached O'Hare airport about flying in and establishing some charter service, but there were problems with the perceived noise associated with the Concorde. Chicago's loss was Rockford's gain.
From the Chicago Tribune:
Complaints about the plane`s noisy supersonic engines led O`Hare officials to reject the Chicago Motor Club`s bid to bring in the 100-seat plane for a charter flight.
Rockford officials, though, immediately let British Airways know they would be delighted to oblige.
``This will help put Rockford on the map,`` said a jubilant John McNamara, mayor of the city of 139,000. McNamara was among the 95 passengers, many of them local dignitaries, who flew on the Concorde from New York Monday afternoon.
``This shows people here what Rockford can do,`` he said. ``We don`t consider this a one-shot deal.``
It was Rockford's gain...and it wasn't too bad of a deal for Rick and I, either. We were part of the group of "local dignitaries". We flew to New York (my first time there), spent the night, then headed for JFK airport for the flight home to Rockford aboard the Concorde. My first impression was that the plane was really, really small, interior-wise. Small, but luxurious. There weren't sections like I was used to. No coach-class. It was all FIRST class, spacious and comfortable seats, champagne and caviar served upon boarding (and whenever you wanted some during the entire flight). Plush blankets, pillows, and cushy socks to wear while in-flight were just a few of the perks. British Airways wanted to give us something to talk about, and they certainly delivered.
Unfortunately, it did turn out to be kind of a one-shot deal, and the Concorde never became the regular Rockford visitor that many had hoped for. But, for a few hours one day in October 1985, it was pure magic for many of us.