The day started with what appeared to be another in an endless series of congressional hearings on whether the noisy Concorde supersonic jet plane should get permanent landing rights in the United States.
The plot thickened when two Department of Transportation officials who were scheduled to testify did not appear, apparently on the instructions of National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, Rep. Leo J. Ryan (D-Calif.) said he was told. Ryan is chairman of the House Government Operations Subcommittee on Environment, Energy and Natural Resources.
The day ended when Transportation Secretary Brock Adams hastily called a 6 p.m. press conference to say he was "somewhat confused as to what the chairman Ryan had in mind." Adams thought Ryan had been satisfied without the testimony.
The bottom line is that the Carter administration is still trying to decide what to do about the Concorde and has found the decision so tough and so fraught with international implications that it has classified an options paper "secret."
Ryan wants to see the options paper and find out how and why the Concorde might be permitted to continue landing in the United States.
Concorde's 16-month test period at Dulles International Airport ends on Sept. 24. By that time, Adams has promised, he will issue the first proposed rule the government has ever had governing the noise levels of supersonic planes and will, at the same time, decide the fate of the Concorde's future flights here.
The tests at Dulles have not made the decision any easier. They have proven only that the Concorde is every bit as noisy as experts had predicted it would be. Furthermore, phone complaints show people do not like the Concorde when it flies over them, particularly on takeoff.
The foreign policy problem is, and always has been, that the Concorde is built and flown by a partnership of two of the United States' oldest friends, Britain and France. To make matters worse, elections are expected in France no later than next spring, and a Socialist-Communist union has been gaining strength.
One of the coalition's issues has been anti-Americanism based partly on the refusal of the New York Port Authority to allow the Concorde to land in New York City.
"We are being asked to give away the peace and quiet of this country for the national pride of the British and French," Ryan said as his hearing opened yesterday. He has just come from an early-morning meeting with Adams.
There he had learned that two witnesses he had called would not appear. They are Charles Foster, who writes noise rules for the Federal Aviation Administration, and David A. Jewell, Adams' press-secretary.
Foster was called because he is the technician who understands noise. Jewell was called because he hold secret "for reasons of national security." Where is national security involved? Ryan said he wanted to ask.
When neither showed up, Ryan said he had been told that neither Foster nor Jewell would appear pending a decision by "Mr. Brzezinski." [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] the New York Times last Saturday that the options paper was classified[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
A spokesman for Brzezinski denied late yesterday that Brzezinski had anything to do with that decision. Adams, in his press conference, said it was his understanding that Jewell and Foster would not appear in lieu of Adams meeting with Ryan early yesterday.
On the substantive issue of the Concorde's future, Adams and White House sources said no decision has been reached and that a number of options are under discussion.
The options paper is classified secret, they said, because it pertains to foreign relations, not national security.
When asked what was new in the foreign policy implications of a Concorde decisions, Adams said: "You're now at a point where you're arriving at a governmental decision. It has a great deal more significance."