ONE OF THE MOST remarkable aspects of the saga of the Concorde is the precision with which the engineers predicted the noise it would make at both Dulles and Kennedy Airports. The airplane is now in regular commercial service at both airports and is operating within a decibel or two of what the experts said it would. It is noisy - no question about that - but it appears to be no more disturbing to nearby residents, particularly those around Kennedy, than the subsonic jets. Perhaps there would have been a little less hubbub about its arrival if a little more credence had been given to the test results from other countries presented two years ago by the plane's British and French owners.
Now that the question of landing rights is settled, at least at those two airports, the next question is how long these hard-won rights will be used. We have yet to see any convincing data that the Concorde will be anything other than a flying financial disaster. It may be a fun (or, at least, a quick) way to cross the Atlantic - for those who can affort it - but it does not appear to be a way for airlines to put money in the bank.For that reason, we suspect, no one seems to be very upset by the threat of the New York Port Authority that it may attempt to cut off the Concorde's landing rights in 1985.
That the Concorde won out in the end should not be allowed to obscure an important lesson for airplane designers and manufacturers. The lesson, which the industry will ignore at its peril, is that this country is deadly serious about curbing noise pollution. The exception that has been made for the Concorde has reinforced the national determination that the noise level around airports is going to have to come down. A new generation of Concordes, or even a second production-line run of this model, must have substantially quieter engines if the planes are to be flown here. And the same goes for other not-yet-operational airplanes. In that sense, those who fought so long against letting the Concorde land in the United States may have lost a battle, but they have contributed mightily toward winning the war.