THE struggle over landing rights for the Concorde in New York has taken a nasty turn. The French government is calling it a "serious test" of French-American relations, and there is talk in Paris of economic retaliation if the rights are not granted. In this country, the New York Port Authority keeps putting off a decision, and there is talk of citizens' groups that are prepared to shut down the airport by force if the rights are granted.
Both sides,it seems to us, are operating in a framework filled with more emotion and speculation than facts and logic. Surely the French government must know that there is hardly a trace of anti-French or anti-trade feeling or pro-Protectionism in the anti-Concorde movement. By choosing to use that argument in the battle, regardless of the government's need for it in France before this Sunday's election, the French are playing a risky game. People's particularly their own, might come to believe it, and what started in his country as an argument over noise could end up as a serious international problem over trade.
As for the New Yorkers, they ought to realize that the Concorde is not the environment disaster it has so often been pictured as being, that it is not the first of a new generation of noisy airplanes but rather an aberration that is unlikely to be around long, and that they ought not to be trying to make international aviation policy for the United States. What began as a legitimate question about the noise and pollution created by the Concorde has become intertwined with opposition to the airplane by those who oppose new technology or doubt the need for supersonic flight. While the latter considerations have a proper role in the decision by this nation to build or not to build such airplanes, it has nothing to do with the decision to permit a plane built by some other nation to use American airports.
We believe that former Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman ruled wisely almost a year ago when he cleared the Concorde for operations at Dulles and Kennedy airports over a 16-month trial period. And we think President Carter is quite right in supporting that decision. It may be that the Concorde, as the French and British government claim, can meet current noise standards at both airports. If it can, there is no problem. If it can't at least the real dimensions of the problem will be known instead of calculated, as they now are, in numericalmeasurements that hardly anyone comprehends.