After 19 months of delays, the Anglo-French supersonic Concorde landed in New York City for the first time today.
There were no demonstrators representing the groups that have fought to bar the Concorde from Kennedy International Airport here. Special police helicopters circled over the edges or runway 4L to make sure the jetliner arrived unmolested.
Just before the long-nosed Concorde broke through the clouds, two yellow trucks even sped down the runway firing off shotgun blanks to frighten away any birds.
The gleaming white Concorde, which cost $3 billion to develop, touched down almost exactly on scheduled at 11:12 a.m., three hours and 45 minutes after taking off from Toulouse, France, 3,800 miles from New York.
"This isa great day for us," British Airways Concorde pilot Brian Walpole told a news conference. The obviously wellbriefed pilot remarked that the New York Yankees had won the World Series the night before and that they, too, had overcome many problems.
"After all we've been through here in New York," Walpole said. Concorde was pleased to have finally touched down.
The opposition to the Concorde has come from some of the roughly 500,000 people who live close to JFK airport and fear that supersonic engines will greatly increase noise levels.
The Concorde's landing today was no noisier than subsonic jets. A crowd of about 100 persons who came to the airport to see it land could hear little sound from the Jetliner as it touched down.
"They scared the people for nothing. The Helicopters made more noise," one young man said.
An airport policeman said: "I heard the bus next to me. That's all I heard.
However, tests at Washington's Dulles International Airport, where the Concorde now lands, and elsewhere, have shown that the Concorde is far noisier taking off than landing. Its opponents refuse to believe the Concorde's owners' predictions that takeoffs will be below the 112-decibelimit required by the New York-New Jersey port Authority.
Concorde foes are still hoping that the Port Authority will set new noise standards that will exclude the Concorde, and they say they plan to file suit against the Federal Aviation Administration claiming that it failed to set noise standards.
If these attempts fail, a demonstration aimed at snarling traffic and making the drive from Kennedy to Manhattan take twice as long as the Concorde flight to London or Paris is planned for Oct. 30 or Nov. 6.
"I'll be like New Orleans on Mardi Gras," said anit-Concorde organizer Bryan Levinson. he said he did not have time to arrange a protest demonstration for today after the Monday Supreme Court decision clearing the way for the landing. Levinson also said that most of his supporters are at their jobs on weekdays.
The Concorde made its first New York landing on the runway that keeps its approach farthest from populated areas, but Leo J. Schefer, the British Aircraft Corp. (U.S.A.) director of public relations, said this was done to accomodate the press, not the Concorde.
Reporters and photographers were allowed to stand along the edge of the runway about 40 feet from the spot where the Concorde's wheels touched down at its landing speed of about 170 m.p.h.
With the chief French test pilot of the two-nation supersonic project, Jean Franchi, at the controls, the Concorde slowed to subsonic speed about 50 miles from the coast to dissipate its boom at sea, as it is supposed to do on all flights into New York.
Franchi was doggedly low-key about the first landing here.
"It was about the 600th landing I have done, and it looked about like all the others," he told reporters. When he was asked what he thought of 4L, Franchi replied, "It looked like a runway to me."
British Airways and Air France plan to start commercial flights to New York Nov. 22, unless new obstacles block them.
Concorde has been a large money-loser for both airlines since it began carrying passengers Jan. 21 1976. Air France attributed over half of its 1976 operating loss of $84.8 million to the Concorde. British Airways said Concorde operations lost $14.6 million for it last year.
Each airline flies Concorde into Dulles, Air France also flies the supersonic jets from Paris to Rio de Janeiro and Caracas, while British Wirways flies from London to Bahrain.
The two airlines have said that access to New York, where 70 per cent of all East Coast trans-Atlantic passengers board, is vital to the Concorde's future.
The plane is to make a series of test takeoffs and landings, probably fewer than six, before flying back to Europe.