Summer Travel Special | Flying the Concorde with Christopher Makos
On March 2, 1969, the Concorde first took flight, going twice the speed of sound at Mach 2.04, and cruising eight miles above the Earth, on the edge of the atmosphere. It officially entered commercial service in 1976, coming to define the true jet set: a group of people wealthy enough to afford the then-$12,000 round-trip tickets ($22,450 today).
For the next 27 years it shuttled a small coterie of the wealthy elite across the pond, making transatlantic trips from New York and Washington, D.C., to London and Paris in a mere three and a half hours—coincidentally, the same amount of time it takes to drive from Manhattan to the Hamptons. On October 24, 2003, the Concorde made its last flight, going down in history as the most luxurious mode of transportation ever available to the public.
Photographer and author Christopher Makos was a regular on the Concorde, amassing a collection of work from those flights published here for the first time. “Flying on the Concorde was like being an astronaut. Unless you’re a fighter pilot, you can no longer fly this fast. You were part of a small club,” he recalls. “The Concorde only held 100 passengers. It was like being behind the velvet ropes.”
There were 50 seats in the front of the plane and 50 seats in the back. Although everyone was considered “The Concorde Class,” Makos remembers that you tried to get a seat in the front as it was a bit rougher ride in the back of the plane.
“It was like a Ferrari. It was one of the best rides you could ever have. The energy level was exhilarating. You were traveling faster than a speeding bullet,” Makos exults, as he remembers the feeling of flying eight miles high. “You were right on the edge of the atmosphere. At that height, you could see the curvature of the earth and the deep blue sky as it connects to the atmosphere. The next step up is outer space!”
Makos notes that the flights were not usually full—but those who were on it were strictly VIP. “It was like being in an executive board room,” Makos recalls. It was not unusual to see Calvin Klein, Hubert de Givenchy, Elton John, Paul McCartney, or Ozzy Osborne on the plane.
Makos, who began his photography career as apprentice to Man Ray in Paris, first arrived in New York in the 1970s just as the disco scene was taking off. He met Andy Warhol and taught Warhol photography, beginning a professional collaboration and deep friendship that would continue until the artist’s death in 1987.
As a Factory insider, Makos had access to the very best the world had to offer, honing his skills as a photographer and amassing a vast archive that spans four decades and features works made in every corner of the globe. The author of 21 books, Makos captures life as it unfolds, whether it is in the studio with Jean-Michel Basquiat, riding motorcycles with Elizabeth Taylor and Malcolm Forbes, taking in the sights of Monte Carlo, or photographing hustlers in a professional pose.
His photographs made on the Concorde take us on the tarmac then up the steps, inside the slender delta jet with interiors designed by Andrée Putman. We travel with Makos to Fashion Week in Paris in 1981, and to London in 1986, enjoying the world class travel when it was still a public event, before the era of private jets changed the game.
“As a photographer, I take pictures so I can believe I did these things,” Makos reveals. “otherwise it’s just a story that you can believe or not believe.” Pics or it didn’t happen, in modern parlance. Makos has the archive to show off—all you have to do is ask.
Check out his upcoming exhibition, An Outward Glance: Christopher Makos on Andy Warhol’s Epoch at Izolyatsia, Kiev (July 20, 2017—September 28 2017), as well as Hilton Brothers and Christopher Makos.
All photos: © Christopher Makos
Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Aperture Online, and Feature Shoot. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.