Four decades since first Concorde flight
Celebrating a supersonic anniversary
THIS week marked 40 years since Concorde first took off from Heathrow Airport on its maiden commercial flight.
Former chief Concorde pilot Mike Bannister returned to the airport on Tuesday last week to inspect Alpha Bravo, one the seven supersonic jets operated by British Airways (BA).
It has been preserved by a new generation of graduate engineers, many of whom were still at school when Concorde was retired in 2003, and takes pride of place at the end of runway 27L.
An eighth, test aircraft, Delta Golf, which was never operated commercially, is a visitor attraction at Brooklands Museum in Weybridge.
Capt Bannister gave the iconic jet the once-over during his visit and said: “She’s looking ship-shape and remarkably good, 40 years on.
“I’m delighted. Parked in her position at the end of runway 27L, millions of customers arriving at and leaving Heathrow continue to have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of one of the great loves of my life.”
Concorde’s first commercial BA flight took-off from Heathrow on January 21 1976, bound for Bahrain.
Passengers feasted on caviar and lobster canapés, fillet steak, palm heart salad and strawberries and cream, topped up with Dom Perignon 1969 Champagne and Cuban cigars.
She was a planespotter’s dream during her lifespan from 1976 to 2003, her sleek fuselage and slender delta wing the silhouette to spot as she sped to and from Heathrow.
Keith Rose, BA’s general manager of engineering, who is responsible for the Concorde project, said the opportunity for youngsters to cut their teeth working on Concorde was vital.
“It gives our graduate and apprentice engineers the chance to expand their skills by working on a unique aircraft type,” he said.
“Also, it allows them to be part of the extraordinary heritage of British Airways, keeping this world-renowned aircraft in excellent showcase condition.”
Concorde’s retirement was a sad day for all aviation enthusiasts – but all seven of the aircraft are on display around the world and can be visited.
It is estimated that more than one million people have been to see them during the past 12 years. Delta Golf, in particular, has brought joy to thousands of Surrey residents at its final resting place at Brooklands.
Former engineer Ernie Moore celebrated his 106th birthday aboard the plane on October 5 last year, when he was welcomed aboard by Capt Bannister.
A 40 per cent scale model of the supersonic plane, which once graced the entrance to Heathrow, was installed at Brooklands in September 2012.
Happy couples can even get married aboard Delta Golf at Brooklands after the aircraft became licensed for wedding ceremonies in 2009.
There was a scare though in May 2014 when an electrical fire aboard the plane required firefighters from Surrey Fire and Rescue Service to assist.
Concorde’s legacy also lives on in attributes that are found on newer planes, including composite materials used to improve efficiency on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and highpressure hydraulics, which were designed for Concorde, adapted for use in the world’s largest aircraft, the Airbus A380.