Four decades since first Con­corde flight

Cel­e­brat­ing a su­per­sonic an­niver­sary

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - By James Chap­ple james.chap­ple@trin­i­tymir­

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.

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