Ok, so this site serves to provide some interest, education and maybe a smile on most things to do with land based transport, but on the subject of the only successful supersonic airliner, I think we can let this one slip through the net. Can you believe that its ten years since the last Concorde in passenger service touched down at London Heathrow drawing a crowd of thousands to witness Captain Mike Bannister bring home Speedbird “Alpha Golf” on JFK to Heathrow flight BA002. At that time, I was lucky enough to have a customer who ran a logistics operation close to Heathrow and I was asked if I would like to join the bunch of office staff on their company rooftop.
To say that seeing this great white Swan of the sky sear across the Middlesex rooftops one last time was an emotional experience would truly be an understatement. There was about two dozen of us stood there on a cold October afternoon just before tea time, with her landing and fog lamp blazing, she roared over our heads with a glorious quartet symphony of Rolls Olympus turbojets. In the wink if an eye she flew by and was down on tarmac – the last ever passenger service that marked the official retirement of the worlds most respected airliner.
Even after the tragic yet avoidable accident in France, BA vowed to keep her flying so long as she made an account for herself, and after extensive and expensive safety revisions, Concorde continued in her role as flying Ambassador for Great Britain and British Airways. Despite urban myths revolving around the USA being jealous or BA looking for a good reason to ground her, the devastating effects of 9/11 is what actually clipped her wings. The premium BA “Gold Card” members chose to conduct their business on-line rather that nipping across the pond, it was this class of passenger that Concorde catered for – every seat needed to be filled to make a reasonable return in profit.
Losses soon mounted as a result of sparsely occupied Concorde’s to the point that Air France and BA could no longer tolerate. General flights and holiday tours nose-dived as the travelling public rightly had their confidence knocked by the real threat of world safety. BA found themselves in survival mode in next to no time and owing to the fact the tiny fleet of supersonic airliners accounted for a Lions share of operating costs in the total airborne asset pool, there was nowhere else to go for Concorde. As the historical moment passed on that Harmondsworth rooftop, there was barely a dry eye to be had, and it wasn’t the cold wind either.
Concorde was not only an amazing demonstration of cutting edge technology, it was graceful, elegant, the epitome of style and good taste, respected all around the world and above all – a work of art. The dream of small boys and a man-made machine that could stop conversation at the sight of a drooped nose cone or the sound of those Rolls engines – I doubt we will experience again the unquestionable emotion that came with Concorde. Of course, there were plans by Branson to merge the planes into the Virgin Atlantic pool, but Virgin is hardly the last word in style and peerless reputation – Concorde only turned heads in BA colours.
So raise a glass aloft in honour of the fasted bird of the sky that came home to roost for the last time 10 years ago this week!
Nice nostalgic memory.
I remember being parked at the western perimeter of Heathrow around 1989 or 1990 watching a succession of planes landing.
Then a lull in the stream of landings was filled by an incredible roaring sound, literally shaking the ground and the Montego whose sunroof I was standing up through. My chest was literally vibrating from the pressure waves.
As I was parked behind a concrete sound barrier I couldn’t see the source of the noise.
Anyway, the roar gradually diminished as the aircraft making it was evidently moving away down the runway.
Soon I saw the magnificent sight of the beautiful bird rising, four “cigarette ends” glowing, roaring and belching smoke. (NB. minor article nitpick – you mention a “quintet” where I think you meant “quartet” of engines)
As she rose she banked hard right and the awesome delta shape was silhouetted against the sky.
Your article brings back this vivid memory of an experience of a machine that blended grace, beauty, technological achievement and sheer brute force in one magnificent package.
Thanks for this.
BA’s arrogance over Concorde knows no bounds sadly, and they will do their damndest to make sure one never flies again, even though it would be a real crowd puller to any air display the world over! A magnificent machine, and when they were retired, it was a step backwards in aviation.
Born from Dreams
Built with Vision
Operated with Pride
I had the honour & privilege to fly Concorde for 22 years. That time was full of so many memorable moments from flying down the Mall with the Red Arrows to that last commercial flight 10 years ago.
The aircraft was fantastic and so full of superlatives – but it was the people that made Concorde so very special. She flies no more but the people are still around keeping the memories and dreams alive.
Best wishes – Mike