Concorde

Surely, you didn’t think I would write a piece about British airliners and not mention Concorde. That would be, in a word, sacrilegious.

Sadly, I am too young to have had the opportunity to fly Concorde. But at least I do remember seeing her in Heathrow on occasion. One time, I wasn’t even five yet, because we still lived in Malta, we were on our way back home on one of Air Malta’s Boeing B 720s. And anyone who has ever been in a Boeing 720 with the engines on knows that it’s certainly not a quiet aircraft. In any case, I sat glued to the window as we approached the threshold, because Concorde was taxiing out ahead of us and I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t miss her departure. Little did I know that there was absolutely no way anyone at the airport was going to miss Concorde making her grand exit.

I could just about see her from my seat, standing on the runway in front of us, lined up and waiting for her clearance. And then the blue flames lit up as the afterburners were ignited and the thunderous roar of her four engines caused everything in our rickety old B 720 to start vibrating. I could even feel the roar deep down in my ribcage. It was magnificent…

Many years later, 34 to be exact, I met a man through the univesity where I work who usually lectures at Bristol University. He came to Switzerland to give a guest lecture. And seeing as the topic was Concorde, I figured the students probably wouldn’t mind me tagging along too.

What I remember about that meeting eight years ago, is that I’m quite sure the whole room heard the loud bang caused by my jaw dropping to the floor the first time our visitor from Bristol commented, in passing really, that ‘… at least that’s what it was like when we were designing Concorde…’.

Really? I mean… really? Like, Concorde? Standing before me was a very polished, well-mannered and very funny, humble gentleman who had actually been on the design team of Concorde! Our first meeting after the lecture did not go very well, because in my excitement at meeting him, the very first thing I did was ask him if I could touch him, as though to make sure he were real. Oh Lord, did I just say that out loud…? Fortunately, the gentlemen obviously knew a geek when he saw one and kindly extended his hand to me in greeting.

But I digress. In total, including the prototypes, 20 frames were built. The fleet was rather unceremoniously withdrawn from service following the tragic crash at Paris Roissy airport in 2000. But 18 have been preserved and are more or less accessible, or at least visible, to the public:

  • 001: F-WTSS Musée de L’Air et de L’Espace, Paris Le Bourget Airport
  • 002: G-BSST Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton
  • 101: G-AXDN Imperial War Museum, Duxford
  • 102: F-WTSA Musée Delta, Paris Orly Airport
  • 201: F-WTSB Airbus Plant, Toulouse Airport
  • 202: G-BBDG Broolandy Museum, Weybridge
  • 203: F-BTSC destroyed in a crash in Paris Roissy in 2000
  • 204: G-BOAC Manchster Airport
  • 205: F-BVFA Smithsonian National Air and Space Musem, Washinton DC
  • 206: G-BOAA Museum of Flight, East Lothian
  • 207: F-BVFB Auto und Technik Museum, Sinsheim
  • 208: G-BOAB Near the threshold of runway 27L, Heathrow Airport
  • 209: F-BVFC Airbus Plant, Toulouse Airport
  • 210: G-BOAD Intrepid Museum, New York NY
  • 211: F-BVFD Scrapped in 1994 after being parted out for spare parts
  • 212: G-BOAE Grandley Adams Airport, Bridgetown
  • 213: F-BTSD Musée de L’Air et de L’Espace, Paris Le Bourget Airport
  • 214: G-BOAG Museum of Flight, Seattle WA
  • 215: F-BVFF Roissy Airport, Paris Roissy Airport
  • 216: G-BOAF Aerospace Bristol, Bristol

And yes, because I just am such a geek, bold marks the ones I’ve already seen. The others will have to wait. But my time will come…

IWM Duxford

The frame on display at the IWM in Duxford is one of the prototypes and it’s still in the layout it was during flight testing. You can go inside and one of the friendly guides will show you around.

The Intrepid Museum

The frame at the Intrepid Museum is also accessible with a tour guide. They’re usually not all the knowledgeable, but that’s okay if it means being allowed inside Concorde.

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