Much as I expected it was in some ways a rather sad process of course we would all rather see Concorde flying rather than in museums, but the fact that a few of the airframes seem almost forgotten and unloved in a few locations is rather depressing. Highlights in terms of the best preserved and presented aircraft are pair at Le Bourget, Alpha Alpha at East Fortune and Alpha Echo at Bridgetown. At the other end of the spectrum are of course Alpha Bravo in the car park at Heathrow and historic Concorde 02 at Orly !
Seeing Concorde remains an emotional experience, even if you have not been lucky enough to see one fly, there is something so special about the design or at a more fundamental level just the shape. Of course Concorde was an engineering marvel but perhaps it’s real appeal is that it is the manifestation of the paper dart that we as children imagined all aircraft to be !
So my last Concorde completing my year long quest to visit all eighteen remaining airframes… Concorde 01
Or is it 101 and what are these numbers all about anyway… Well is started quite logically, the two Prototype aircraft were 001 and 002, the pre-production aircraft of which this is an example would be 01 and 02 and the production aircraft numbering would start with airframe number 1, then 2, 3 etc.
Then is was realised it would be easier if all manufacture numbers contained three digits, so 01 and 02 became 101 and 102 and the production aircraft started with 201.
Just to add to the confusion there are the type variant numbers, a number associated with a particular customers version of an aircraft, so Air France Concorde were variant 101 and British Airways variant 102.
Anyway 01 had a short but distinguished life, completing 273 Flights totaling just under 575 hours as the British Development aircraft, quite different to the prototypes and much closer to the production aircraft in design. 01 is the fastest Concorde to fly achieving a speed of 1,480MPH (Mach 2.23) in March 1974.
01 is preserved within the Airspace Hangar at the Imperial War Museums Duxford facility which is a rather full of interesting aircraft making photography rather difficult. A recent innovation is the monthly dropping of the Nose of 01 on the last Sunday of each month following restoration of part of the hydraulic system… Something I intend to go back to see !
It is possible to walk through the aircraft and view much of the test equipment which is currently being restored by the wonderful people of the Duxford Aviation Society.
Alpha Golf, first flew in 1978 but did not enter service with British Airways until 1980 as it remained otherwise unsold by British Aerospace. There are a few pictures of the airframe as a “whitetail” online, looking rather sad without any livery.
Upon entering service in April 1980 water contamination in the hydraulic system resulted in an air intake failure which in turn caused multiple engine unstarts at Mach 2 ! no doubt spilling a little champagne and ending up with a £1 million repair bill.
After this problematic start Alpha Golf went onto operate just over 5000 flights until retirement in 2003 flying the very last passenger service from New York on October 24th that year and along with Alpha Echo and Alpha Foxtrot landing together at Heathrow to mark the end of Concorde Service.
A very emotional occasion, I know as I was there !
A month later Alpha Golf flew to New York and then on the 5th November with special permission flew from New York to it’s final destination of Seattle in a record time of 3 hours 55 minutes flying Supersonic for a hour over northern Canada and setting a East to West Transcontinental record which stands today.
For the next 13 years the airframe was stored outside the Museum of Flight alongside it’s other large aircraft exhibits including the prototype Boeing 747 and a Boeing VC-137 “Air Force One”. Last year a roof structure was completed bringing Alpha Golf under cover and not a moment too soon as the aircraft has clear signs of damage caused by the Pacific Northwest weather.
And so on to the last Concorde to visit… Concorde 01 G-AXDN at Duxford..
Alpha Echo is a gem, beautifully preserved and very well looked after by a small but enthusiastic team, you could imagine the flight engineer selecting REFLIGHT/START Switch for Engine Number 3 to START and the Olympus 593 spooling up.
Concorde 212 G-BOAE was completed in Filton in early 1977 and entered service with British Airways that summer. Over the next 26 years Alpha Echo operated just over 7000 supersonic flights before finally landing at Grantley Adams International Airport in Bridgetown on 17 November 2003. This final flight, taking just under 4 hours from London, reached the maximum certified height of 60,000 ft.
Barbados is the forgotten regular destination of Concorde, from the mid 1980’s until the retirement of Concorde in 2003 it was possible to make a Saturday day trip the Caribbean from Heathrow.
With time differences playing in your favour an arrival at 9am in Barbados would mean you arrived before you took off! A few hours later after a quick lunch and paddle you could return on the same aircraft arriving back in London just before 9pm.. Of course most of the holiday makers onboard paying around £6500 for the ticket stayed rather longer than a few hours, but the route did much to cement Barbados as a luxury holiday destination.
The home of Alpha Echo is the “Concorde Experience Barbados” which is a purpose built hanger, with some displays of Concorde artefacts very similar to the Scottish home of Alpha Alpha at East Fortune. A really well made and informative video is projected onto the fuselage which explains many of the technical advances that Concorde represented in simple terms.
The experience is open Tuesday to Saturday and the entrance fee is $40 (BBD)
So my quest continues, sixteen done only two to go…
Concorde is associated with one route more than any other…
The London – New York shuttle was the perfect route, making possible for the rich and famous, the transatlantic day trip ! So it’s only appropriate that New York is home to one of the three Concorde aircraft preserved in the United States, G-BOAD is at the USS Intrepid Museum.
Alpha Delta is the Concorde which flew the most, retiring in November 2003 having flown no less than 23,397 hours in service with British Airways and jointly with Singapore Airlines, but was a regular on the transatlantic route.
This particular airframe also holds the record for the fastest atlantic crossing of any Concorde, on 7 February 1996 JFK-LHR was flown in the amazing time of 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds, for comparison the usual supersonic crossing was three and half hours and my flight home from this trip on a BA 747-400 was a very fast 6 hours 5 minutes.
G-BOAD may also be the most photographed Concorde as it took part in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee flypast in June 2002.
Funny enough the rest of my family seemed quite keen to join me on this trip, something to do with shopping, broadway shows etc..
A side trip on the way home from the FOSS4G Conference in Bonn and from one extreme to the other…
Poor old Concorde 208, abandoned in a disused staff car park a Heathrow, while 207 is perched majestically on the roof of the wonderful Auto Technik Museum alongside one of the rarest of all aircraft the Tupolev Tu-144 “Concordski’.
Concorde 207 F-BVFB was one of the least utilised aircraft, having flown only 14,771 hours, indeed Foxtrot Bravo spent nearly seven years in storage with Air France. However the aircraft did play an important role as the test aircraft for the modifications made to the fleet in 2001.
In June 2003 Foxtrot Bravo was flown for the last time to Baden Baden and disassembled and taken by road to Sinsheim. Although displayed at a spectacular angle on the roof of the museum it is possible to tour the aircraft entering through the rear baggage compartment door via a spiral staircase.
Sinsheim offers the unique opportunity to compare the world’s two commercial supersonic transport aircraft. It is noticeable that the Tu-144 is larger this is most obvious from within the passenger cabin which is much less cramped than Concorde. As is often the case with Soviet era aircraft the Tu-144 feels well-built and rugged with a massive undercarriage and a large cockpit painted in that Green colour so iconic of Russian Aircraft even today. For more pictures see the album here.
Seeing such an amazing aircraft displayed so well just reinforces my indignation of Heathrow Airports treatment of Concorde 208 !