By Richard Westcott
Ten years ago today, our ever-shrinking world got a little bit bigger again. Three Concordes landed in a procession at Heathrow airport, while thousands of emotional fans looked on. After 27 years, the world’s most famous plane had been pensioned off – first by Air France and then by British Airways – marking the end of supersonic passenger flight.
So how is it that a noisy, polluting lump of aluminium, that was too pricey for most people to ride in, is still so popular?
“It was probably more advanced than Apollo 11, which put the first men on the Moon.”
Jock Lowe is not only Concorde’s longest-serving pilot, he’s a former president of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
“No military plane came anywhere close. It was so manoeuvrable and there was so much spare power, even ex-fighter pilots weren’t used to it.”
Jock can’t keep the joy out of his voice as he tells me what Concorde was like to fly.
“The time we took it to the Toronto International Airshow, 750,000 people turned out to watch. I’ll never forget that sight.”
He is modest about it, but Jock is part of an elite club. There are more US astronauts than there are Concorde pilots.
Jock then recalled the time he was chatting to some pilots of the super-secret American spy plane, the SR71 Blackbird.
Now, the whole point of that amazing aircraft was that it flew way beyond the reach of other planes. Faster and higher, hidden away.
But one day, these guys said that their air traffic controller told them to get out of the way because there was a Concorde coming through. They couldn’t believe it.
Peering out of one window, two American military pilots wearing spacesuits.
Peering out of the other, perhaps Joan Collins guzzling champagne – I’m guessing she was on the plane as she often was. I wonder if they waved?
Technically, Concorde was revolutionary.
It was the first aircraft to have computer-controlled engine air intakes. This may not sound much but it was one of the most significant leaps in aviation technology at the time.
In any technology, in fact.
It meant that they could slow the air down by 1,000mph in the space of about 15ft (4.5m). Without that, the engines would have blown apart.
Concorde had carbon-fibre brakes. Again, the norm now, but back in the 1960s a technological marvel – and it was fly-by-wire decades before Airbus made that a mainstream technology. – BBC News
By Richard Westcott