Thursday, 9 April 2009

40TH ANNIVERSARY TODAY

No we are not that old to be celebrating our 40th Anniversary today! In fact we've only been married just over two years having lived "in sin" for about fifteen years.

The 40th anniversary to celebrate (and to some extent also mourne) today is the first British test flight of Concorde. On this day forty years ago the British prototype of Concorde took to the air for the first time from Bristol. If you click here you can see archive footage from the BBC. Older readers will feel nostalgia too in hearing the unique voice of commentator Raymond Baxter.

Concorde was, and remains a wonderful achievement. We got it wrong economically in so far as we should have been making a "Jumbo Jet" equivalent of the Boeing 747. However Concorde was an amazing technical achievement. I remember following its development in my youth; the collaboration with the French, the cost overruns, the initial intransigence of the Americans in not allowing it into their country because they hadn't built it, the effects of the oil crisis in 1973 and the resulting poor sales.

Much later, in the 1980's when I lived in first Kew and later Brentford, I would see (and/or hear) it fly past on its way into Heathrow at 6pm and 10pm each evening. On a Sunday evening we'd quite often drive up to Heathrow by the runway end to see the 6pm flight come in. An amazing audio-visual experience of which we never tired. I never got to fly in Concorde, but I almost did. I actually booked a special flight through Goodwood Travel to take Concorde to the Monaco Grand Prix. I got it at a real bargain price but the organisers subsequently reneged on the deal I booked. I think they mispriced it and then cancelled my booking.


So to my lasting regret I never flew in her before she was withdrawn from service. On her last Sunday in service we took a very young Troy Junior to see Concorde land. He was too young to remember it but he can still say that he saw her. On the day of her last flight I took the afternoon off work and took the Piccadilly line out to the station before the airport. There, along with many others, I saw three Concordes come in to land one after the other, capturing it on video forever.

Concorde is also unique in so far as when she was withdrawn from service she was not replaced by something superior. Instead the withdrawal marked a backward step for aviation. So if you've a few minutes to spare in your busy day take a nostalgic click on the link above and see vintage footage of Concorde's first British test flight.

19 comments:

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I saw one once! Not sure I was impressed or a little disappointed.

CJ xx

Catharine Withenay said...

When waiting for the our plane to leave for Zambia there was a Concorde at one of the gates just below us at the cafe. I was amazed at how small it looked, compared to the big jets around it. Like you, I pointed it out to my children (they didn't care) but I hold on to that memory that I have seen one and that it was - perhaps still is - a magnificent piece of engineering.

Sir Bruin said...

I have only seen the one at the Fleet Air Arm museum in the West Country. You are right, not replacing it is possibly the only backwards technological step that has made. I seem to remember James May making a similar comment on one of his programmes.

Troy said...

CJ - I'm surprised at your reaction. I think it looks gorgeous at rest and awesome in flight.

Catharine - once seen never forgotten.

Sir Bruin - you should pop up to Duxford for agreat day out. Loads of interesting aviation treats there.

The Dotterel said...

How long before an enthusiasts group starts restoring one? (They've got the vulcan flying once again!)

Ladybird World Mother said...

Oh how I loved Concorde... while at school in Berkshire Concorde would go over at 10 am and again at 6pm. Never ever got used to the sight or sound of her. Then, years later lived in Fulham. Once again under flight path... with glorious Concorde gliding over at about the same sort of times. The sound was stupendous... she crackled! And the sight on a clear day, with her silver wings against the blue sky... why, oh why, did they stop her flying. Money be buggered. She was a dream. Lovely post!

Troy said...

Dotterel - I think that will be a project too far unfortunately. I, along with about 10,000 others have made cash pledges that have allowed the Vulcan to remain airbourne in 2009. For a time it looked like the Vulcan would be grounded after its 2008 season.

LWM - thanks for your comment. Agree with every word (not that I ever saw you in Fulham, but you know what I mean).

HelenMHunt said...

Great nostalgic post. I remember my Dad taking us to look at the planes at Luton Airport when we were really little!

Kitty said...

The London to New York flight used to fly over where we live. I miss seeing it. x

Troy said...

Helen - thanks for your comment. I soetimes think nostalgia ain't what it used to be.

Kitty - yes it was unique among planes in really grabbing one's attention.

cheshire wife said...

It was a very sad day when Concorde stopped flying. I remember the excitement of seeing it flying over the Bath University campus during my time there in the 1970s then years later when I lived in Surrey hearing and seeing it take off and come in to land at Heathrow. I felt as if it was part of my life but sadly I never got to fly in it.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Gosh! I lived in Kew too...in Forest Rd. What a small world. (Many apologies for not sending you my submission for the best seller. Normal transmission will be resumed soon - I am hoping!!)

Troy said...

cheshire wife - I know exactly what you mean.

Hadriana - I was about 50yds away on Kent Road in the flats that front onto Mortlake Road (1985 to 1988).
No problems re the book, mid May will do.

Lane said...

What a shame they didn't honour your tickets.

I was a student in Twickenham in the early 80's and used to love hearing (and seeing) it fly over twice daily.

ed said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hadriana's Treasures said...

I think I landed in Kew in 1990. So we nearly met! Good luck with your election campaign. There are a few things in the pipeline for me too. I'll be able to blog about them after the weekend. Will definitely try my best for Mid May. :)

Debs said...

I never flew in Concorde (would have loved to), but my father did several times and was distraught when it was withdrawn.

Troy said...

Lane - yes,a combination of Concorde and a Grand Prix would have made a memorable weekend.

Hadriana - I trust you don't mean that literally.

Debs - shame your father didn't take you along with him!

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