Sometime before Concorde became operational in 1976 a guy down our road invited us as a family to go and see it at RAF Fairford. I remember vividly standing underneath this beautiful bird and going up and kicking its tyres! I’m told we were also able to go inside but I don’t remember this. Of course all of this was in a much more innocent age and there is no way now you’d be allowed such access.
Then in 1979 on a trip to London we went to Heathrow to a viewing platform to see it once again and this time take off – sadly not with us on it though. You can see my photo of this occasion below. (Please don’t judge, I was only 14. Clearly I was never destined to become a Leibovitz).
And then Concorde slipped from my consciousness until now as twice this year I have been once again stood beneath this beautiful bird. The first time was when I visited the Brooklands Museum in March and then yesterday at Aerospace Bristol.
My dad and I arrived at the exactly the same time that three coaches were disgorging their contents of American children. We decided that we needed to get to the furthest point of the museum as quickly as possible in order to be where they weren’t. This turned out to be the hanger where Concorde was housed and it was almost empty.
This Concorde was the last one to ever fly and it’s last flight was into Filton where it was apparently pushed by 250 people into the hanger that is its final resting place. After a walk underneath the we went up a level where you could walk through the plane.
The flight deck is insane. There is no way that you could remember what all those dials and knobs were for so I am convinced that most were for effect to give the pilots bragging rights. The cabin itself is narrow and cramped and doesn’t look terribly luxurious but I’m sure that when you flew you were made to feel special.
On the way out of the plane we met a guide who, it turned out, had worked on the Concorde engineering over the years and was full of interesting stories which we listened to before making our way out.
The rest of the museum charts the life of the Bristol Aeroplane Company from inception to the present day. Although it has now been consumed into BAE and no longer exists. One interesting piece of history wasn’t an exhibit at all but the story of how Bristol were ‘encouraged’ to buy the assets of a bankrupted engine company. From this was spawned a very successful engine division and a licensing business model selling the designs all around the world.
It was an interesting museum and great to see another Concorde so well preserved and looked after. That’s two UK Concorde’s done this year so it looks like I might need to make a visit to Yeovilton before the end of the year to complete the set!