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I had always wanted to fly on Concorde, the world's most famous passenger aircraft. It was the
ultimate way to travel, cruising at twice the speed of sound and at the threshold of space in style.
With a return transatlantic ticket starting at about $10,000 and then the grounding of the entire
fleet after the fatal crash over Paris in July 2000, I never thought I would ever get the chance to
When airworthiness was fortunately restored in November 2001, I found out that there was a much more
affordable option available. Several travel companies (Goodwood Travel and Air Loisirs) offered 1 hour
40 minute supersonic charter flights with Air France around the Bay of Biscay. I was quite tempted
with doing this, but never quite got round to booking anything.
But then came the sudden joint retirement announcements in April 2003 and my dream had to be
brought forward. British Airways advertised some "Once In A Lifetime" offers on its website.
1000 seats at special fares went on sale for that week only, for travel before the end of August.
I then realised that if I was ever going to fly Concorde, it should not be with a foreign carrier
and a transatlantic flight with British Airways would be perfect.
I immediately booked a one way Concorde and one way World Traveller flight from work. I apparently
managed to get the very last ticket and the only flight remaining was returning from New York JFK
on 9 May on the BA002 supersonic service to London Heathrow. It was certainly the best decision
I have ever made.
The terms and conditions of the offer stated that the stay had to include a Saturday night.
Because the only flight available was midweek and I'd not visited the east coast before, I decided
to make a holiday of it and go to Manhattan and Boston and see as much of New England as possible.
I had initially planned on Manhattan and Toronto, but the Sars outbreak was spreading.
I booked a week off work and decided this was just too important an opportunity for me to miss and
I would go regardless! The tickets soon arrived in the post and there was just a month to wait now...
I flew out to New York on flight BA177, a Boeing 747-400 from Heathrow on 3 May at 1330.
Fortunately, I got a good view out of the window when the plane taxied past the other stands
and I could see Concorde 214 (G-BOAG) being prepared for the afternoon's flight.
I later got talking to the girl in the seat next to me and she told me that her boyfriend and
his father would be on it, because he was BA flight crew and had used their staff discount. I
asked her why she wasn't on board too and she said she wasn't interested and couldn't understand
I eventually arrived at JFK airport on time at 1610 and went through US customs. The Concorde I
left behind at Heathrow arrived about half an hour later... impressive when you consider it left
five hours after my subsonic 747! I really couldn't wait for my turn now!
My short tour around the USA consisted of a couple of days in New York, driving to Boston via
Vermont and New Hampshire, a day in Boston, then driving back via Rhode Island and Connecticut.
I then had two more days in New York before my supersonic flight back.
I had arranged a 6am early wake up call and taxi to the airport at my hotel the night before. This was
one flight that I could not afford to miss! I arrived at JFK Terminal 7 just before 7am. The taxi
turned out to be a Limousine costing $50, but today was the sort of day to splash out and do things
I entered the building and followed the signs to go left, to get to the special checkin desks reserved
for Concorde and First passengers. There was no queue this side, so I handed over my e-ticket and was
presented with my boarding card and a knowing smile. I proceeded up a ramp to the security check and
then found the entrance to the exclusive Concorde Lounge off to the left.
The staff at the front desk asked for my coat to take on board separately, which was a nice touch. I
walked around the corner into the lounge, slightly apprehensive as I didn't know quite what to expect
I had a full English breakfast and then retired to a cosy brown leather armchair with a coffee to read
yesterday's The Times, and kept a watchful eye out for any celebrities! The room had an even mixture of
business types and people like me, there for the experience.
At about ten to nine, there was a polite announcement asking rows 20 and higher to head towards gate
6 - me!
First glimpse from a large window just outside the Concorde Lounge! I was especially pleased to
discover I would be flying on Concorde 204 (G-BOAC),
often considered to be the flagship of flagships!
I showed my class R (Rocket?) boarding pass at the entrance to gate 6
and then walked down the ramp. This was when I realised this
moment was real and I was about to be a part of the jet-set and actually
about to step onboard Concorde...
I was greeted by a smiling attendant at the main entry door and I showed my ticket again. As I made
my way through the narrow forward cabin towards the curtain at the back each step felt surreal.
I approached my seat, which was a window seat in the rear cabin with an excellent view over the
starboard wing. I placed my hand luggage in the locker above and checked my supply of spare camera
About five minutes later, a German man came to sit in the aisle seat,
but because the occupancy today was surprisingly only around 70%, he
soon found another seat. This was great news for me, as it meant that I
was free to walk around and was
unrestricted to take photos. The leather Terrance Conran seats were
incredibly comfortable and had more
than sufficient leg room pitch.
Whilst waiting for the remainder of the passengers to board, I took the opportunity to skim through my
book "Flying Concorde" by Brian Calvert. This was before I knew about the
Concorde SST forum, but it contained lots of
useful information about the flight and things to watch out for.
We taxied into position on runway 31L (apparently to avoid populated areas) shortly after 9am EST. We
had the usual safety announcements and then waited. With no warning at all, the throttles were suddenly
opened and the roar in my seat right next to the engines was deafening! The 152,000lbs of combined thrust
from the powerful Olympus engines with reheat pushed us all right back in my seats and we continued to
accelerate like a jet fighter down the runway.
We took off at around 250mph into what felt like a steep climb of around 20° (this is noticable in the
photos). An unusual thing that caught my eye was that the view close to the ground appeared to be
obscured by cloud, but then I realised this was vapour caused by the unique vortex lift effect of the
After only around 10 to 15 minutes into the flight, the Machmeter at the front of the cabin confirmed
we had broken the sound barrier! There really was no other indication or noise, apart from feeling the
two nudges caused by the brief enabling of the reheats again to give us the extra thrust. Even with the
party atmosphere on board, I noticed the businessman in the window seat opposite mine didn't seem the
least bit interested in what was going on around him and continued to read his paper.
We were served canapes and caviar with champagne (Pommery Curvee Louise, 1999) from the infamous
Concorde Cellar. This all felt quite appropriate for the occasion, but I decided to keep the caviar
instead because I'm not fond of fish at all.
For lunch, I ordered a free-range chicken breast with black truffle, foie grass, savoy cabbage and
fondante potato with another glass of champagne. The food quality was excellent, as was the service
by the cabin crew throughout the flight. The tablecloth and paper doily were a nice touch, but it
felt very odd using plastic cutlery though.
I followed this with a cheese dessert and then tea and chocolates. I decided to save these for a work
colleague, whom I made extremely envious when I told him I would be flying on Concorde.
We continued to accelerate and climb more slowly to 57000 ft. The cabin displays indicated
that we reached a cruising speed of Mach 2.00 and ground speed of 1400 mph! This was
close to the threshold of space and only astronauts and test pilots have gone higher and faster.
Despite ascending to nearly twice the altitude of a regular plane, I noticed that the cabin air
remained unusually fresh and my ears had not popped at all. Concorde really was a remarkable plane!
The inside of the window now felt hot to the touch, due to the supersonic airflow. The view was
amazing and the near blackness of the stratosphere could be seen quite clearly. Who needs to watch
a film when you can enjoy a cup of tea with a spectacular view like this? There was no turbulence at
all, because all the planet's weather systems were now below us.
The flight was sadly nearly over already! Somewhere above the UK and Irish coastline towards Heathrow
approach at Mach 0.94, the reduction of thrust and engine noise became noticeable. We descended to
around 36000 ft over the coast, with a ground speed of 660 mph for the subsonic cruise.
Orders from the gift catalogues were now being collected and I decided I really should get something,
so I opted for a nice set of cufflinks for £35. These were apparently very popular and the onboard
stock had sold out, doh! The seatbelt sign went on as Concorde's cabin characteristically angled upwards
as we slowed further. The Captain duly ordered the cabin crew to take their seats for landing, but I was
surprised to see they ignored him and continued to collect orders for a while, just a few hundred feet
from the ground.
I waited behind whilst everyone else disembarked and sorted out a postal order for the cufflinks with
cabin crew member Zoe Corfield. I had managed to negotiate a visit to the flight deck and I remain
indebted to her for this. I noticed how hi-tech but cramped it was and squeezed into the observer's seat
at the back. I met and thanked Captain Norris (centre image, left), as well as the First Officer Jock Reid
(centre image, right) and Flight Engineer Jeremy Wood (right image). They all kindly signed "Brian's
book" and admitted that they would be sorry to stop flying in October.
A few more exterior shots of Alpha Charlie from a convenient window at Heathrow Terminal 4 arrivals
before it was time to tear myself away and get the train back home. It certainly felt unusual to have
no discernible jet lag and to think I was in North America just over 3 hours previously.
May 10 13 9:51 AM
May 16 13 9:47 PM
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