After nearly 14 years at BA
, I transferred to the Concorde Engineering unit(minor maint and casualty), in April 1997.
Not only minor maintenance, but due to the unique nature of the aircraft, we also went over the terminals (usually T4
, some charters from T1), to depart the aircraft, also meet inbounds.
Busy, in those days 2 x to JFK
, 2 x inbound from JFK
, a charter or two, at certain times of the year, a BGI
too, was the norm.
If on early shift, apart from hangar work, we'd depart any flights up to 15.00.
On late shift, meet the inbounds, get them in hangar, prep them for next day.
Usually night shift met and hangared the BA004.
While UAL747DEN might be right that the aircraft could be a p.o.s. (for an inexperienced airline on the type), while the fleet had a tendency to go sick several at a time, then all perform well at the same time too, (we used to warn new managers when congratulating us on how things were going, not to do it with an aircraft in the hangar, as it would hear you and start misbehaving, some ended up half convinced of this in the end), we had an advantage.
Many of our team had been on the type since the start of B services, in many cases, before then, many were ex BAC, had helped to build the aircraft, before joining BA
This gave them the in depth knowledge vital on this rare and unique type.
Some in industry, such as at BEA were the same.
They were interesting, dedicated people, with much to tell.
Beside me, I have a mug, with a drawing of Concorde, and '25th May 1999 - 100 on time'.
That date is when we had 100 LHR
departures with no engineering related delays, we actually managed 118 until we got a minor TD
But it was a challenge, coming in on an early shift, with several departures that day (remember every scheduled flight had to have a serviceable standby, any delay longer than 3 hours, the pax got a heavy refund, as well as the whole 'grovel' package for the most commercially important ones).
Say we had a BA273 @ 09.30 am, then a BA001 @ 10.30 am, that's three aircraft, the standby being for both the BGI
Clearly more desirable to have a dedicated standby ready if the BA273 one had to be used, rare as it was.
The standby would then be the front runner for the 19.00 BA003 to JFK
, so another aircraft would be needed to standby for that.
If the inbound BA002 was defect free, had nothing scheduled maint wise, we could turn that as the BA003 standby, or to operate the service.
The frequent LHR
-LHR charters, were often used as standbys once they were back.
flights needed extra checks, to confirm the integrity of the rear nozzle buckets, as any slight movement of them in flight could cause more drag, needing a tech stop at SMA
, or SNN
, as more fuel uplift would be needed, but this was very rare too.
So the prep for a BGI
allocated aircraft meant the hangar would ring to the sound of the T/Rev telescopic tube actuation, a very loud 'Waaahhhh'.
We loved the aircraft, this meant we also knew their flaws, limitations, accepting them just as you would in a person.
And yes, each of these essentially hand built aircraft had their own 'characteristics'.
My first Concorde flight, before I joined what other BA
people affectionately called 'The Flying Club', was a IAD
BA Concorde, IAD-LHR In 1993 (by GDB May 25 2003 in Trip Reports)
After joining Concorde Eng, I kept meaning to get on a flight, using an ID
ticket, while awaiting my turn on an air test.
Illness in late 1999, through to mid 2000, stopped some plans, then the accident happened in Paris.
After all the hard work with the mods, with the re-launch, several 'Operational Assessment Flights' to get everyone back up to speed, were to take place, the 'pax' being BA
Concorde staff, most were LHR
-LHR, full speed, altitude, length of flight just with a turn back at around 30W, but one would go to JFK
and back the same day, to help the JFK
side get ready.
I was on the first, an LHR
-LHR, originally on 28th Aug 2001, it was rescheduled;
11th Sept 2001;
Concorde Operational Evaluation Flifgt (by GDB Sep 15 2001 in Trip Reports)
However good the loads after relaunch, through to late 2002, post Sept 11th we could only sustain one JFK
per day, as well as the basic BGI
's perilous position also meant the return to flight mods were stretched out, with OAB put way back, OAA seemingly not to be modded, (the 7th aircraft was to support charters, before the accident BA
were to cut many charters anyway, in the circumstances now, they were dropped totally, only providing 9% at best, of BA
With this in mind, (with the implications for a likely early retirement), an excellent BA
'hotline' offer in Aug 2002, resolved me to get some more supersonic time in;
BA Concorde To JFK....and Back (by GDB Sep 16 2002 in Trip Reports)
BA Concorde To JFK, BA178 Back In WTP (by GDB Nov 11 2002 in Trip Reports)
wanting to exit Concorde in 2003, the additional cost implications of BA
carrying the whole support cost burden, was clear.
had already moved the BA001 to 18.30, in late March 2003, as business pax were starting to drop off alarmingly, this also led to BA
dropping 1st class on some routes too it hit BA
across the board.
This retimed BA001 was to appeal to a more leisure part of the market, some biz pax wanted this time too, though were a minority, but a minority not dropping Concorde from their travel portfolios.
This was seen as temporary, a year to 18 months, by which time it was hoped that the market would pick up, allowing double daily JFK
's, the BA001 back to 10.30, the 18.30 one having the appropriate BA003 number.
Also allowing time to get OAB back in the pack, complete the second stage of the cabin upgrade, after the new seats of the first part.
But we could not have made a profit, carrying the whole support costs, at any time in the aircrafts service, certainly not now.
Through all this, my air test chariot arrived;
Probably The Last Ever Concorde Test Flight (by GDB Aug 12 2003 in Trip Reports)
As 5 aircraft would be flying off to museums, BA
Concorde people would again be the pax. But you had to take the one allocated.
Before then, I was on shift on the memorable 24th Oct 2003, the 3 aircraft landing one after the other, the ceremony in the hangar.
We noted with irony that since the retirement had been announced, on 10th April 2003, loads had quickly shot up, it was more profitable in that period than ever before, but the die was cast, it was due to the impending retirement.
This is where I regret, have some anger at higher up Engineering Management, at the slowing down of the return to flight work (not doing OAC and OAD together, as OAE/OAG were done, not returning OAB to flight).
This stunted our ability to make even more money, meant we could not put on some charters, before the official ones in Oct.
Just a few LHR
-LHR, maybe on a Saturday and/or Sunday, would have been good.
I felt lucky not to be on the very brief subsonic flight of OAC to MAN
OAD to JFK
would have been OK
, but something I'd done before.
OAG had two sets of pax, to JFK
, but it would have been a pleasure to join Tymnblaewne and others for the JFK
The very last, OAF
, with a supersonic routing, very historic if sad, but I struck lucky, I got OAE to BGI
, never done that sector, the last ever Concorde international flight, my 'Apollo 17'
Last Flight Of Concorde G-BOAE, LHR-BGI, Nov.17th (by GDB Nov 18 2003 in Trip Reports)
Mariner, I heard that story about those enthusiastic Texan's too.
Do I miss it?
Where to start?
I miss the challenge, I miss the people, I miss the beautiful lady Concorde, I miss the close links with our flight crew, at being involved in the operation, I miss doing the many visits we had to the hangar before Sept 11th (It was lifted in Oct 2003-one 4 day period off shift I spent 3 of them in the hangar doing Multiple visits), I miss hearing the roar of take off a few hundred feet from my home.
I certainly miss flying on it, put me in Club, put me in 1st to JFK
, don't care, I'd still much prefer Concorde, getting there 70 mins before you left LHR
The service, the marilake displays of speed/altitude/outside temp/distance to go - this beat any IFE.
Seeing the dark sky, curve of the Earth, especially on my last, the longer, higher altitude with the very clear conditions, on the BGI
sector that day.
I miss the phone conversations and work with our excellent JFK
team, special mention here for Claud C and John V.
We'll never see it's like again, though the July 2000-July 2001 period, (OAF
's triumphant post tank mod test flight on 17th July 2001), were not so good, I still feel lucky to have been a very, very small part of a great team.