Neil had, for years, been a driving force behind the preservation of Trident G-AWZK at LHR, he is overseeing this aircraft's move to Manchester.
In his position, he is able, on occasion, to open the aircraft for Concorde enthusiasts on days when the aircraft would not be open to the public, Monday 25th October would be one of those.
Having been involved with Concorde from April 1997 to the very end, I've had no great desire to see the retired aircraft, but I was happy to make an exception for a sst.com tour, I did plenty of tours on the aircraft at BA when such things were allowed.
As a BA staff member, the most logical way would be to use my concessions to get there and back, an ID90 cost £17, though taxes made the total £41.
Photo © Antoine Ossadzow
BA1388 / LHR-MAN / 09:50 / G-EUPU
As I did not get a seat at check in, I handed it in at a desk dealing with standby outside the Gate 5 block in T1, the flight would be delayed but I was called and was allocated seat 2C.
Plenty of other BA staff, many crew in uniform, doing the same.
We finally pushed back just after 10.30, was airborne at 10.46, I was pleased with the general cabin, the seats and general decor.
I've flown on A320's before, this was my first time on a A319.
Just a roll and choice of drinks on this short flight, but I had a full English breakfast at a cafe before leaving for LHR, I would be busy today and did not want to be distracted by being hungry.
So I just had tea, in a paper cup.
After a 50 min flight, we touched down at MAN, unlike LHR, it was wet, but I saw G-BOAC and the RJX prototype as we landed.
I had met another SST.COM member before boarding, a commercial pax, he had booked himself in row 6, once outside the terminal, we shared a cab to the viewing park (there is a bus but not on weekdays!)
As the jetway had gone tits up, we had a short wait for steps to be driven up, but only a short walk in the drizzle to the terminal.
Photo © Paul Markman
We met up with Neil inside the DC-10 forward fuselage on site, now used for showing films, and generally being the H.Q. for Neil.
So now to open up OAC, my first time on a Concorde for 11 months.
Before that, I could see how well Neil and his team had done a fine job on OAC's exterior, which truth be told, needed a paint job at the time of retirement.
That was only the half of it, a new lighting system running on regular 240V, lit the interior, better yet, the cockpit, where I would be spending most of my time, was immaculate, Neil had worked hard on this too, with no power, the Capts and E/O seats were moved by hand, smoothly, as unlike in service, no debris from crew meals gumming up the tracks, but the lack of manuals etc in the cockpit was odd to me.
So a trip down memory lane, explaining the myriad of systems, as groups came in and out of the cockpit, lots of pics taken as you can imagine, I was just pleased that I remembered it all, as well all the anecdotes and stories I could remember.
It was a pleasure, I enjoyed it, Neil also uncovered the avionic racks behind the cockpit and either side of the rear galleys, (all that was missing from there was the flight and data recorders, from the flight deck, the panel controlling the cockpit doors fitted from 2003).
We even opened up the hatch to the main hold, under the rear galley, no lighting in there but someone had a torch in our party.
Crawling back into the main cabin from the rear hold, I managed to catch and slightly gash my back on a latch, Neil had done the same before now, as I had when the aircraft was in service, hell, if you've not injured yourself you are not a real Concorde person!
Around 16.00, after several hours, time to leave, before then I did a quick photoshoot outside and of the Avro RJX.
Neil kindly gave me a lift back to Terminal 3, I had a 17.30 flight to catch.
I should say that this was a special, I suspect well beyond what a normal tour can allow, of course they are dealing with a much larger number of visitors on open days.
We hope to repeat this some time again, to join in, get yourself on SST.COM, buy some of the products to raise funds for Concorde G-BBDG at Brooklands, maybe even get hands on with that project, hopefully I'll be able to assit Neil again on something like today, in the future.
Photo © Dale Coleman
BA1403 / MAN-LHR / 17.30 / G-EUPO
This time, at check in, I was allocated a seat, 17D, so to the gate for boarding, a busy but not full flight.
Everything on time, a nice flight back, I had the deli pack (Beef and Horseradish sarnie, cup of tea), nice clear skies and setting sun, clear views of London on our final approach, in fact we landed early, so early we had to wait for a short time for the jetway.
On both flights, the crew were busy but efficient and cheerful, a credit to BA
A pleasant aircraft to fly on, more spacious looking than you'd expect, not brand spanking new but well kept.