- End of the dream
At precisely 16:05 on 24 October 2003, the last ever scheduled British Airways Concorde flight touched down at Heathrow Airport, so bringing to a close the era of supersonic passenger travel and also ending a distinguished twenty-seven year reign as BA's ever-elegant flagship. During the week leading up to this momentous event, BA had staged a supersonic tour of Great Britain, enabling other regions of the country the opportunity to bid farewell to a much loved icon. Thus, on each day of the five-day tour, a different airport had been selected for one last visit, which successively comprised of Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh. The tour had been promoted by British Airways, during the summer, with the launch of the National Concorde Competition, which gave members of the public one last chance of flying on the glamorous lady herself. Thanks to the efforts of my dear wife, I was destined to sample the supersonic highlife from Birmingham Airport during the first day of the tour.
Back in 1976, like so many teenage schoolboys of my generation, I remember being captivated by the adverts on television promoting a new supersonic service from British Airways, which only further hastened my fast developing interest in aviation. From that day onwards, I always dreamed that perhaps one day, I too could fly faster than a speeding bullet. Of course, this was temporarily forgotten shortly after I'd discovered girls and rock music, but my interest was rekindled less than a decade later during my first Concorde encounter at Yeovilton's Air Day in 1985, where we were treated to a couple of Concorde flypasts, a highlight for many in the audience. Watching her swoop gracefully over the airfield, I remember thinking about that boyhood dream once again, and decided there and then that I simply had to fly on her one day.
As the eighties turned to the nineties, the occasional airshow appearance ensured the dream never faded. Thoughts of a special birthday or anniversary treat were always at the back of the mind, with perhaps my 40th birthday as prime candidate. The years continued to pass by and before I knew it, it was 2003 and time to plan my 40th celebrations. As ever, plans change, and my birthday treat was transformed into a holiday in the Keys, followed by a trip in a Tiger Moth - a complete reversal in performance terms, but great fun nevertheless. This just meant a further postponement of the dream, which I casually assumed would not be a problem. Then the bombshell news; British Airways is to retire their Concorde fleet in October. I just didn't know which was worse; the sad news that retirement was imminent or the realisation that I'd missed my opportunity to go supersonic. The dream very quickly began to fade. Fortunately, in true Baldrick style, the missus had a 'cunning plan'.
During the summer, I had been vaguely aware of a BA telephone competition to fly on Concorde, but inexplicably did nothing about it. However, my wife, always one with an eye open for promotional competitions large or small, ensured that we submitted an entry. Better still, she had read the small print detailing the conditions; ' no purchase necessary, entries acceptable on postcards to the following freepost address ' So, instead of the one intended phonecall, she was able to submit a number of postcards, one per person within our family, and without even the cost of a stamp! She had explained all this in intricate detail to me, but as usual, it had been in one ear and out the other. Besides, I was far too busy with my summer schedule of necessary jobs around the house, such as cataloguing photos, checking serial numbers, cleaning cameras, writing reports for Air-Scene UK, creosoting the fence, etc. (only joking - didn't have time for the fence). Consequently, I had completely forgotten about the competition by early August, which is when we returned home to find the following message on our answerphone: "Hello, this is a message for Mr Andrew Bates. Could you please ring the British Airways Concorde competition hotline as soon as possible." According to my wife, my face was a picture. It was all I could do to keep exclaiming; "No, surely not!?" Feeling slightly dazed, I was all thumbs as I picked up the phone and dialled the number as fast as my fumbling fingers would allow. Less than five minutes later, the friendly voice at the other end had confirmed I was a winner. I just had to choose a companion to come with me. No prizes for guessing who that was after all her efforts. The dream was now very much alive and kicking.
The home location for competition winners very much dictated where they would fly from, as wherever possible, BA helpfully tried to match people to the nearest of the five nominated airports. Thus, living less than half an hour's drive from Birmingham Airport, it was no surprise when we received written confirmation that this would be our departure point during the first day of the tour, which was to be Monday 20 October. The local weather forecast had mentioned a high risk of some rain, but the day itself dawned bright and breezy, and subsequently remained so. In anticipation of perhaps partaking of the odd glass of champagne, we opted to use the train rather than drive to the airport. This was to prove a wise decision. We arrived more than an hour before Concorde's scheduled arrival time to find most of the roads leading to the airport gridlocked with traffic. There were people everywhere - in the car parks, in surrounding fields, at the roadside, on top of adjacent buildings. It was later estimated that approximately 5,000 spectators had turned up, but this really seemed to be a conservative estimate. Looking at all the young faces, it was highly likely that the truancy rate within the Birmingham area had temporarily increased tenfold or more!
Seeing as it was such a sunny morning, we decided it would be nice to watch the arrival close up, prior to checking in. So, wanting to get as close to the 'action' as possible, we managed to make our way through the crowds and found ourselves a fairly decent spot in one of the car parks, nicely adjacent to the threshold of runway 33. There, along with all the other adoring fans, we stood and awaited the arrival with bated breath.
The time ticked around slowly, as the wind numbed fingers with a stiff and cold breeze. Meanwhile, operations continued as normal, with scheduled flights arriving, and others departing. To all intents and purposes, it was probably like any other busy Monday at Birmingham Airport, and some of the 'civvie' enthusiasts were no doubt enjoying themselves watching some of the movements. But, despite such distractions, almost everyone remained with a fixed gaze up into the blue yonder, almost oblivious to some of the other air traffic.
As the anticipation mounted, time continued to creep along, until finally it had arrived at last - the ETA that is! Hundreds of beady eyes scrutinised the distant horizon, squinting into the sun and straining for that first glimpse. A few of the eagle-eyed amongst us suddenly began to point, a muted cheer was heard above the wind, and then, just visible in the distance, an intensely bright speck of illumination that could only be generated by landing lights. "Here she comes," shouted one young lad expectantly. I briefly thought of all the well-worn adjectives that were likely to get utilised in the next few moments. It's beautiful. It's magnificent. It's elegant. It's "It's an Airbus!" exclaimed a disgruntled voice from behind. He was right. Obviously the glamorous lady herself was running late, but like so many other renowned ladies of glamour, she was just exercising her prerogative to keep her fans waiting.
The minutes continued to tick by, then finally, after a further couple of false alarms, the wait was over. Another distant dot on the horizon gradually transformed itself into that distinctive delta shape. At long last, Concorde was inbound to Birmingham, heading for a warm Brummie welcome. The incoming speed and height of the approach quickly indicated she was not on finals to land. Permission had obviously been granted for one over-flight, which resulted in the most graceful 'run and break' I have ever witnessed. Heading around towards the Southeast, the subsequent leisurely return was flown across a wide arc of sky, enabling many other Midlands households to take a last fleeting glimpse of a national treasure.
Six or seven minutes later, and she was back in the circuit, but this time, firmly established on finals. With the gear down and nose drooped, she made for an impressive sight as she approached out of the sun. A few moments later, as countless videos and cameras whirred and clicked in unison, she appeared to almost glide effortlessly across the threshold for a 'greaser' of a landing on runway 33, which was accompanied by a roar of approval from the crowds. Some people were cheering, some were waving madly, whilst others were even crying. Such was the affect of this very special visitor. I turned to my wife and straight away could see that tear in her eye. Was it due to the cold wind or the magic and emotion of the moment? I was fairly sure it was the latter, unless of course she had finally realised who she's married to!!
Whilst Concorde was helpfully doing a lap of honour around the taxiways, we decided that we might as well check in for our flight. So off we went to Terminal 2 and quickly found the queue for flight BA 9021 to London Heathrow. Looking at our fellow passengers in the queue, it was no surprise to see everyone performing an excellent impersonation of a Cheshire cat! With everyone just taking hand luggage, check-in was a fairly brief affair. Then, after passing through passport control and security, we were escorted to the VIP lounge. Hats off to British Airways, because from this point onwards we were treated like royalty.
Immediately upon arrival in the VIP lounge, a chilled glass of champagne was offered and gratefully received, (the first of many) along with an invitation to partake of a wide selection of sandwiches and other tasty nibbles and snacks. We had a whole three hours to while away before the flight, so we began to wonder if we would be able to take the pace, with so much champagne and food on offer. However, after deliberating this terrible dilemma for approximately three milliseconds, we came to the conclusion that it would be rude not to accept such fabulous hospitality. The diet was definitely on hold for the day. As we tucked in, a brief chat with one of the reporters from BBC Midlands Today secured our moment of TV fame. OK, so we were only on for two seconds during the lunchtime edition, but it was better than nothing.
As the champagne continued to flow, we were all given the opportunity of meeting one of BA's senior Concorde pilots, Captain Les Brodie, who was to accompany us on our flight. Les was not scheduled for flying duties for that particular day, but had been nominated to sit in the jump seat behind the crew so that he could provide some commentary during the flight. He was certainly well qualified as commentator, he had been flying Concorde for fifteen years and had over 5,000 hours on type - that equates to roughly 800 return trips to New York! His last scheduled flight as pilot in command was the planned visit to Edinburgh during the last day of the supersonic tour of Great Britain.
After a lot of excited chatter amongst our fellow passengers, and even more drinking of champagne, all too soon our departure time was rapidly approaching. During our stay in the lounge, Concorde had been parked across the other side of the airfield, away from the terminal, so after passing through the gate, we were ushered to some airport coaches for the short journey over to the aircraft. By the time we arrived on the apron and alighted from the coach, it was around 16:00. Bathed in the late afternoon sunshine, she looked an absolute picture, and very generously, airport personnel did not rush people to board immediately. Everyone was allowed plenty of time to take as many photos as they wished. Better still, it was at this point that I realised that out of BA's fleet of seven Concordes, they had sent my favourite G-BOAC. Yes, I know they all look the same, but I've always had a soft spot for Alpha-Charlie, thanks to the historical connotation of the registration. Sad? Yes, I believe I am!
After taking photos from every conceivable angle, it was time to board those steps. The dream was now very close to reality. As we all boarded the plane, we were piped aboard by a lone Scottish piper - a nice touch. I paused just briefly at the top of the steps to savour the moment and also to look down at the shapely fuselage and wing. It was at this point I realised that I was smiling so much, my face was beginning to ache, and we hadn't even took off yet! Then, it was into the cabin to settle down for the flight of my life. We soon found our seats in row 18 and enjoyed sinking into that sumptuous blue leather. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of legroom considering the small size of the interior, the only real problem being the low height of the overhead lockers. These sometimes caught you out when standing up if you were fairly tall and sitting by the window. A minor problem very soon forgotten.
With everyone seated, it was not long before those mighty Olympus engines began to spool up. It was at this point that our pilot, Captain Andy Mills, gave us a quick flight briefing. After take-off, we would be heading Southwest towards Bristol and then onwards over the Channel, towards the Bay of Biscay to go supersonic. As the conditions were near perfect, he added that it was his intention to get us up to 60,000ft during the flight. Then after a wide circuit of the Bay, it would be back down to subsonic speed approaching the coast, with a view to landing at Heathrow after a flight time of approximately 1 hour 30 mins.
As the cabin crew commenced the safety briefing, it was noticeable that even the safety cards were immaculate. Not the normal well-worn examples usually found in the seat pocket. As we taxied towards the runway, looking out of the window it seemed as if the whole of Birmingham Airport had stopped to watch, with airfield personnel virtually lined up all along the main taxiway, conspicuous in their bright fluorescent jackets. Meanwhile, the carparks adjacent to the runway were still overflowing with spectators, many of whom were waving furiously. They looked almost as excited as we were. Then, slowly and precisely, we turned onto the runway. The moment I had dreamed of for so long had finally arrived. I turned to my wife and asked her to pinch me. She smiled at the corny, predictable joke, but pinched me anyway. I knew then that it was definitely not a dream.
After watching various TV programmes on the subject of Concorde, it was apparent that many passengers regarded the take-off as the most exhilarating part of the experience. They were not wrong. Captain Mills opened up the throttles, leading to an almost instantaneous rush of acceleration that pushed you back into the seat. Accompanied by an impressive roar, the combined engine thrust of 152,000lbs soon had us hurtling along the runway towards our take-off speed of 250mph. In next to no time at all, we were half way down the runway. A split second later, and it was 'rotate' and up into the blue yonder like a rocket. A collective cheer rang through the cabin as everyone broke into spontaneous applause. I would have joined in, but with a camera in one hand and a video camera in the other, it was a bit difficult. Next thing we heard was the commentary from Les Brodie: "Welcome to the Concorde experience, Ladies and Gentlemen. Just one minute and thirty seconds after commencing our take-off, we are now at 6,000ft." A touch more sprightly than your average airliner!
Gaining altitude all the time, we headed out to the Southwest, at the relatively sedate speed of 600mph. Having previously flown on many different airliners of all shapes and sizes, for me at least, looking out the window whilst sitting in row 18 was a novel experience in itself. Instead of a long, flexing wing to look at, with a great big turbofan slung underneath, the only visual reference within view was the leading edge of that gorgeous delta wing just before it blended with the fuselage. You could just about see the front of the wingtip if you were prepared to crane your neck through about 140º to get a glimpse through the tiny window.
As I continued to gaze out the window, watching the cloudbase fall way below us, I realised the lovely smell of leather from the seats was being overpowered by another smell from the galley. Yes, it was food and drink time - again! Dinner turned out to be fresh salmon with all the trimmings, washed down with 1996 vintage Pol Roger pink champagne. Our Concorde experience was fast proving to be a gastronomic delight, as well as the aeronautical thrill of a lifetime.
Les Brodie's commentary then resumed as we tucked into our salmon. We were fast leaving the UK behind us, and it was time for Concorde to show us what she was really capable of. Passing through 45,000ft and still climbing, Captain Andy Mills plugged in the reheat that would push us through the sound barrier. As with most jetliners, there was no real feeling of speed, but as we accelerated up to Mach 1, there was a distinct sensation of extra power, almost a faint resonance, that you could feel through the airframe. It is difficult to describe this feeling exactly, but you could just discern a gentle push back into the seat as we accelerated ever faster. Everyone's eyes were glued to the display at the front of the cabin, which allowed passengers the luxury of keeping a constant check on speed, height and outside temperature. Then, with no fuss or drama, there followed a smooth transition from subsonic to supersonic flight. Mach 0.95 suddenly became Mach 1.0 and everyone was cheering again. We had joined the supersonic elite.
By now there was now holding us back, as we continued to gain speed and altitude. Sipping a freshly topped up glass of champagne as we passed 52,000ft, we continued to watch the speed display in the cabin, almost transfixed as the Mach number relentlessly increased. Mach 1.4 came and went. Mach 1.6 was equally as brief. Mach 1.8, Mach 1.85, Mach 1.9, not long now. Bizarrely, I started thinking about the 'Star Trek' television series, when Captain Kirk asks Scotty to take the Enterprise up to maximum warp. I could still remember the scene as the helmsman gave Kirk a running commentary ."warp 8 .warp 8.5 Warp 8.7 warp 8.8 " However, that was fiction, THIS was reality; Mach 1.9 .Mach 1.95 Mach 2.0! Watching the stewardess casually replenishing champagne glasses as if nothing had happened, it was still hard to comprehend. We were at 54,000ft and travelling at Mach 2. I just had to sit quietly for a moment to try to take it all in. After all those years of dreaming, here I was hurtling through the stratosphere at 1,350mph - faster than a rifle bullet. WOW!
Unfortunately, travelling at twice the speed of sound over the Bay of Biscay is not feasible for any long periods of time, as you tend to run out of Bay quite quickly! So, after 4 or 5 minutes Captain Mills began easing up on the throttles and the Mach numbers began to unwind. We eased down to a very respectable Mach 1.6 as we made a wide circuit of the Bay. However, despite the speed reduction, we were still gaining height. The captain had stated before we took off that it was his intention to get us up to 60,000ft during the flight, and it was obvious that he intended to keep his promise. Sure enough, a few minutes later we passed from 59,500ft up to 60,000ft. We were now travelling supersonically at over 11 miles above the Earth's surface - gulp! This was quite a sobering thought, until I quaffed another glass of champers, and immediately felt much better. Looking out the window you just knew you were a little higher than your average flight. The dark blue of the upper atmosphere and the curvature of the Earth is a sight I will never forget. Just briefly, I felt we were experiencing the view that would greet a U-2 pilot during a typical mission, something that I felt privileged to experience. Thank you Captain Mills.
After nearly an hour in the air, we had circuited the Bay of Biscay and we were approaching the UK again. As we lost height, so of course the speed began to reduce. Mach 1.6 became Mach 1.4. Then we were at Mach 1.2. Regrettably, our supersonic experience was fast drawing to a close. Mach 1.0 became Mach 0.95, and we quickly passed back into a subsonic flight regime. This was just as well because we were fast approaching the Isle of Wight, and I'm sure that sonic booms would not have been welcomed in Cowes, or anywhere else for that matter. Then, we were over Southampton and settling in for our approach pattern into Heathrow.
All too soon the last drop of champagne had been drunk, glasses and trays had been collected, and we were all safely strapped into our seats in preparation for landing. For the first time since take-off, we were back amongst the clouds, then breaking through, we had the grand vista of Greater London below as we began our final approach. As the airport boundary flashed past the window, it was evident that Concorde's landing speed of about 185mph is a little bit quicker than your average landing. Then the unmistakable sound of main wheels contacting with the tarmac, followed by a few seconds pause as she straightened up sufficiently for the nose wheel to touch down, such was the angle of attack. Despite the speed, the whole approach into Heathrow had seemed like a graceful glide, but once we were down, the serenity of the event was rudely interrupted by the terrific roar of the engines going into reverse thrust. Although I was expecting them, their efficiency still caught me out, and I found myself pressing my nose ever closer to the seat in front of me. This was not the time and the place to develop a leather fetish!
As we slowed to taxi speed on the runway, I looked at my watch. We had been airborne for 1 hour and 20 minutes. It had been eighty minutes of exhilarating pleasure, and a dream had been fulfilled. As we turned off the runway and began to taxi to our parking slot, I sat there hoping the journey would never end. I wanted Captain Mills to do a perpetual lap of honour around Heathrow. Looking out the window, airport workers at various locations had stopped to watch. You would have thought that anyone working at Heathrow would have become quite used to seeing this delectable delta, but obviously that Concorde charm is irresistible, no matter how many times you've seen it.
Five minutes later and we were parked at the arrival gate. The captain cut the power, and our trusty Olympus quartet began to wind down. As I continued to gaze out the window, watching the sunset over Heathrow, how apt I thought, that with only four days to go, the sun was beginning to set on Concorde's career. Looking back into the cabin, the speed and height display panel had been changed to the message: 'Thank you for flying Concorde'. Believe me, there was no need to thank me, I think it should be the other way round. THANK YOU British Airways. We sat in our seats for as long as we dared, not wishing to move. We just wanted squeeze in as many extra seconds as possible into our Concorde experience. Finally, and reluctantly, we prised ourselves out of the sumptuous leather, and shuffled ever slowly to the exit, clutching our souvenir certificates detailing our flight. We were not the last to leave, but there were only a handful of equally reluctant passengers behind us.
Inside the arrivals area, we could still see our beloved Alpha- Charlie, parked next to one of her stablemates. I pressed myself against the glass to gaze at her one last time. In the fading twilight you could still see the graceful curves of her design. She might be getting on a bit, but still she looks every inch the futuristic speed machine her designers intended. All the adjectives came flooding into my mind again. Graceful. Elegant. Beautiful. Then the incredulity set in. How could BA ever consider retiring such a magnificent aircraft? Why, were they retiring her before her time? Then I had to remind myself. If the decision hadn't been taken now, it would have been sooner or later. Concorde regrettably cannot fly forever, and I'm sure it was a decision that was not taken lightly by the executives at BA. Besides, I would not have experienced it for myself without the subsequent farewell tour.
Soon, we were again being escorted by BA personnel, through passport control, and out to the fleet of luxury coaches waiting to take us back to Birmingham. Even more food and drink awaited us on the coach, but this time without champagne. Good job really, because we had certainly drunk more than enough by this stage. I subsequently spent the whole journey reliving our flight over and over in my mind.
The next day at work, and I was forced to relive our experience again and again and again. I had only told a handful of colleagues prior to the flight, but by the time I returned it seemed that not only did everyone know about it, but they all wanted to hear about it as well. It seemed that although people were naturally envious, they were genuinely proud that they knew someone who had flown on Concorde. Worse was to follow, as some colleagues would then insist on telling the story to any visitors they could get their hands on. Customers, suppliers, sales reps, lorry drivers, anyone really. Then they would virtually drag the poor unsuspecting individual down to my office and gleefully point me out. "See Andrew over there, he flew on Concorde yesterday." A bit embarrassing really, but such is the attraction of Concorde, I became a minor celebrity for a day or two.
Then of course, the dreaded day arrived; Friday 24 October. Like countless fans around the country, it was with a heavy heart that I watched the live TV coverage of the final three Concorde flights touching down for the last time at Heathrow. I'm not ashamed to say I had a lump in my throat as that last delta swirl signified the end of supersonic passenger travel and retirement of a national treasure. I'm just so pleased that in that final week of operations, I was able to fulfil an almost lifelong ambition and that we were able to play a very small part in a closing chapter of aviation history. It was a flying experience like no other, and one I will never forget.
With grateful thanks to Captain Andy Mills and all his crew for the flying experience of a lifetime, and of course to British Airways and all their staff, both at Birmingham and Heathrow, for their warm welcome and generous hospitality, plus of course, a special thank you to my wife Mandy, without whose efforts, my dream would have remained unfulfilled.
Within days of Concorde's retirement, speculation regarding the possibility of one example remaining airworthy for publicity purposes was soon dispelled following a press release from British Airways. Following a technical feasibility study, headed by Captain Mike Bannister, Concorde chief pilot, a statement from BA's chief executive Rod Eddington was issued as follows: "A detailed study with Airbus has regrettably led us both to conclude that it would not be possible. The technical and financial challenges of keeping Concorde airworthy are absolutely prohibitive. Airbus has told us that they are unable to support such a project, whether it be for British Airways or anyone else. While there is no prospect of operating an aircraft for flypasts or airshows, in the future Concorde will be accessible to the public with the majority of aircraft located in the UK."
Consequent to this statement, the retirement homes for all seven Concordes was then also announced at the same time. Three have gone to overseas locations, comprising of the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Intrepid Air and Space Museum in New York, and Grantley Adams Airport in Barbados. Meanwhile, the lucky recipients in the UK are the Museum of Flight at East Fortune, Airbus UK at Filton, Manchester Airport, and of course Heathrow Airport. Ironically, the first Concorde to depart was our very own G-BOAC, which took off for the last time on Friday 31 October, bound for Manchester Airport. No doubt she will be the much-cherished centrepiece of the new museum being established there (see sidebar). We're quite sure the good folks in the museum will give her plenty of TLC, which pleases us no end, as to us, she's one very special lady, with whom we hope to get reacquainted real soon. The last ever Concorde flight was on 26 November, with the delivery of G-BOAF to Filton - a last supersonic dash around the Bay of Biscay signified the end of nearly three decades of faster-than-sound air travel.
Andrew may have realised his dream, but for me, and many others, the opportunity is now gone - possibly for good. The nearest I got to an operational Concorde was eleven days later, when I was also able to remarkably sit in row 18 of G-BOAC, as she sat on the Manchester parking apron, her engines ticking as they slowly cooled in the midday murk. It was a moving occasion - the retirement of the first of the seven British Airways Concordes. Her leather seats seemed still brand new, the waft of Connolly's best imbibing an air of opulence that I had only experienced once before, when I had the opportunity to sit in Air Berlin's thirties-style DC-3 at Coventry.
So, she is being rapidly dispersed to museums, three overseas and four in the UK. At least most will be cared for in the future, but none will be allowed to turn its engines in anger. The way BA insisted a study was being undertaken to look into the viability of keeping one flying could be criticised as being cynical, as the decision to abandon the idea was conveniently announced the week after the mass publicity of the final commercial flights - it didn't take a genius to know what the result was going to be. Rumours of a French conspiracy abound, but there's no doubt it was for commercial reasons the retirement decision was made, and one that would stand up to hard scrutiny. But, it would seem the intangible benefit Concorde brings to the nation as a symbol of our ingenuity and technological prowess has been ignored - cold-blooded accountancy has killed it off.
British Airways totally misjudged the mood of the nation. Where was the big send-off we were promised? Where did its proposed airshow attendances disappear to? Why let it go with a whimper, rather than a grand celebration open to the public? The Heathrow debacle was embarrassing, with the authorities telling people to stay away on 24 October, the day of its last commercial flights. A token gesture was made at the last minute with a 1,000-seat grandstand, but this was outside the fence without any real access. Plastic sheeting blocked the view for many, specially erected for the occasion. The reaction of those that made the journey to Heathrow despite the warnings, and that of those that ventured to Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester and Edinburgh that final week show just what this aeroplane meant to them - fathers, mothers and children who would not normally look at another aircraft with more than passing interest. More should have been done - the moment has now gone, forever.
It is simply a tragedy for the nation - Concorde captured the hearts and minds of the nation at large, not just the aviation enthusiast. It was something to aspire to - who else has said, "When I win the lottery, I'll fly on Concorde". Sure, it was a rich man's toy, but it was something to take pride in. The Americans couldn't achieve it, and the Russians couldn't make it work. It was a proud symbol of British (and grudgingly French) achievement, despite the odds and in a time before computerisation. The end of Concorde is also an end of a nation's dreams and aspirations.