OK, I agree, Concorde isn’t a 3-wheeled car, far from it, so what am I doing writing about it on this site? Well after seeing her grace our skies for the last couple of years and knowing that I shall never see that again, I thought I had to write something - especially now that one of my ambitions in life to fly Concorde will now never happen. So lets pretend that Concorde is a huge trike, after all the wheels are almost in trike formation. OK, great, then lets start
As my girlfriend (Sue) lives in Windsor I have had the opportunity to gaze up at Concorde quite often over the last couple of years. When I first met Sue she would suddenly jump up and say, “there’s Concorde” and dash out to see it. I wondered how on earth she could tell that particular sound was Concorde, but as the weeks rolled by I soon heard the distinctive rumble and instantly knew it was Concorde to. Concorde sounds like nothing else in the sky, well nothing else I have heard anyway. Often as soon as we heard it we would run outside and depending on the time of year (and how thick the trees were) would see Concorde dart across the sky. On a clear day you could watch it vanish into a tiny dot but even when your eyes could no longer focus on its Delta wings, your ears were still listening to the fading rumble as Concorde headed out to sea.
Now I’m not going to go into all the technical facts here, there are lots of superb Concorde web sites out there that will do that; the best one I’ve found being www.concordesst.com . When British Airways announced that Concorde was to stop flying on October 24th we were gutted, especially Sue. She has gazed up at Concorde for far more years than I have. We would then see Concorde and say, “Its such a shame that its going to end”. Then it suddenly dawned on us, why had we never ever been to Heathrow airport to watch it take off in all this time? So the plan was made, we had just one chance and one weekend left to pop across to Heathrow airport and watch it land and take off before its final week. Concorde did a tour of the UK October 20th - 24th but we figured that the best place to see it up close was probably at Heathrow.
So October 18th arrived (my dad’s birthday) and at about 5:10pm we set off for Heathrow airport. As we drove there we watched planes flying alongside us following the road to the runway. We decided to pull over and get underneath the flight path. I positioned myself on a fence armed with my digital camera and Sue just vanished. People were stopping and climbing out of their cars, people from all walks of life to. In one car a group of four pensioners sat waiting to see Concorde whilst in another a young mum and her children waited with excitement. We didn’t have long to wait either as a few moments later there was a distinctive triangular shape in the sky and everything suddenly seemed to go quiet. The young mum, excited, shouted to her children, “quick its coming and they all piled out of the car ready to see the “giant metal swan”. At the same time the pensioners with youthful vigor all jump out of their car to and all look up to the sky. For what seems like ages Concorde just hangs in the evening sky like a U.F.O. The sun starts to slowly set and the sky is filled with a burst of orange and yellow. As Concorde approaches it appears as a dark silhouette and as it gets closer and closer the crowd remain silent and transfixed until the distinctive engines fill the air with a powerful roar. Suddenly there she is, right in front of me doing around 180 mph and gleaming in the evening sky. My camera clicks and clicks again as I turn to capture Concorde landing just moments later. Excited I review the photos on my camera and look up to see Sue running towards me.
“Its fantastic down there”, she says, Concorde flies right over your head and you can see the rivets in it and all sorts. It was so close I could almost touch it.” We decide that’s the place to be tomorrow and quickly walk back to the car and drive round to Hatton Cross. Finding a parking space in a residential street we start walking to the airport. Daylight is fading and the thunder of planes fills our ears as huge Jumbo Jets take off above us. Across a field we see the British Airways hanger and in front of it sits a Concorde (G-BOAC). Like school kids we rush round and peering over the fence take a couple of photos before walking on to Hatton Cross. Its quite dark now and a small crowd has gathered to witness this great bird take off. Not sure where to stand we see a bridge over the main road with around 5 - 6 people on it and so we stand on there and wait .. and wait. The crowd grows larger and as I turn round the bridge is now full of people clutching cameras and camcorders. A chap with a radio listens in to Air Traffic Control and after a false start states, “She’s coming”. Instantly everyone looks up pointing their cameras in the air, but instead of flying out above us she is like something out of a Science Fiction film and seems to hurtle out from the side at around 250mph +. The roar of its engines fill the sky and all we can see is huge jet flames streaking out of the back and within seconds its gone. I checked my camera and had nothing but a blur of lights but a chap next to me called Rob Holmes managed to snap a superb shot of it flying past. That was a fantastic experience we thought - but the best was still to come the following day.
As Sunday evening arrived we headed off to the airport once more. Again we parked away from it and went to the same location that Sue found previously. This time there were crowds of people and cars were parked everywhere. People were standing on step ladders, sitting in trees, sitting on tops of cars and clutching anything that would give them extra height. Unlike Saturday the weather had turned, the sun was now hidden and dark clouds filled the sky whilst a cold wind tore through my jacket. After what seemed like ages, a chap with a radio announced, “she’s 8 miles away”. Eight miles to Concorde is nothing, especially at full speed when she does 23 miles a minute. (1 mile in 2.5 seconds). Again the distinctive Delta wing shape appears in the sky with two huge trails of smoke behind it. The crowd goes quiet and with landing lights shining like stars Concorde flies directly over head. I point my camera at the skies whilst Sue grabs hold of my Nokia 7650 mobile phone and starts to video it. As Concorde flies directly over head a few folks in the crowd cheer and jump up to look over the fence as Concorde lands. Then it’s madness, everyone dashes and runs for their car causing instant grid lock, but luckily our car is about half a mile away. As we walk to the car I look at my photos which are a bit blurry but not too bad and then we look at the video clip Sue took with my mobile phone. It was fantastic, it showed Concorde coming in and then Sue panned out as it flew above is and just caught it landing. For a mobile phone the picture quality and sound was amazing.
Back in the car we drive to Hatton Cross and again park well away from the airport. The last thing we want is for the Police to remove our car at the crucial moment. As we walk into Hatton Cross there must be a thousand or so people all waiting to see Concorde. Cars are parked everywhere and in the car park people have just parked up blocking in almost every car in the car park. Sue and I find a good place to stand and wait as a cold wind mocks those without coats on. Around 15 minutes later a chap walks past and says, “This is the wrong runway, Concorde’s taking off from the other one”. Everyone just looks at him blankly and doesn’t move but I think to myself why would he make that up. I therefore give chase and ask, “where did you hear that?” and he replied, “Over the radio”. Unsure of what to do I look around me and recognised a chap called “Jetinder” from the Concorde web forum. I have never seen him before but recognise him from the photo on the web site. He quickly picks up a stool and grabs his radio and is off. No one else around us moves. Sue and I decide to go to the bridge and watch from there unsure of what we will see. As we look down the crowd isn’t moving but then I see “Jetinder” and a small crowd of people racing off down the street. I said to Sue, “Come on lets go” and so risking that we might not see it we dash after them. As we look behind around 8 people have joined us but still the masses do not move and we just hope we are doing the right thing.