Monday, February 24, 2014

My Flight on Concorde

Trip Report - British Airways Concorde from London Heathrow to New York JFK (July 1, 2003)



This was originally written in 2003.

Hello and welcome!  I tried to make this trip report as detailed as possible, so it might be a long read. But I hope you will nevertheless find it interesting.

So recline your cradle seat to a comfortable position, fasten your seatbelt, and let's dart into the stratosphere!

Prologue


I always wanted to fly on Concorde. Being a child of the 70s and interested in aviation, it was hard not to notice Concorde. It is sleek, unique, and goes really fast. It was a symbol of things to come. Who wouldn't want to fly on that?

I saw my first Concorde in person in January 1987. It was a very exciting moment for me. A local travel agency had chartered an Air France Concorde for two hour flights-to-nowhere out of Oakland, California (OAK). The flight took passengers on supersonic flights over the Pacific halfway to Hawaii and back. It only cost a mere $900! I begged my mom to buy me a ticket for that ride. There just wouldn't be such splurging on such a frivolous thing! We would be relegated to watch the sleek bird arrive and depart through the terminal window.

Air France Concorde F-BVFF at OAK in January 1987. Note PSA BAe-146 in the background. Photo taken from the Tower Lounge.

Time would pass and I would no longer be dependent on mom for financial support. Though my interest in flying Concorde never waned. Still, spending between $8,000 to $10,000 for a plane ride did seem quite excessive. I knew I had plenty of time to wait, however. "Experts" were predicting Concorde would remain flying through the foreseeable future. Maybe I would hit the jackpot on the Lotto!

Fast forward to April 2003. The announcement by Air France (AF) and British Airways (BA) to stop flying Concorde happens and I told myself I had to fly on Concorde...it was now or never. I had set an arbitrary budget to pay whatever was "reasonable" for the flight. I knew I wanted to fly on BA, as they would fly Concorde longer (through October) and they had a newly upgraded interior.

I planned my flight in conjunction with the Paris Air Show in June (another event I always wanted to go to) and my family vacation in Italy. In early May, I called the special BA Concorde reservation number and booked the special one-way World Traveller economy, one-way Concorde fare for July 1st. I wanted to fly westbound, not only because of the prestigious flight number of BA 1, but also because the fact that I would arrive in New York before I left London! I also decided I wanted to sit near the center of the plane, where my view would not be obstructed too much by the wing, yet close enough to see the speed displays on the bulkhead. I didn't want to be too far away from the back, either, because I wanted to be able to hear the engines as well. I settled on seat 12D.

My e-ticket receipt for the flight. Believe it or not, it was not easy to get this receipt!

I read up on everything I could about Concorde. Re-reading books I had and scouring the web for trip reports. I soaked up everyone's experiences while readying for my own.

Right before Air France retired their Concordes in May, I made a pilgrimage to JFK to photograph it. With help of fellow photographer Art Brett, I was able to get my first ever "real photos" of Concorde. Within one hour, we saw three Concordes: AF 1 taking off, AF 2 arriving, and BA 2 departing (coincidentally, I would later fly on the same aircraft!). I was very happy to get photos of the Air France Concordes in flight before they became museum pieces.

Le Bourget's newest museum piece: Air France Concorde F-BTSD. It had arrived there only days earlier. Taken on June 19, 2003 at the Paris Air Show.

Pre-Flight, Concorde Room


It is now July 1st. My two-week trip through Europe was just concluding, but my real fun was about to begin. I flew from Milan Linate (LIN) to London Heathrow (LHR) on a BMI A320, during which we encountered some very violent turbulence over continental Europe. People on the plane were doing roller coaster style screams! We landed at LHR shortly before 1 pm. I went through the Flight Connections Centre in Terminal 1, where I had to go through security and got my handbags x-rayed again. Bypassing the BA check-in counter in the Connection Centre, I proceeded downstairs and took the short shuttle bus ride to Terminal 4. The ride took us under the runways and also gave a "behind-the-scenes" look of LHR. We went past baggage sort facilities and conveyor belts, and got views of aircrafts parked at gates and on ramps. Once inside Terminal 4, it took me a while to locate the First and Concorde Lounge Pavilion, as the entrance was located in between two shops. The small signage didn't help either. The Concorde Room was immediately ahead as I entered the hallway.

The entrance to the Concorde Room at the Lounge Pavilion.

With a grin on my face, I opened the door and entered. The receptionists greeted me and I checked-in for my flight. She asked where I had flown in from and whether I had a good flight. I replied the flight went fine, but it's probably not going to be as good as the one I'm about to take. We both chuckled and agreed! Estimated weights for both my through-checked suitcase and my carry-on bags were entered in the computer. I wonder if those were necessary for the aircraft weight and balance calculations. They didn't have Concorde luggage tags available for me. Darn! In hindsight, I should have taken the trouble and went through UK immigration and carried my suitcase to check-in at the main Concorde desk at Terminal 4. And not just for the Concorde luggage tags either (you will see why at the end of the story). I received my boarding pass and proceeded to check out the lounge.


Right next to the receptionist area is the bag check. Immediately in front is the main seating area with large seats and tables. To the left is a work area with a single computer. To the right is a staffed bar, with an eating area, and a self-service drink area. A pair of seats from Concorde for you try to out is on display as well. Around the corner from the bar are the smoking room and the actual door to board Concorde.

The main seating area inside the Concorde Room. This was taken shortly before departure, so there was quite a crowd.
Seats to try out before the flight.

I left the Concorde Room and proceeded downstairs of the lounge pavilion to the Molton Brown Spa. A shower room was immediately available for my use and an appointment for a massage followed immediately after. The shower room was quite large, much larger than many of the hotel bathrooms I had been in days earlier. The shower had no less than three controls! It took me a while to read the instructions written on the wall and figure out what each knob did. My back massage (with Pam) followed the shower. It was so relaxing I thought I was going to fall asleep! The massage lasted for 10 to 15 minutes or so.

I headed back up stairs to the Concorde Room for lunch. A BA 757 is now parked at our gate. I thought how could they let any other aircraft park at our "exclusive" gate! :-) At the bar, I ordered a Chinese prawn salad, picked up a tiny can of Bitter Lemon from the fridge, and grabbed a table. After lunch, I headed out to the business centre (which I had to be told the secret code to get into) and sent emails to my co-workers and friends to brag about my imminent trip.

The receptionists told me that our airplane usually gets towed to the gate between 5 and 5:30 pm. Since I had plenty of time, off I went exploring Terminal 4. At the connector bridge between the piers, I found the perfect spot where I could get photos of Concorde as she gets pulled into the gate. I made some test shots of a 747 being towed to the gate on the opposite side and I was pleased on how it looked. Now all I need is my Concorde!

BA 747-400 G-BYGB (Colum tail color) test shot from the connector bridge. The Concorde gate is directly opposite from this 747 gate.

I went back to the Concorde Room. It was only about 4 pm and I had about an hour to relax before the plane shows up. I signed the Concorde guest book at the reception desk, had some strawberries in heavy cream (yum), and read a bit. At 4:50, I was ready to head out to my photo spot when I saw a commotion at the window. I then saw a Concorde tail. "Shoot! It's here early!" I ran to the window, joined in a bunch of other people with cameras and snapped away. Our plane is going to be Alpha Golf (G-BOAG). Although I was upset I didn't get the photos from the spot I had picked out, I was able to manage one or two decent shots.

My airplane for the day, Concorde G-BOAG, arriving at the gate.
Another shot of Alpha Golf going into the gate.
The obligatory shot of me in front of the plane!

Some time later, there was more commotion at the window. In the distance, I can see a Concorde on final. It was BA 2 arriving from JFK. After it touched down, I asked where it was going to park (gate 10, across the way), and rushed there to get photos of it taxing in.

Nose on shot of BA 2 (G-BOAD) arriving from JFK. Mean looking iron bird!

By now, there was a definite aura of excitement in the Concorde Room. There were people everywhere. Excited tourists with cameras mingled with seasoned business people who just want to catch a few winks of sleep or get some work done on their laptop. It was difficult to find a place to sit. I just stood at the window and stared at my ride of a lifetime.

I caught another Concorde out of the corner of my eye. I did not expect to see a third Concorde! With everyone's cameras clicking away, the sleek bird made its way to the gate next to ours. That plane would the back-up plane for our flight if needed.

Back-up airplane (G-BOAE) for our flight being towed to the gate next to ours.

Shortly before boarding, the captain made a PA announcement in the lounge and introduced himself and the cockpit crew. Our captain would be Captain Andy Mills, with Captain Les Brodie flying in the right seat (sorry, I don't have the Flight Engineer's name). He informed everyone of the weather in New York and predicted the flying time to be 3 hours and 25 minutes. Another announcement told everybody that since the airplane is so small, if anyone wanted magazines or newspapers on the plane, you will need to get them from the lounge before boarding.

Boarding announcement for another BA flight to JFK came over the PA system. It emphasized this was the "subsonic service to JFK" ready for boarding. I had a pretty good laugh! They probably did this so people wouldn't get confused and board the wrong airplane.

View of Alpha Golf from the terminal connector bridge.
G-BOAG, rear quarter angle. Windows for the lounges can be seen as well.
Gate view, showing the plane being loaded.     

Pre-Flight, On-Board


Departure board in the lounge. My flight is the second one on the list.

Boarding announcement for BA 001 Concorde finally came. We would board from the rear of the aircraft first (rows 11 to 26). I grabbed my bags, took out my passport and boarding pass and got in line. Thank goodness they were collecting the smaller portion of the boarding pass, letting us keep the large portion (the portion with the Concorde logo). There was another Concorde logo on the doorway and people were stopping to pose next to it for photos.

Concorde boards directly from the lounge. This is the entrance to the aircraft...quite fancy!

I decided to skip that photo opportunity and headed downstairs to the jetway, where I was surprised to find them doing random bag checks. The person in front of me got picked, I continued onto the jetway and got on board. The door was quite short as I had to dip my head to enter (and I am not a tall person). The flight attendant at the door checked my boarding pass and told me my seat would be in the front of the second cabin (but I knew that already). I walked through the first cabin, past the lavatories, the emergency doors, and the closets, to find my seatmate blocking the aisle taking photos of the cabin. He had to crouch down as I opened the overhead bin to put my bags in. The overhead bin was so small, my camera bag, my backpack, and my seatmate's briefcase pretty much filled it.

I took my seat 12D, grabbed my camera and told my seatmate I was going to get a photo of the cabin as well. He offered to get a photo of me in the aisle...while everyone was still boarding! People were very cordial...they indulged us shutterbugs and waited while I had my photo taken. As it turned out, everyone else was doing the same thing! As more and more people came on board, flashes were going off left and right. People were getting photos taken in their seats, in the aisles, of the cabin speed displays showing "Welcome to Concorde". I was immediately reminded of the "mob scene" in front of the Mona Lisa at the Lovure! Lots of excited people with cameras...and I am one of them!

Me in the aisle. The narrow cabin is quite obvious in this shot.

I looked at the window. I knew they were tiny, but not that tiny. The inside window is about the size of a normal airliner window. But the outside window is only a bit larger than a closed passport!

Just to show how tiny the windows are, here is a comparison with my passport

I played with the cradle seat. It was quite interesting. The back and bottom portions of the seat reclined in unison. The headrest was height adjustable as well. It seemed comfortable to sleep in fully reclined, but I didn't try it. The armrest was extremely narrow. If you think you cannot share the armrest on a 757, it's impossible on Concorde! And when you fold the armrest up, it twists away into the seat...neat! As expected, there was lots of legroom.

Me in seat 12D.
Looking across the aisle at seats 12A and B. I took this without the flash to keep the light level and colors as natural as possible.
Taken during cruise while the occupants were out and about, hence the "used" look of the seats.

As my seatmate pointed out, even though the seats were new, there were many clues we were in an airplane from the 70s. For example, the overhead service units, with the push buttons for the reading lamps and the flight attendant call push button, just looked old and yellowed. The air vents and the fasten seatbelt and no smoking lights look rather dated as well. The audio adjustment knobs were rotary style. The channel dial did not have "click" indentations between channels, so you had to "dial in" on a particular channel.

Most all the items in the seat pocket were fresh and new. There was the usual safety card, airsickness bag, BA in-flight magazine "High Life", and direction card for filling out immigration forms. Concorde-unique items included "Concorde the Collection" in-flight shopping catalog, Concorde "The Briefing" magazine, and a Sennheiser headphone (with the older BA logo). The headphone has the largest earpieces I have ever seen on an airline issue headset!

I would guess the airplane was 80 to 90% full. The row in front and behind us remained empty, so my seatmate moved to the window seat behind us. He asked a flight attendant whether the Concorde parked next to us was the back-up airplane for our flight. He said yes, and they even had to use it on occasion.

The captain came over the PA and told us we were starting the engines. He urged everyone to watch to safety demonstration. He would return later to brief us more about our "unique airplane".

The Flight (Take-off to Cruise) 


6:31 pm London Time (LT).

Push back from the gate, one minute late.

Tail of the back-up Concorde through my window.

6:37 pm LT.

Start taxi. Safety demonstration starts.

The captain announces we will be taking off on Runway 27R. He explains the noise abatement procedures ("to make us more neighborly"). At 1 minute 16 seconds after brake release, engine power will be cut 90% and the angle of attack will be reduced. He explains this is perfectly normal and there is nothing to worry about. Then at 8000 feet, we go back to full power where we will reach 26000 feet for our subsonic cruise. After we clear land, we go to full power with reheat.

The captain also mentioned there were about three airplanes ahead of us before we reach the runway for takeoff. As we moved through the queue, we taxied past a BMI A320 and an AerLingus 737; I couldn't help but wonder what those passengers were thinking about as they looked at our plane. I looked back at them, grinned, and thought, "yes, I am in this Concorde!"

We took position on the runway. We held for while...the anticipation is killing me!

6:53 pm LT.

Start take-off roll on Runway 27R.

The engines sounded exactly like what I have heard watching Concorde take off at JFK...like a fighter jet...pure power! And loud too! I sat up in my seat for a better look outside to see us speeding down the runway. Although I knew we were going fast, it wasn't really that noticeable unless I was looking at the things closer to the runway.

We rotate and condensation appeared over the wing. Cool! The power was very quickly cut back and we pitched down significantly. The slow rate of climb was also very noticeable. I estimated we were only climbing 1000 to 1200 foot per minute. Every once in a while, I would look down at the ground, and thought "yup, the ground is still there...low!". The displays on the bulkhead came on around this time as well.

Rotate!
Unfortunately, the camera went out of focus...but you get the idea.

During our low power climb, the whole airplane was shuddering and rattling. It reminded me of a train on very bad tracks. The cabin air also reeked of jet fuel. Don't know what the reason for that was, but it dissipated after a few minutes. As I later found out, the kerosene smell in the cabin is particular to this specific aircraft. Just one of many different "quarks" each aircraft has!

6:57 pm LT, 7000 feet, 350 mph

7:00 pm LT, 10000 feet

Shortly thereafter, cabin service started. The menu was passed out and the cabin staff went into overdrive. They ran around to start our dinner service. One flight attendant brought everyone champagne while another brought mineral water. Canapés were served. Unfortunately, when the flight attendant handed me my plate, one of my pieces decided to take a flying leap and rolled onto the floor. I got a replacement plate some time later.

The dinner page from the menu. Other pages listed various alcoholic beverages available from the "Concorde Cellar".

7:06 pm LT, 25500 feet, 630 mph, Mach 0.95, outside temp -35°C

We reach our subsonic cruise altitude.

The captain came on and explained the afterburners will be coming on again as we go through the transonic region. The estimated time of arrival at JFK is 5:25 pm, New York time.

I thought this was the coolest part of the entire flight. The first pair of afterburners went on, I got a feeling of being pushed from behind. Then the next pair came on, got another kick from behind, and there was feeling of acceleration. Within seconds, we are through the sound barrier and over Mach 1! The ride was very smooth and there was no sonic boom to be heard in the cabin (but I already knew that). In fact, we went to Mach 1 so quickly, I had missed the exact moment, because I was looking at wrong side of the display (the side that was showing temperature and mph). When I saw flashes going off from the cameras, I looked over to the other display and realized we were through the sound barrier.

7:12 pm LT, 26000 feet, 650 mph, M 1.0, temp -40°C

A flight attendant passed out the tablecloths for the tray table. We had to place the tablecloths on the tray ourselves. Cold appetizer (Lobster and tabbouleh salad) was served.

Appetizer:
Lobster and tabbouleh salad.

7:21 pm LT, 39000 feet, 980 mph, M 1.5, temp -46°C

7:25 pm LT, 42000 feet, M 1.69

I think the afterburners went off at this point, because I felt a bump.

Another flight attendant takes my order for the entrée. I chose the lamb.

7:50 pm LT, 48000 feet, 1280 mph, M 2.0, temp -54°C

Almost an hour after takeoff, we finally reached Mach 2. Everyone took a quick break from their meal to grab their cameras for photos of the speed displays.

My entrée arrives.

Entrée:
New season lamb cutlets with thyme and herb pancake wrapped in brioche, served with ginger and redcurrant compote.

One thing I noticed was the constant loudness of the aircraft. I have never seen anyone else mention this before. During cruise, there was a constant roar with the addition of a constant resonating hum. If I pushed my head hard against the headrest, I could make my head resonate with the airplane and cause everything I see to be blurry! You definitely cannot carry on a conversion at a normal voice level with the person seated next to you. The flight attendants had to turn their head so you could speak into their ear. If anyone has ever been in the back of the MD-80, then you get the idea (though Concorde was not as loud as the MD-80).

8:02 pm LT, 50000 feet, 1310 mph, M 2.0, temp -55°C

We were still climbing. We get our choice of cheese or dessert. I went with dessert (vanilla and white chocolate créme brulée, cassis compote and brandy snap) with hot tea.

Dessert:
Vanilla and white chocolate créme brulée, cassis compote and brandy snap.

Overall, the meal was pretty good. Though it was not better or worse than other premium class meals I have had.

After the meal service, people started to move about the cabin. Some posed for photos in front of the speed displays while others queued up for the lavatory. There was one lavatory in the front of the plane, and two in the center. As I found out, there was none in the back!

As the duty free cart moved up the aisle, the flight attendants temporarily parked the cart at the bulkhead one row ahead of me. People thought that's where they were setting up shop and started lining up! The first gentleman bought pretty much one or two of everything, including the coveted 1976 Concorde limited edition scotch whisky. In the mean time, a small crowd had gathered at the bulkhead, from people buying souvenirs to people wanting to use the lavatory to people taking photos of the speed displays. After two or three others made their purchase, the flight attendants took the cart back up the aisle so they could properly start the in-flight shopping from the front back.

9:15 pm LT, 54000 feet, 1280 mph, M 2.0, temp -54°C

Note that we were slowly climbing the next hour. Our speed and the outside temperature remained steady.

By now, the crowd at the bulkhead had thinned out considerably, so I got my own photo in front of the speed display. People are now finally settling into the flight. Many were reading, some were chatting. Fewer flashes were going off. The inside temperature got quite cool as well. Many wrapped themselves up with the blanket.

Me in front of the speed display at Mach 2. They are kind of hard to read, since the flash had washed out the numbers.

I was all for enjoying the flight to the fullest by hearing Concorde in its true form. But the constant loud roar and hum in the cabin was giving me a headache (the champagne probably had something to do with it as well), so I had to use my headset. It worked really, really well! I am not sure if the headset was noise canceling, as there was no switch to turn on or off, nor there was a microphone to pickup the noise to cancel. The big earmuffs alone probably just worked well. Even though there was something like ten channels of music on the switch, there was programming on just five channels.

The shopping cart finally comes to me. I wanted the silver cufflinks (in the shape of Concorde) and the Concorde model set. The cufflinks were available, but the models (at 10 pounds, the least expensive item in the catalog) were sold out. From the picture, the quality and the accuracy didn't look too great. However, since the box had the BA Concorde logo on it, I decided to buy it anyways and have it shipped to me by post.

The Flight (Deceleration to Landing)


9:39 pm LT, 57000 feet, 1250 mph, M 1.93

The captain came on and explained we were to begin our deceleration and reach our highest altitude. The curvature of the earth can be seen as well. He also said we would be landing on Runway 13L at JFK. A bit later, he added that we were crossing the uninhabited Sable Island, visible on the left side (which I was not on, so I didn't see it). Supposedly that's the only land we cross supersonically. The cabin noise decreases a bit as we began our deceleration.

The curvature of the earth was not readily visible from one window. It was more apparent when I sat back and looked through both of my windows using the bottom frame as a point of reference. It was very apparent across the aisle, through the series windows on the opposite side. I don't know how much of the apparent curvature was due to the fact the nose probably was not pointed straight and level, but I was sure I saw it! :-) The sky was not as dark or black-blue as I had expected. I thought it looked like any other dark blue sky. Maybe I just did not stare at it long enough.

View looking towards the back of the plane, with a bit of wing visible. The horizon doesn't appear to be curved by looking out just one window. The sky looks quite dark in the photo.
However, if you look out two windows, the curved horizon becomes more obvious.

9:41 pm LT, 60000 feet*, 1200 mph, M 1.86, temp -59°C

The captain announced we were at our max cruising altitude of 60,000 feet. He said the cabin displays were not correct.

Flight tracker screenshot of my flight at 9:45 pm LT. Altitude: 58200 feet. The ground speed erroneously shows 1150 mph or 999 knots (tracking data "pegs" at 999 knots).

9:50 pm LT, 38500 feet, 570 mph, M 1.0, temp -51°C

In 9 minutes we lost almost 22,000 feet! The descent was very steep and we were quickly back down to Mach 1. The seatbelt light hasn't even come on yet! It was very difficult for me to stand to put away my bags in the overhead bin.

10:00 pm LT, 16500 feet, 490 mph, M 0.70, temp -6°C

Now we were just like any other subsonic airliner. Note that we had lost another 22,000 feet in just 10 minutes.

Some time later, the speed displays went off. They now show "Thank you for flying Concorde".

10:18 pm LT.

The gears come down. We make the famous bank over Howard Beach for 13L.

Banking over Howard Beach. JFK can be seen in the distance.
http://www.airliners.net/photo/British-Airways/Aerospatiale-British-Aerospace-Concorde/0411439/L/
My flight landing at JFK.  I was at the 3rd and 4th windows to the left of the center door.
Photo: Matthew Smith
http://www.airliners.net/photo/377776/L/
Another view of my flight landing at JFK.
Photo: Tom Turner
http://www.jetphotos.net/viewphoto.php?id=113011
Yet another view of my flight landing.
Photo: Senga Butts

I am grateful to Matt, Tom, and Senga for taking my photo, and to Art Brett for his effort arranging this for me. Thanks guys!

10:22 pm LT.

Touchdown! Total elapsed flying time was 3 hours 29 minutes.

The thrust reversers were very loud and there was a lot of braking motion. I had to grab my notepad and camera from the seat next to me so they wouldn't slide off.

We made a short taxi to the gate at Terminal 7, as we were already on that side of the airport.

10:27 pm LT.

Arrive at the gate. Local time in New York is 5:27 pm.In case you haven't noticed, I left London at half past six in the evening and I am now in New York at half past five in the evening. We flew faster than the sun and I gained an extra hour in my life!

10:28 pm LT.

Engines are shutdown and the seatbelt light goes off. We arrived 3 minutes late.

As passengers deplane, it became obvious who were the frequent business travelers (they were in a hurry to get off the plane) and who were the aviation aficionados (they were the ones not getting up from their seats)!

As I deplane, I request a cockpit visit from Captain Mills standing at the front. He says certainly, just queue up with everyone else in the jetway! In the end, there was about 30 people waiting to see the cockpit. The captain, obviously overwhelmed from all the attention he has been getting, found a chair in the jetway, sat down, and started signing everyone's flight certificates.

I asked him what he is going to fly after Concorde. He replied back, rather wittily, "they want me to fly a 'Bus". We all chuckled. Another person asks, "isn't that a bit of a downgrade?" The captain replied, "they should just put me out, as I only have 6 months to go to retirement!".

The crew was shuffling people in and out of the cockpit quickly. I was able to manage just a few shots of the instruments and had a photo of me taken in the cockpit. I shook hands with Captain Brodie and the flight engineer and took a parting photo of the entry area as I deplaned. Of course, I did not forget to pick up my flight certificate!

View of the main instrument panel.
View of the engineer's panel.
Shot of me and Captain Brodie in the cockpit.
Parting shot: area around the boarding door. Note Concorde logo.

When I got to the immigration desk, it was 6 pm, and all the officers were getting ready to go home. One of them returned to his booth to check my passport. He was rather puzzled to see the few people waiting there and asked which flight we were on. I told him we were on BA 1 and there were a good number of people congregating on the jetway to meet the crew and see the cockpit. Mystery solved!

I then went out to the baggage claim. All the bags were already out on the carousel. Hmm...I don't see my suitcase. I tracked down an agent and told her my predicament. She was rather puzzled to hear my suitcase wasn't there. She said normally on Concorde flights, they know ahead of time whose bag did not make the flight. Off to the baggage office I went. My bag would be delivered to me later by FedEx. In the end, I received my suitcase two days after I returned home. The tag on the bag showed it flew into JFK on the last BA flight on that day, two flights after mine. As I had a five-hour connection at LHR, it boggles the mind on why my suitcase didn't fly with me. On top of that, I had Concorde models in the suitcase, so that they could to be "flown" as well. I was very, very disappointed. And on top of that, I didn't even get my Concorde luggage tags!

The flight back home from JFK to SJC on an American 757 was five and a half hours long. Needless to say, the flight felt like it took an eternity!

My Concorde flight certificate, signed by Captain Mills.

Postscript


Wow! It's over...the Concorde era finally ends. No more passenger supersonic flights, at least for the foreseeable future. As expected, BA ended Concorde service on October 24, 2003 with all aircraft retired to museums around the world.

I was fortunate to have a short article published in the Nov/Dec 2003 issue (No. 84) of Airliners magazine chronicling my most memorable moments on the Concorde flight.

My article on page 45 in the Nov/Dec 2003 edition of Airliners magazine
("Concorde Farewell" issue).

On BA's last weekend of Concorde service, I made another pilgrimage to New York's JFK. There, I met other like-minded spotters from the area and around the country wanting to see and photograph Concorde flying for the last time. Even though the weather was not the greatest that weekend, once again, with my friend and photographer Art Brett's help, I was still able to get some wonderful shots.

http://www.airliners.net/photo/447172/L/
G-BOAC banking over Howard Beach
after taking off 31L on Oct. 18.
http://www.airliners.net/photo/444754/L/
G-BOAE landing on 31R on Oct. 18.     
http://www.airliners.net/photo/445255/L/
G-BOAG landing on 31R on Oct. 19.

I was even more fortunate to have G-BOAG, the very aircraft I flew on, retire to Seattle's Museum of Flight, right here on the West Coast of the United States. Of course, I did not let the opportunity slip by to see my Concorde land for the final time! On November 5, 2003, I made the trek to Seattle for the special occasion.

Below, you can see my photos and descriptions from that day's events.

At about 2:30 pm, "Concorde Alpha Golf" made her approach from the north, intercepting Seattle Boeing Field's Runway 13R localizer. Tower closed the airport and cleared Concorde down to 1000 feet for the fly-by. We could see her in the distance that she was high. Alpha Golf declined the offer and said she was at 2000 feet. So the tower cleared her for 2500 feet. I couldn't even get a full frame shot at 400 mm as she went overhead. We were hoping for lower...a lot lower...


So she went downwind, came back around and landed on Runway 31L to the cheers of the enthusiastic crowd.

http://www.airliners.net/photo/British-Airways/Aerospatiale-British-Aerospace-Concorde/0460395/L/

She taxies up with water cannon salute near the tower (I just saw the top part of the water cannon), taxied past the gate into the museum to the end of the taxiway. The pilots were flag waving and nose cycling along the way.


After waiting for a large volume of traffic landing and taking off on 31L, Alpha Golf was cleared to taxi back on the active to return back to the museum ramp. At the museum gate, a tug pulled Concorde a short distance before it stopped. As it turned out, the tug had turned too tight and broke the lynch pin!

The tug is seen here right after the pin broke.


The tug returns after about 10 minutes and Alpha Golf was finally coming on to the museum ramp. Capt. Bannister was holding the U.K. flag while Capt. Brodie was holding the U.S. flag.

http://www.airliners.net/photo/British-Airways/Aerospatiale-British-Aerospace-Concorde/0456870/L/

Hello, Capt. Bannister!


I was literally inches away from the tip of the nose!

http://www.jetphotos.net/viewphoto.php?id=181064

It took awhile for the ground crew to hook up the generator. All the while, a single engine was running. Even at idle, the sound of the engine was ear-piercing. Many people (myself included) had to plug up our ears!

The ground crew had a difficult time lining up the stairs to the door. There were some heart-stopping moments when the stair looked like was going to crash into the side of the fuselage! Finally, Capt. Bannister and Brodie exited the plane and held up the Alpha Golf's technical log to the applause of the crowd.


At the top of the stairs, the two captains were joined by the Governor of Washington State and British Airways and Museum of Flight officials for the handover ceremony. Capt. Bannister announced the flight had broken a world record from New York to Seattle. At the last minute, the Canadian Government created a special supersonic track for this flight. Alpha Golf made the flight in 3 hours 55 minutes 12 seconds. The crowd cheered!


A view of Concorde with the museum building. The passengers can be seen disembarking at this point. Note television antennas on the right.


A parting shot...Alpha Golf's tail basking in the last remaining light of the day.


Other Concorde Trip Reports

Here is a collection of other notable Concorde trip reports:

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