… on her love affair with Concorde
There are certain events in a long life that come back to you with absolute clarity with the most minor jog of your memory. For me it was a recent TV documentary about Concorde and the battle in the 50s and 60s to be the first to achieve supersonic flight.
The Americans went too big; the Soviets did all they could to steal secrets from the French and British, who were working as a European team. Europe triumphed. Shame the French won the title, putting an ‘e’ at the end of the preferred English name, Concord.
It’s 20 years since she was finally taken out of service. I never got to fly in her, but Concorde was, and is, one of the great loves of my life.
Concorde was taken out of service in 2003
It began in 1976. I was 26 and working in Bristol. I lived in a lovely top-floor flat on the edge of the Downs with a flat roof and access to the perfect spot for sunbathing. I was relaxing in the sun when I heard an extraordinary noise.
It was a loud ‘boom’ and, as I looked up in alarm, I saw the most exquisite sight I’ve ever seen: Concorde floating across the sky. There she was – long slender body, sharply pointed, dipped nose with wide wings at her back. She was so elegant and moving so fast. If I hadn’t known she was made in Bristol and was due to take off for Heathrow to begin her first passenger flights, I’d have thought we were being invaded.
Nothing so modern and beautiful had ever existed before and, sadly, never would again.
“We produced a work of art that beat the world”
I still feel it was a privilege to have seen and heard her take off, go supersonic and fly looking more lovely than any bird could have done. The boom I heard was deafening, but that day I fell in love with something I’d never seen before: a perfect demonstration of how science and art can combine to create a machine of beauty.
Concorde will never fly again. I’ll never have the chance to sit in her cabin and feel the rush of speed as she takes off. No Champagne and delectable canapés for me; no card to say I’d flown on Concorde. I’m left only with inordinate pride in the fact the UK and France produced a work of art that beat the world.
The only time I get to view her now is on those rare occasions that I come in to land on an inferior mode of air travel and see her parked, alone, clearly neglected, by the runway at Heathrow.
The mission to save Concorde
But there’s hope. Fellow enthusiasts have set up a crowdfund to renovate her, carry her into the capital and set her up by the London Eye to show the world what a wonderful creation she was. And why should there not be a place there for our world-beating, stunning sample of the most amazing feat of aviation?
Millions will see her on show, have a chance to look on board and imagine themselves flying at twice the speed of sound with movie stars and musicians, reaching New York in a mere three-and-a-half hours.
Considerable cost will be involved – £500,000 just for planning permission. Then many more thousands to renovate her and carry her to London. It must happen. We can all donate and when she’s in place, save the £30 entrance fee. Her beauty and power are unmatched. I saw her, marvelled at her and I want to marvel again. She must not be the flower born to blush unseen.