LONDON — The first Airways Spot & Greet took place on July 15, 2016, under unusual British sunny skies. 40 attendees made their way from different parts of the world just to attend our event and enjoy the wonders London has to offer in terms of vintage and current aviation.
Our day started early, at 08:30 GMT. Some incoming tour members flying in from the United States were slightly delayed because of the lengthy immigration lines at London-Heathrow (LHR). Others gathered at the Thistle Hotel’s lobby, meeting fellow enthusiasts who were clearly hyped for the events that were yet to come.
“I came all the way from Dallas just for the Spot & Greet,” said Airways columnist, Rohan Anand. “Having the opportunity to meet our readers and other aviation enthusiasts while visiting the home of Concorde, is quite unique.”
Airways host and writer, Captain Alan Carter, carefully organized the day’s events. “I’m thrilled to be here and to show our readers the brilliant Brooklands Museum and then to enjoy some quality time with them whilst watching airplanes take off out of the crazy busy LHR.”
After all members checked in, we all hopped on our old-fashioned London Open Top Bus, which departed towards the perimeter road of the busy LHR airport.
Unfortunately, though, the airport’s security team was dispatched and blocked us from entering the perimeter road because of the recent terrorist events that had occurred in Nice the night before. However, we managed to capture some incoming and departing airliners as we made our way to the Brooklands Museum.
Upon reaching the home of Concorde, our group gathered in front of the Oman Sultan’s VC-10, which was toured individually, offering a quick cockpit briefing on how the aircraft used to operate, and a detailed explanation of the luxurious interiors.
Later on, our large group was divided in three for the upcoming Concorde experience, which lasted 40 minutes each.
Tour members were taken to an old, vintage British Airways bus where the story of Concorde was narrated by a veteran tour guide. We were then invited to board the majestic airliner through its rear door and enter the immaculate cabin, which was fitted with several screens, pictures, and memorabilia items explaining the successful story of the most popular airliner ever built.
After another brief explanation, we entered the forward section of the cabin where the traditional 2-2 seating arrangement invites passengers to sit and enjoy the simulation, briefed by a well developed video narrated by British Airways’ own Concorde Chief Pilot, Captain Mike Bannister.
The video explains in detail how the aircraft operates, all the way from taxiing, taking off and climbing, to trans-sonic procedures and landing.
As the explanation proceeds, the altitude and Mach indicators at the front of the cabin allow passengers to fantasize being up in the air traveling at twice the speed of sound. Some vibrators were installed along the cabin, giving the feeling of truly breaking the sound barrier.
Once the presentation ended, we were invited to the Members Lounge, where Captain Bannister was expecting us with Champagne and Canapés. The Chief Pilot then carried on with more details of handling Concorde and answered several questions from the hyped attendees.
After numerous photos, signed Concorde certificates, and great times at Brooklands Museum, we hopped on our bus and headed back to the Thistle Hotel for our late lunch buffet, which was served on the hotel’s terrace that overlooks the departing runway at LHR.
The wonderful day ended with several A380s and 747s departing while we sipped some wine and enjoyed chatting with our equally enthusiastic colleagues.
This London adventure will definitely be repeated two years from now. In the meantime, stay tuned for more news on 2017’s Spot & Greet, which will be hosted by the Airways Team in Miami!