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Concorde Week: Reader Stories

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Concorde Week: Reader Stories

Concorde Week: Reader Stories
October 24
13:00 2013

MIAMI — Welcome to day four of Concorde Week! To celebrate the 10th Anniversary (today) of the ending of commercial operations of Concorde we’re bringing you a feature each day this week on the iconic airplane. Today’s first feature is brought to use from two of our own readers who’ve given us stories about their experiences with the airplane:

Airchive reader Kai Hansen of Vancouver, B.C. brings us his tale of flying aboard the Concorde simulator. The replica flightdeck is located at the Brooklands Museum in the United Kingdom, which also houses a real Concorde. The museum still has the simulator, the only operational one remaining, and offers tours and ‘flight packages’.

Second is a story from New Yorker Ralph Spielman. Ralph had the pleasure of flying on both the British Airways and Air France Concorde’s.Don’t forget to come back tomorrow as we look at stories from readers like you and mark the final day of service!

Just arriving on scene for Concorde Week? Fear not! We’ve got everything you need right here:
Catch up on your Concorde development history with Supersonic—The Origins of Concorde and then read up on Concorde’s two most famous operations, British Airways and Air France, and finally about Concorde’s other two ‘operators’ Braniff International and Singapore Airlines.

Flying the Concorde Simulator at Brooklands Museum UK, by Kai Hansen


When Air France and British Airways stopped flying Concorde in 2003 there were two simulators that had trained all the pilots flying the aircraft. One was in France and one in the United Kingdom. Apparently Air France chopped up their simulator while British Airways kept theirs. It was later donated to the Brooklands Museum in Surrey, England. After four years of restoration it was ready to ‘fly’ again. I tried for six month to get a one hour flight on the simulator – waiting lists were long – and was assigned a day in November 2010. I flew from Canada to the UK and on the day of my booking went to the Museum, where I was given a tour of their actual Concorde and then went to the building where the simulator is housed.

The interior of the Concorde Simulator. (Credits: Kai Hansen)

The interior of the Concorde Simulator. (Credits: Kai Hansen)

When I stepped into the simulator there were two Concorde Captains, one who flew the right seat and the other a flight engineer. The Concorde always flew with a three man crew as the flight engineer was needed to amongst other things manage the fuel tanks to make sure that the center of gravity was maintained at all times.

I received a quick cockpit procedure course and was intrigued by the four white buttons on the throttle quadrant: they were the afterburners! I choose to take off from JFK and after a very fast take-off with those afterburners we followed the noise procedure for JFK departures.

We climbed to 35000ft and then re-lit the afterburners to climb to 57000ft. We broke the sound barrier twice en route. After having achieved Mach 1 the afterburners were turned off and we quickly got to Mach 2 and the assigned altitude.

Here I tried some stalls and other maneuvers and discovered how the delta wings need different handling.

We then, for fun, proceeded to do a landing at Kai Tak (in Hong Kong) with the famous aproach past the checkerboard. I got into trouble right away not realizing that when you raise the nose you increase the sink rate.

VIDEO EXTRA (not the author, but the same simulator!)

The normal landing speed was 170 miles per hour (274 km/h). Because of the high angle, during a landing approach Concorde was on the “back side” of the drag force curve; the aircraft was largely flown on the throttle and was fitted with an autothrottle to reduce the pilot’s workload. Adding to my trouble I was flying it manually. Still, I managed to get the aircraft landed thanks to my right seat captain.

The museum has done a great job of restoring the simulator and even without any motion and a Microsoft flight simulator program it was a great way to spend an hour flying the Concorde.

Flying aboard Concorde, by Ralph Spielman


I had two Concorde journeys, one roundtrip from JFK-MIA, and a one way JFK-CDG; both Travel Famtrips in small groups.

The British Airlines (BA) trip, regrettably, I do not have any formal data left from it, but the lack of notation in my logbook is puzzling.  I think it was in the mid-80’s (?), and specifically flew out of JFK to Miami, not out of Washington Dulles.  Apparently, at the time, the flights went LHR-JFK-MIA to capture London to Miami Business.  As there was really not that much traffic, and so BA ran many travel agents on that trip to experience supersonic flight on a relatively short turn.

(Credits: Phillip Capper)

(Credits: Phillip Capper)

We all met in The Concorde Room at JFK, which still survives, but certainly not as gloriously as it once did.  It was 8 or 9AM, and the liquor flowed like water: anything you could imagine, in copious amounts.  Canapés were also served.  When it was time to board, our leader, Alan Jacobson, who was head of Special Services at JFK for BA at the time, mentioned to put our hands on the windows as we hit Mach 2 (which we did over the Atlantic). The window, by the way, was the size of a paperback book. Sure enough, at speed and altitude I touched my hand to the window, and it was HOT!  The cabin was relatively small, kind of like a DC9-50 with all business class seats, comprised of two cabins, separated by the lavs.

I do remember that the champagne flowed like a waterfall on board, and lots of silverware and silver plate being used. We stayed overnight in Miami Beach, and came back the next morning. The weirdest thing about the return was to exit the plane and go through customs and immigration at the British Airways Terminal, even though it was a domestic flight. At the time there was no other way to disembark at that terminal, which, at the time, was strictly international.

The Air France trip I do have documentation for.  My flight was AF002, booked in R Class, and traveled on 26 February 1990. The block time was 3 hours 45 minutes; the aircraft was F-BTSD. Given the longer flight to Paris there was more time to observe and experience the plane.  I do not remember the lounge experience being as lavish as BA’s at JFK.  Our guide on this trip was Mr. Joel Goldowsky from Air France, who is now in Senior Sales Management with Emirates Airlines here in the United States.  Again, I felt the HOT window at speed. We were served a full course meal, which was delicious.

Alex Jonsson

(Credits: Alex Jonsson)

Later, all of us in the group were invited to visit the cockpit. The small space was crammed with analog gauges; nothing digital whatsoever.  Air France’s Concordes had leather seats that seemed much fresher than the cloth seats on British Airways, and also the two cabins.  I did need to use the facilities on this trip, towards the end of the flight and remember how hot the unairconditioned lavatories were between the two cabins.  Given the size of the fuselage, I managed to bump my head on the inside of said fuselage alighting from the toilet.

On the way back, we returned on an AF B747, in Business Class, which was anti-climactic after our supersonic ride a few days before.

 

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