Monday, 15 July 2013

A Flight of Imagination - on Concorde, at last!

The scene has changed. I'm now (now being the end of June) in East Lothian, that part of south-east Scotland that is handy for Edinburgh. I'm at Yellowcraig Caravan Club site, not far from sunny North Berwick. I can literally stroll onto the nearby beach. But there are delights inland as well. One of them is the Scottish Museum of Flight at East Fortune. And the star exhibit there is the first supersonic jet airliner ever to go into service, G-BOAA, Bravo Oscar Alpha Alpha, Concorde Number One:


I never expected to see Concorde so close up. For years she was just a fast-moving speck in the sky - a somewhat noisy speck - and there was small hope of ever having a ride inside one of these amazing planes. That dwindled to no hope after all British Airways Concordes were grounded following that disastrous fire in 2000 at a Paris airport. It was a freak accident, it had nothing to do with supersonic flight, but it led to a reappraisal of Concorde's commercial future, the cost of a makeover, and its inevitable retirement in 2003 from the British Airways fleet. In an age of terrorists, pinched profits, noise control, and new thinking on how to transport a lot of people at minimum cost over thousands of miles, Concorde was outmoded - although a still-impressive beautiful flagship from earlier times, when only speed and style and luxury really mattered. But financial viability was now king. It had to go.

Each of the Concordes went out gracefully, and now stand resplendent in flight museums across the country. Scotland got this one.

Is there, or is there not, a triumphant look on my face as I get ready to mount the steps?


Well, if my fat face carried an unbecoming smirk, it changed to a relaxed smile of pleasure once aboard:


There's something about this plane that makes you feel very special. Even as a museum exhibit. It was a shame, by the time I was there, that the seats were devoid of celebrity passengers, that no aircrew were there to show me to my reserved seat, that the captain was not giving me a welcome-aboard message. But in all other respects this was the real deal. It was a narrow tube with a single gangway between the leather seats. The galley was at one end, the cockpit at the other. In my imagination, the champagne was ready to drink, the lobster ready to eat. And in only three and a half hours time, New York! Or Bahrain!

Some more shots. Despite all the bright spotlights in the hangar, the light levels inside the plane were low, and I'm guessing this is how Concorde would have seemed on an evening flight, with the internal lights as the chief source of illumination. Here are views aft, and then forward, from the entrance halfway down the length of the passenger compartment:

 

One of the loos:


Then a peep into the cockpit. On the right, an extraordinarily complicated bank of switchgear for the flight engineer to keep an eye on; further forward, the bewildering array of instruments and controls for the pilot and co-pilot:


Concorde took off and landed with its long sharp nose dropped down a bit, so that the pilot could see ahead. So there was a special control for that.

I was so glad I'd seen all this.

Would I have been able to afford a ticket when Concorde was in its heyday, during the 1980s and 1990s? Actually, yes, if I'd been unmarried or unattached at the time. Would I have been disconcerted to be rubbing shoulders with well-known people, or at least well-off people who could afford to travel this way? I don't think so. I certainly wouldn't be if I could do it now. This really would have been the plane for me!

If nothing else, the food and champagne would have been a draw. Look at this link for a detailled comment on how it was while Concorde was flying, with daylight photos, and actual menus and wine lists: http://www.travelscholar.com/concorde/page02.html. The writer wasn't completely wowed by the food, but nevertheless clearly very pleased. Looking at the shots, and what was on offer, so would I have been.

This post is giving the false impression that all there is to see at the Scottish Museum of Flight is Concorde. Not so. You can easily spend another three hours there looking at the other exhibits, which cover the years from the First World War onwards, including airships. Here are some more shots to hint at what can be seen:



There are video presentations, boatloads of information on all aspects of flight, and a nice café to resort to if it all gets a bit overwhelming. And more of my pictures if you follow the links to my Flickr site (top right of this page).

Now I think I'll come back down to earth. This is Lima Uniform Charlie Yankee signing off, over and out.

2 comments:

  1. THat's amazing that you not only got to see one close up but got to go inside! I saw one of the Concorde's in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's in Washington, D.C. but could only see it from outside.

    Nice to see you continuing your blog! :)
    Lori

    ReplyDelete
  2. It is plane (lol) to see what you've been up to Lucy. Concorde was a remarkable airplane for its day but when you see what appears to be a little cramped seating arrangement, though not as bad as even todays regular airplanes, I would think it might have been uncomfortable over distance where it not for the fact that it flew so fast. I once dreamt of flying in her but like you said, my funds were going elsewhere. Still I would have liked a trip in Concord.

    Shirley Anne x

    ReplyDelete

You must be registered with a proper blogging platform if you wish to make a comment. I have had to deny access to completely anonymous commentators.

This blog is public, and I expect comments from many sources and points of view. They will be welcome if sincere, well-expressed and add something worthwhile to the post. If not, they face removal.

Ideally I want to hear from bloggers, who, like myself, are knowable as real people and can be contacted. Anyone whose identity is questionable or impossible to verify may have their comments removed. Commercially-inspired comments will certainly be deleted - I do not allow free advertising.

Whoever you are, if you wish to make a private comment, rather than a public one, then do consider emailing me - see my Blogger Profile for the address.

Lucy Melford