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Supersonic fight of fancy

Step aboard Concorde at the new Aerospace Bristol, which opened to the public this week

Jackie Markham


01635 886654

Aviation enthusiasts are expected to flock to Aerospace Bristol, a new exhibition that opened to the public on Tuesday, celebrating the country’s massive aviation achievements over the last 100 years. Visitors will have the opportunity to step aboard Concorde Alpha Foxtrot, the last of the memorable supersonic passenger jets to be built, and the last one to fly.

Older readers will remember the “sonic boom” from Concorde as it flew above West Berkshire on its way to USA – you could hear it before you could see it, around 7pm each evening.

The village of Ashampstead was home to one of Concorde’s pilots, Brian Calvert, who began his flying career with BOAC (since subsumed into British Airways) in 1957.  Brian flew a range of civil aircraft including Stratocruisers, Comets and VC10s. During Concorde’s entry into service, he was the technical flight manager responsible for deciding on the methods by which the aircraft would be flown, and the suitability of potential routes.  He was in command of many of Concord’s inaugural flights, but perhaps his most memorable assignment came in September 1978 when he piloted Concorde for a charter trip for a special group of passengers.

One hundred of his fellow regulars and friends at the legendary Bell Inn, Aldworth paid £100 per head to fly in Concorde from Heathrow to the Bay of Biscay, in a memorable trip organized by Bell  landlord  Ian “Jack” McAuley. NWN correspondent and pub regular Bob Coles, taking his first ever flight, was one of the lucky passengers and described the day thus:  “When we arrived at the Concorde lounge we were given sandwiches and champagne, then taken out to the plane. Mr Calvert introduced everyone on the flight and then we were strapped in for take-off. It was absolutely fantastic- the engines roared and we were thrust back into our seats by the speed of the take-off. After seven minutes Mr Calvert announced we were over the Bell and shortly after that we were over the Bristol Channel going supersonic.”

The plane went to the Bay of Biscay, then turned around for its return trip, reaching its top speed of 1,300 miles per hour.

Aerospace Bristol is encouraging people to share their memories of Concorde on a “Concorde memory map” on the museum’s website

The museum opens on Tuesday 17 October. Tickets cost £15 for adults (£13 concessions) and £8 for children and are valid for a year.

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