In 1965, the dream of supersonic commercial travel began with the construction of two slender delta wing prototype aircraft. One in Filton, Bristol, UK and the other 820 miles away in Toulouse, France.
The Anglo-French alliance was of colossal proportions and hailed by many as truly marvellous; but Concorde’s development phase was not a smooth ride. Many challenges and difficulties had to be overcome by all individuals involved with the project in both the UK and France.
The ‘Concorde Family’, from the ground staff to the test pilots who flew the prototype aircraft for the first time, faced the problems together and their belief in this beautiful aircraft paid off.
In 1969, the sleek miracle of modern technology soared into the skies for the first time.
On the 2nd March 1969, test pilot André Turcat lifted Concorde 001 off the runway at Toulouse with Jacques Guiguard, Co-pilot; Michel Retief, Flight Engineer; Henri Perrier, Chief Flight Test Observer; Claude Durand Flight Observer and Jean Belon, Assistant Chief of Flight Test, SNECMA. 001 was in the air for 42 minutes, before Turcat made the decision to return to Toulouse.
“Finally the big bird flies, and I can say now that it flies pretty well.”
The days leading up to 002’s maiden flight had proved frustrating. Each high-speed taxi run was aborted because a failure flag kept appearing on the Captain’s airspeed indicator at 100 knots.
On the 9th April 1969, as Concorde 002 was rolled out of the hangar on to the tarmac, test pilot Brian Trubshaw had made a decision. If there was no failure flag he would just keep on going and that is exactly what happened.
Concorde 002 made her maiden flight from Filton to RAF Fairford. In the co-pilot’s seat was John Cochrane and they were accompanied by Flight Engineer, Brian Watts; Senior Flight Test Engineer, John Allan; Flight Test Observer, Mike Addley and Flight Test Observer, Peter Holding.
Fairford had been chosen as the test airfield for Concorde because the runway at Filton was not long enough for prototype test flying. After carrying out tests en route, Trubshaw made his approach to the runway at RAF Fairford when both radar altimeters failed. It was a white-knuckle situation demanding nerves of steel but Trubshaw was up to the challenge and made an impeccable landing. When asked about the altimeter failure afterward, he dismissed as ‘definitely unfriendly’.
This is vintage footage from 9th April 1969 and covers Concorde 002’s take off from Filton and her landing at Fairford. There is no sound and it is slightly disjointed, but worth a watch. The celebratory cake waiting for 002’s arrival at Fairford, was baked by aviator Sheila Scott!
It is not unreasonable to look upon Concorde as a miracle.
2019 is the 50th Anniversary of the first flights of the Anglo-French prototype Concordes 001 and 002.
To coincide with the anniversary celebrations, The History Press are re-releasing a paperback version of Brian Trubshaw’s book, Concorde – The Complete Inside Story on 1st February 2019. You can pre-order it now on Amazon.
In Concorde – The Complete Inside Story, Brian Trubshaw provides a rare insight into the trials and tribulations involved in achieving this miracle of modern technology.
As the former British chief test pilot, Brian Trubshaw’s close association with Concorde placed him in the unique position of being able to write the inside story of this world-famous supersonic passenger jet. Brian was closely involved in the exhaustive investigations into the 2000 tragedy, until his death in 2001. Heavily illustrated, this book covers the Paris crash, Concorde’s brief return to service and its decommissioning in 2004.
Brian Trubshaw and Andre Turcat, together with rest of the ‘Concorde Family’ at both RAF Fairford and Toulouse, experienced grief, frustration and disappointment, but these supersonic pioneers of our time succeeded in getting Concorde off the ground.
Their dream of producing a supersonic commercial aircraft became reality in 1976 when Concorde went into commercial service and graced our skies for 27 years.
On 24thOctober 2003, the supersonic dream died, when Alfa Golf flew into New York for the very last time, with Adrian Thompson at the controls. It was a very sad day for many.
Concorde – The Complete Inside Story – an updated paperback was released on 1st February 2019 to coincide with the 50th Anniversary celebrations . You can order it now on Amazon.
Photo: Gone, but never forgotten, Supersonic pioneers, Test Pilots Andre Turcat (left) and Brian Trubshaw
Credit: Photo: UPPA/Photoshot