Celebrations to mark 50th anniversary of first Concorde flight

Events will be held across Britain on Saturday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Concorde’s maiden flight.

Friday, 1st March 2019, 3:09 pm
Updated Friday, 1st March 2019, 3:17 pm

Thousands of aviation enthusiasts will flock to museums and airfields where the supersonic airliner is on display.

They will have the opportunity to meet Concorde pilots, step on board the aircraft and view footage of the first flight.

Recent refurbishment means the distinctive nose of Concorde will be moved at exhibition sites at Manchester Airport, Imperial War Museum Duxford in Cambridgeshire and Brooklands Museum in Surrey. This happened during take-off and landing when Concorde was operational, to give pilots better visibility.

Events are also taking place at Fleet Air Arm Museum in Somerset, Aerospace Bristol in Filton, near Bristol, and locations in France and Germany.

The first Concorde prototype took off from Toulouse in the south of France on March 2, 1969.

It was flown for 27 minutes by test pilot Andre Turcat.

Born out of a joint Anglo-French project, Concorde’s success was savoured as a moment of intense national pride.

Most impressive of all was its speed.

A cruising velocity of twice the speed of sound, or 1,350mph, allowed it to cover a mile in just 2.75 seconds.

Jock Lowe, who was the longest serving Concorde pilot, said flying the aircraft was “like driving a sports car compared with a normal car”.

He continued: “The most exhilarating part was the power you had on take-off. The acceleration was really quite special.”

Concorde quickly established itself as the way to travel for the discerning tycoon and Hollywood star.

Its fine wines and five-star cuisine assured it a large, well-heeled fan base, with regular passengers including the likes of Joan Collins, Sir Paul McCartney and Princess Diana.

Travelling on Concorde became an experience in itself, with passengers speaking of the “kick in the back” as the aircraft took off.

John Tye flew the 100-seater aircraft between 1998 and 2000.

He described how it required “absolute precision” and would push through

the sound barrier while causing “nothing more than a ripple on 100 glasses of champagne”.

Concorde was retired from service in October 2003, with British Airways and Air France blaming a downturn in passenger numbers and rising maintenance costs.