04 Final flights

My love for Concorde burned more fiercely than ever. From that weekend, I made more of an effort to look out for the Concordes at home, and went to the riverside at Canary Wharf regularly to watch them. I visited Heathrow as often as I could. The viewing gallery was closed, but I found that I could get great views of the Concordes landing if I sneaked up to the top of Terminal 2 car park. Most of the time I got away with it, but on one occasion I had to do some fast talking when the security guards found me. Another time I walked out onto the roof and found a group of plane-spotters already there. They looked at me with some surprise, and asked what I was doing there. “I’m here to see Concorde!” I gushed. They were not impressed. “We see that every day – so what? But there’s a new A318 due in from Toulouse any minute now, and we’ve never seen this registration number before!” Oh well – different strokes for different folks, I suppose . . .

Concorde landing at Heathrow, April 2003
Concorde taxying, Heathrow, April 2003

Beauty in motion
One of the things I loved about Concorde was her liveliness – even when she was on the ground.

Sketch from life of Concorde at Terminal 4, Heathrow

Concorde at Terminal 4
I did this little sketch from the top of T2 car park, the day after the retirement was announced. Concorde has just come into Terminal 4 and the passengers are disembarking.

 

 

The summer of 2003 was one long goodbye to the beautiful bird. The Air France Concordes glided away to their retirement homes in museums. Fox-Bravo (F-BVFB) had the wingtips removed and was floated up the Rhine on a barge, like something from a medieval legend. Our own Concordes went on a lap of honour around the country and across the world, with crowds flocking to see them – and yet I still believed that someone would save them. British Airways would come up with a plan. Richard Branson would swoop in and buy them. People would write letters to their MPs, and the government would listen. The flood of support for Concorde on the internet would convince the powers that be to stay their hand.

Yet on 24 October 2003, I was back on the roof of Terminal 2’s car park, watching as Alpha Golf flashed over our heads in the afternoon sunlight, on her way to do her final circuit over London, and then as the last three commercial flights drifted down through the pink sky.

Concorde G-BOAG on her final circuit over London

Alpha Golf overflies London for the last time >>

This time the roof was full of people. As I looked around, I saw that the roof of Terminal 3 car park was packed as well. Every high point had tiny figures craning up at the sky. No security guards stopped us – there were just too many of us. Crowds jammed every spare patch of ground near the landing area, despite the official warnings for people to keep away from the airport. As it happened, I was in the wrong place to see the touchdowns, and could only peer through the buildings as the Concordes disappeared from view and then darted past the T3 car park. In a way, though, that was fitting: for me it was “au revoir” rather than “goodbye”.

 

Concorde comes into land at Heathrow as workers watch from rooftop

Returning to Earth
I took several photos of the landings, none of them very good, but I was simply enjoying the sight of three Concordes in flight at once – it seemed beyond belief that we would never see this again.

 

Concorde touches down as thousands watch, 24 October 2003

Crowds of admirers
A fleeting glimpse of touch-down. I didn’t see the very end, when the wheels touched the tarmac, but in a way I was glad about that. I was amazed at the number of people on the rooftops. This picture just shows what the aeroplane meant to all of us. 

< 03 A series of shocks | 05 The Save Concorde Group >

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