‘I absolutely loved it’

March 16, 2019
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The former chief pilot of Concorde has spoken of his pride at Surrey’s relationship with the aircraft, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

The aircraft, which is famous for its ability to fly at supersonic speeds, its distinctive shape and its “elegant luxury”, has a long relationship with Brooklands Museum in Weybridge.

Captain Mike Bannister, 69, says the museum, which has a fully restored Concorde in its collection, has played a massive role in the lore of the aircraft.

British Aircraft Corporation (BOAC), one of the companies behind the plane, had its headquarters at Brooklands, and it was there that the first design meetings about the shape the plane would take were held.

When construction began on the plane a third of every Concorde, including the front fuselage, the tail and the wiring looms, was made at Brooklands before being sent to assembly plants in Filton near Bristol, or Toulouse in France.

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The first Concorde made its maiden flight on March 2, 1969, although the first British-assembled Concorde took off on April 9 later that year.

It is an event that Brooklands Museum, which Cpt Bannister is a patron of, is keen to commemorate.

The museum held a gala dinner to celebrate the French test flight, and will be hosting another black-tie gala dinner on the anniversary of the British flight.

On Saturday April 13, a Concorde-themed day will give people to experience the museum’s full-sized Concorde, which has had nearly 500,000 visitors since it opened to the public in 2006. 

According to Cpt Bannister, that means 40% more people have been inside Brooklands’ Concorde “than they ever did on the real planes”.

It is 50 years since the first Concorde test flight
(Image: Les Williams / Surrey Advertiser)

Cpt Bannister, who has spent more than 10,000 hours in the cockpit of the aircraft, says being in a Concorde at supersonic speed was an experience unlike any other because it was “sensation-free” and provided “elegant luxury”.

“I absolutely loved it,” he said. “Everyone perceived that going through the sound barrier would be a sensation full experience, but there was nothing.

“You don’t get weather up at the altitude we were flying at. You could sit an old pound coin on its edge doing twice the speed of sound and it wouldn’t fall over.

“The people that flew on it were 80% business people, the remaining 20% were the rich and famous.”


It was a dream come true for Cpt Bannister, who in addition to being chief pilot, flew a plane for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, something that he says will stay with him forever.

“I always wanted to be a pilot, I absolutely loved it,” he said. “Particularly the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, flying down the Mall.

“I’ve been lucky enough to fly with the Red Arrows before but what I didn’t realise was the sensation of going over the Mall at just 1,000 feet, of seeing that number of people.”

(Image: Daily Mirror)

On April 10, 2003, Air France and British Airways both announced they would retire Concorde later that year, due to rising maintenance costs and falling passenger numbers.

Cpt Bannister, who lives in the Staines area, was chosen to fly the last ever scheduled Concorde flight from New York to Heathrow on October 24.

“I was sad when it retired and although I fully understood the reasoning, I argued against it,” he said.

“I did all I could to make sure it got the send off it deserved, and I think it’s got that.”

Article source: https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/i-absolutely-loved-it-concordes-15946859


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