Celebrity Concorde: ‘Time travel’ with the A-list
An elite form of luxury travel, those who flew on Concorde were made up of three categories according to Captain Mark Jealous; a former Concorde pilot who still flies for British Airways on their A380.
We quizzed him on his time at the helm of supersonic flight and asked: who were the passengers of British Airways Concorde?
“Concorde was glamorous, but it was built for speed, making it ideal for business,” says Mark. “It would be 10.30am in London and a businessman would step on board Concorde. He would land in New York at 9am – 1 ½ hours earlier than he took off. He’s just gained an extra hour and a half of life! So it was a ‘time machine’. That was what it was built for.”
Being at the helm of such an elite form of travel means Mark’s famous passenger list reads like a who’s who of the nineties. Nevertheless, he says the Concorde customer was actually quite varied: “We had three types really – business people who used it as a ‘time machine’, those who enjoyed the prestige of it and ‘once in a lifetime-rs’.
Every tax payer in the country paid towards Concorde. So as a thank you we used to have reduced rates for people to experience short ‘round the bay’ flights. This meant supersonic flight was much more accessible to the wider public. “On these 90-minute journeys we’d try to get all 100 passengers into the flight deck for a moment to witness flying at Mach 2 from the front. It was very humbling. Many of the passengers were elderly, who’d been bought the experience perhaps as an 80th birthday gift. Often they were former Spitfire or Lancaster pilots. They used to say ‘wow what a thing to fly Concorde’, while I was thinking ‘wow what a thing to have fl own a Spitfire’! It was always great to talk to them.
“There was one particular Christmas where Tom Cruise was on board and he was flying with a couple of his staff. He’s actually an aviation nut, so he asked if he could sit on the flight deck for take off (in the days when passengers were still permitted on the flight deck!). It was just before Christmas, and I had a diary I’d bought for my wife. So I said: “Mr Cruise, you can sit here for take off but would you write in this diary ‘To Carolyn, Lots of Love Tom Cruise’?” And he did! But my wife couldn’t bear to use it after that! “I flew popstars, politicians (like Margaret Thatcher), the Princess of Wales and a whole host of other household names. But to me the most important people I flew were my dad, my wife and my daughter.”