It felt as if we were leaving for outer space
ITC Luxury Travel client, Ken Garrity, describes his experience of the iconic aircraft, Concorde…
“My unusual Concorde memory is having a day out in Cairo to celebrate my 33rd birthday. There had been eight spare seats on offer and as these were rarely offered I took the opportunity to fly in this iconic aeroplane.
The day arrived and at 6.30am I left my house, with my brother, in Greater Manchester to take the shuttle flight to Heathrow. At Manchester airport I bumped into one of my neighbours who asked where I was going. When I said ‘Cairo…for the day’ I saw his face change; as he was going to Glasgow on business for the day and would be arriving back home later than me!
We arrived in plenty of time and after a swift check-in as we only had hand luggage, we made our way to the Concorde lounge in time to see them towing our aircraft G-BOAC* onto the stand. There was much excitement in the air. Champagne was offered and we made ourselves comfortable in the lounge. Model aircraft were given out and postcards were placed on tables. I realised I didn’t have time to post a card so filling one in, a ground hostess offered to post it for me. Others realised this and quickly followed suit.
We were called to board, all 100 of us, as this aircraft was full both ways; with other passengers heading off for Nile cruises and adventure holidays in Egypt. We took seats 23C and 23D.
A pre-departure drink was offered, more Champagne, and a slow taxi out to runway 27R at Heathrow. We lined up shortly after a Gulf Air Tristar en route to Bahrain had departed. The captain had explained the sequence for the engines as they are turned on and likened our take off run to a racing car - as opposed to the Tristar which was like a family saloon! The engines were revved up to take off power and we hurtled down the runway which felt a lot faster than the flight from Manchester that morning. Our climb was steep with the power pushing us back into our seats. The engines were then rolled back for noise abatement reasons. Continuing our climb we reached 33,000ft, initially at subsonic speeds, as our journey took us over France, the Alps and reached the Adriatic between Venice and Trieste. Our captain pointed out that we had already overtaken the Tristar aircraft over France.
Now the exciting part had begun. As we had reached the Adriatic Sea we were allowed to climb and increase speed, reaching Mach 2 as we entered the Mediterranean. The captain announced that he would put the engine re-heat on in two stages, two engines at a time, which allowed us to reach supersonic speed. Two nudges came as the engines kicked up a notch or two. Quite quickly we realised that the clouds were sinking far below us and the curvature of the earth became apparent. The sky turned from blue to inky black as we reached 55,000ft. It felt as if we were leaving for outer space. What an experience.
A meal was served, more drinks and we were allowed a visit to the flight deck and a chance to see through the visor which had been raised so that the aircraft could fly supersonic. Photos were taken and a certificate issued which I asked the captain and crew to sign. A nice souvenir.
After a smooth descent across the desert we landed at Cairo airport. Our crew bade us farewell as they were rostered only to fly one way and return home subsonic the next day. We had been offered a chance to see Cairo for the afternoon before our departure back to the UK, and the scene was so different to the one we had left. Our guide took us to the Cairo Museum and across the Nile, passing donkeys carrying people and horses towing overloaded carts. A quick photo stop and then back to the airport where our aircraft and new crew were waiting. Again a very swift check-in and new passengers
As we boarded we were assigned the same seats again and more Champagne was offered. The very chatty captain announced that we were flying home in a time machine and his first officer gave a running commentary throughout the flight. As we left Cairo, now under a cloud of sand whipped up by the Saharan wind, we headed across the ancient Egyptian civilisation with dates and Pharaohs names mentioned. Crossing the coast at Alexandria the re-heat was turned on and again we climbed swiftly to 56,000ft as we headed for Crete and the Minoan civilisation. A meal was served on fine china, crystal glasses and metal cutlery. Again we were offered the chance to see the flight deck and meet the crew. Another souvenir certificate and a chance to stand by the Mach metre showing the Mach 2.00 sign, twice the speed of sound, and having my photo taken. We descended and throttled back as we headed up the Croatian coast to Venice as our time machine returned to subsonic speed.
Our landing at Heathrow was smooth and a short taxi in brought us to our stand at Terminal 3. We said our goodbyes to the crew and were escorted across to Terminal 1 by a member of the ground staff, to join our shuttle flight back to Manchester, landing on time at 9.30pm and bringing our fabulous day to an end.
*G-BOAC is now on permanent display at Manchester airport Runway Visitors Centre