16 Mar 19 Concorde Alpha Foxtrot

Visit to Aerospace Bristol which is the home of the last Concorde to fly, British Airways G-BOAF, commonly known as Alpha Foxtrot, or foxy lady to her friends. I last saw Alpha Foxtrot when she flew over Clifton Downs in 2003 on her final flight. It was good to catch up.

Accompanying me on the visit were family members Helen, Ellie and Matt.

Its pleasing to see this aircraft (not ‘plane’) housed properly in her own custom built hanger as she was stored outside for about fifteen years following her last flight. There are several Concorde aircraft which have been housed poorly since their retirement, the most public being Alpha Bravo owned by British Airways and to this day parked outdoors at Heathrow Airport with no obvious plan as to its conservation. This seems a pity, although without knowing the financial burden of owning such an asset (and I don’t) it is perhaps wrong to judge those responsible. Already I find myself leaning towards an emotional connection with Concorde, and my overriding impressions from yesterday are not just fascination with the staggering technological achievement it represented, but of the emotions is stirs up, including pride (in our engineering), admiration of its beauty (which seems universally acknowledged), nostalgia (for times gone by) and thankfulness (that it exists). The Concorde hanger allows visitors to walk underneath the entire fuselage and then via a first floor to enter the fuselage, view the cockpit and walk along the forward cabin, guided by charming staff, some of whom who worked at Filton when Concorde was operational.

I can recommend a visit to anyone remotely interested in aircraft to Aerospace Bristol. Alongside Alpha Foxtrot is a separate gallery focusing on the achievement of the Bristol company and their heritage beginning with trams and moving on to design and manufacture aircraft, buses and cars. Top exhibits include a prototype helicopter (pictured below), Sea Harrier and various British made missiles.

Bristol Helicopter Prototype – like a bus, but with vertical take off!

I like to find quirky exhibits at museums, and Aerospace Bristol provided me with a fine example. Pictured below are some keys which were used to arm nuclear weapons. The information states that they were similar to those used on slot machines of the time.

It is amazing to reflect on what these keys represented to the V-bombers of the cold war as they would have unlocked the destructive power of the atomic weapons carried on board those aircraft once they had been scrambled, heading for the iron curtain. We should be grateful that they were never needed.

Returning to Alpha Foxtrot, some further images below of a remarkable aircraft and a few final thoughts. She flew at 1350 miles per hour, a mile every three seconds, faster than a rifle bullet at 55,000 ft above the earth’s surface, far above the jet stream and all other commercial aircraft, the edge of space, the outside temperature, -50 deg C, but with a surface temperature around 100 deg C which you could feel through the windows of the cabin. All this while the occupants sipped on chilled Champagne. When Concorde retired in 2003, our shrinking world got a little bit larger.

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