SWWPG Concorde Visit June 2008
On a grey Saturday in June, 19 members and guests of SWWPG met up bright and early in the Airbus carpark at Filton for a trip around the Concorde displayed there. A coach took us around the extensive Filton site, viewing the remaining parts of the old Bristol Aircraft Company, including the huge aircraft assembly hall (still referred to by old timers as ‘the Brabazon hanger’) where the British Concordes were built, and the more modern Airbus facilities, en route to the static display aircraft.
The old Concorde sits beside the runway in a dedicated enclosure, with an attached visitor centre, looking small compared to the nearby Boeing 747 freighters yet still very purposeful. Boarding was done in two smaller groups.
For all of the party it was our first time in a ‘Latest spec’ Concorde cabin, and one was struck by the compact size when compared with current ‘Single Aisle’ aircraft like the A320 or B737.
However, the all First Class seats and décor still looked and felt good, and the menu handed around was fantastic - but alas not available! For passengers amusement the famous ‘Mach Meter’ has been wired to simulate the acceleration to cruise speed - the LEDs look rather old fashioned today, but it reminds one that only the ‘fighter jocks’ can do such speeds now & even they can’t cross the Atlantic as fast.
Before leaving the aircraft each passenger had the opportunity to visit the cockpit, which really does look crowded and dated compared to a modern Airbus - all dials and analogue instruments with no computer screens.
Stepping outside gave the opportunity to examine the airframe and engines more closely and ask questions of the Tour Guide (or the organiser, who was also one of the former Concorde Support team). It seems strange now that there is no carbon fibre used on the aircraft (not commercially available when Concorde was designed) and very few glass fibre parts. The construction of thin-skinned lightweight components like the rudder used chemically milled aluminium skins and adhesively bonded them to aluminium honeycomb core and spars etc in a very tricky series of operations.
Today carbon fibre epoxy prepregs are used with Nomex honeycombs to make similar components far more simply, and without the corrosion hazards that bedevilled their aluminium predecessors.
Looking into the inlets of the massive Bristol Olympus engines (OK, the logos say Rolls Royce but it was still Bristol Siddeley Engines when they were developed) I remembered my old manager (now retired) telling how one of his first jobs entailed ‘meeting’ Concorde at Heathrow and as soon as the engines had cooled sufficiently climbing into the intakes to conduct NDT on a component therein.
So after a very enjoyable tour, there was just time for a photocall, visit to the souvenir shop and onto the bus back offsite.
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