CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

Concorde to fly again?

PUBLISHED: 19:07 11 November 2009 | UPDATED: 09:07 21 July 2014

The president of Club Concorde, Paul James, is confident Concorde will fly again

The president of Club Concorde, Paul James, is confident Concorde will fly again

It's nearly four years since Concorde made her final historic flight, and the distinctive silhouette is still missed by many. But there could be hope yet - here in Surrey, a dedicated group of former pilots and colleagues are determined to see her...

Words by Caroline Harrap. Pictures by Adrian Meredith

***

When Concorde completed her last flight in November 2003, bringing to an end three decades of supersonic passenger travel, there were few who didn't shed a tear. It was, quite simply, the end of an era.

British Airways said the decision had been made for commercial reasons, with declining passenger numbers set against a backdrop of ever-rising maintenance costs. It seems the terrible accident in 2000, when a Concorde crashed in Paris killing 113 people, spelt the beginning of the end.

Nevertheless, there was still an overwhelming sense of sadness, and even indignity, that this unique aircraft should be consigned to history - and nowhere has that been more apparent than here in Surrey where a dedicated group of Concorde devotees are determined not only to keep her memory alive but to see her take to the skies again.

With that in mind, they formed Club Concorde, based in Esher, exactly a year ago, and have already attracted over 30,000 members, many of them from the Save-Concorde Group, led by Ross Mallett, who is backing the campaign to get Concorde off the ground again.

"The support we have received has been overwhelming," says the president of Club Concorde, Paul James, who lives in Walton-on-Thames. "We are amazed at the continuing interest in all things Concorde - new supporters have been joining at around 150 per week over the last few months, due to media coverage in the USA, Europe and the Far East. With this level of support, we feel confident that Concorde will fly again."

It may all sound a bit farfetched, but rest assured, this lot are far from just a bunch of glorified plane spotters. While Paul himself is a former Concorde charterer, the other founders of the club include the famous Concorde captains, David Leney from Camberley and Jock Lowe from Marlow in Bucks, and retired lawyer and Concorde enthusiast, Tony Heald, the club secretary, who lives in Esher.

They also have the backing of Colin Mitchell, from Kingston, who ran Goodwood Travel for over 20 years, during which time he organised Concorde flights for over 120,000 people generating £70 million of business around the world. Another key supporter is Adrian Meredith, of West Byfleet, who was the British Airways official Concorde photographer for over 20 years.

"We decided that with our unique combined insight into the problems surrounding Concorde, we are in a position to actually make this happen," says Paul. "Many ex-Concorde staff live here in Surrey - from captains, pilots and flight engineers to cabin and ground staff - for the simple reason that they needed to be near Heathrow but wanted to live in agreeable surroundings.

"Of course, the people of Surrey also played a vital part in the development of Concorde with over 35 per cent of every one of them built at Brooklands in Weybridge. Like so many others, they all want to see Concorde fly over the county again, and much further afield, for many years to come."

Despite the group's lofty credentials, however, any one of them would be the first to admit that their ambition to see Concorde fly again is no small undertaking. They have set their sights on three possible aircraft, all of which are overseas, and estimate they will need around £10 to £12 million to complete the refit, depending on which one they choose. They will also need an extra £2 million to fund the management of the project. As a result, their first goal is to recruit some heavyweight investors to come on board.

"We have sources who are already interested in funding the project," continues Paul. "Investors will more than recoup their money from the multi-national sponsorship deals surrounding the relaunch programme and beyond. The world-wide TV rights alone would exceed the refit costs.

"The opportunities are limitless, and along with our passion for Concorde, we also recognise the immense business potential of a relaunch and so intend to remain in control of the whole campaign."

The immediate plan is to ensure that at least one Concorde is resurrected as a private heritage aircraft within the next three years - hopefully in time for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, September 15, 2010, when they plan to stage a very special event.

"Our aim is to reproduce the famous flight of Concorde and a Battle of Britain Spitfire over the White Cliffs of Dover," says Paul. "We have already been joined in our campaign by the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust and the Battle of Britain Fighter Association, to which the 150 survivors belong. Nearly 3,000 men fought in the battle of whom 544 died, plus a further 800 did not survive the war. We think we owe these brave men, who between them changed the course of history, and want to give them one last day to remember.

"Of course, because of health and safety regulations, they will not be allowed to get on board. It's just as well these regulations were not around in 1940."

Indeed, while they may be quietly confident of getting Concorde back in the air again, actually carrying passengers looks like it could prove a little more tricky - so it's probably a tad early to think about booking your tickets just yet.

"As a private, heritage aircraft, Concorde would not be allowed to carry passengers, basically for insurance reasons," continues Paul. "It would be hoped, though, that regulations would be relaxed after the first year to allow some passengers on board. However such passengers would not be allowed to be fare-paying, as private aircraft can't charge fares, so a members' ballot is one option."

One of the most advanced planes ever built, the story of Concorde goes back to 1962 when the French and British governments entered into a formal agreement to jointly develop a medium and long range supersonic airliner.

In the UK, a Concorde prototype was almost complete, and at the official meeting with the French, British technology minister Anthony Wedgwood Benn announced that from now on our own aircraft would also be called Concorde. The "e", he said, stood for "excellence, England, Europe and entente".

The overall shape, aerodynamics, flight controls, propulsion and auxiliary systems made Concorde a generation ahead of any other form of civil transport, and everyone fell in love with her - from the rich and famous who could afford to buy tickets to the general public who would gaze up adoringly at her from the ground.

"Not only was she the only commercial aircraft to fly at twice the speed of sound (1,360mph), it was that unique, iconic design that made her so special," continues Paul. "Just the sight of her made so many people around the world feel happy. What else can do that?"

There's no doubt their ambitious project is receiving plenty of support from all four corners of the globe, but with the astronomical costs involved, not to mention the health and safety considerations, whether they will actually achieve their goal remains to be seen. Not that any of that seems to concern the president of Club Concorde ...

"On the cockpit door of a French Concorde, a pilot has written, 'Concorde est toujours vivant, il n'est qu'en sommeil'," adds Paul. "It translates to, 'Concorde lives on, it is only sleeping'."

***

Further information

Club Concorde is based at Vine House, 12, Riverside Drive, Esher, Surrey KT10 8PG. Club membership for life costs £10. In order to raise funds, the group is also selling A4 (12"x8") colour prints of a spectacular photograph of Concorde flown by Captain Jock Lowe with a Battle of Britain Spitfire over the White Cliffs of Dover. For more details on how to join, or to order the print or other merchandise, visit the website: www.clubconcorde.co.uk

***
 

Concorde - the facts

  • Concorde carries 100 passengers, 40 in the front, 60 in the rear, sitting in rows of two either side.

  • The internal width of Concorde is just 9ft.

  • Concorde takes off at 250mph and lands at 185mph.

  • Concorde is 202ft long, but stretches 10" at MACH 2. MACH 2 is 1,360mph at 55,000ft.

  • At MACH 2, the outside temperature is -65 degrees centigrade, whereas the temperature at the tip of Concorde's nose-cone is +127 degrees centigrade

  • There were 20 Concordes in all of which 14 flew commercially - seven were owned by British Airways and seven by the French.

  • Brian Trubshaw flew the very British prototype, 002, in April 1969 from Filton in Bristol.

  • The group's most famous Concorde captain is the legendary Jock Lowe, who has a PhD in chemical engineering from Birmingham University.

  • The last ever flight of Concorde was 'Alpha Fox', which landed at Filton on November 26, 2003, a very sad day but watch this space!


***

World's only public Concorde flight simulator at Brooklands, Weybridge

More from Surrey Life

Yesterday, 16:06

Education expert Dr Ryan Hinchey, Coordinator of College Counselling at ACS International School, with campuses in Cobham, Egham and Hillingdon, answers your questions

Read more
Yesterday, 11:34

Surrounded by reservoirs and located on the banks of the famous river from which it takes its name, Staines-upon-Thames (as it is now called) is a town working to reshape its future and celebrate its picturesque riverside setting

Read more
Mon, 16:30

She may have recently moved to the seaside, but Surrey still holds a uniquely “precious” place in the heart of legendary children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson – not to mention the crucial role the county played in bringing everyone’s favourite and newly-returning feisty foster-kid to life

Read more
Mon, 11:59

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (23, 24 and 25 November): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

Surrey is full of secret hideaways and hidden gems. Slades Farm on the Wintershall Estate is definitely one of them

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The new hotel is set to open in spring 2019 and will be located in the heart of the vineyard, offering sweeping views over the North Downs Way.

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

From Santa’s Grottos, to Victorian Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Surrey this season

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Having bloomed in Brighton’s restaurant scene over the past decade, The Chilli Pickle opened its second site in Guildford this summer

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Historic Royal Palaces and IMG have announced that Kylie Minogue is the first headliner confirmed for Hampton Court Palace Festival 2019. These will be her only London shows of summer 2019. Here’s how you can get tickets

Read more
Monday, November 12, 2018

Enjoy this linear rail to ramble section of the Thames Down Link route taking the short train-ride from Box Hill & Westhumble to Ashtead before walking back

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s that time of year when our beautiful countryside is alight with the colours of autumn. Here, we pick out some of her favourite spots to enjoy the seasonal splendour – as well as some perfect places for a post-walk refresher

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Found on the stretch of the River Thames between Weybridge and East Molesey, Sunbury-on-Thames is blessed with a village feel where it meets the water. From antique hunts to the joys of river life, here are a few of our favourite reasons to visit

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

Verity & Violet are Loui and Jess – a singing duo from Surrey who specialise in blending vintage classics with modern favourites. The two have achieved success in the capital, but are now hoping to attract an audience closer to home

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search