From a Supersonic Dream to a Nightmare for many!
Concorde G-BOAA, which was known as “Alpha Alpha” first flew in 1975. Its last commercial flight was the BA002 service from New York JFK to London Heathrow on the 12th August 2000. She was due to have an Inter 4 (C Check), so she never received the Modifications required by the CAA following the post Paris accident. These modifications would have allowed her to be returned to ’fight status’. British Airways decided to use her for spare parts to support the rest of their service fleet during this time. Spare parts were a big issue with Concorde and BA had used G-BBDG at Filton, as a source of spare parts for years.
The next series of pictures show the condition of the aircraft while being used by British Airways as a source of spare parts for the fleet, they were taken during June 2003. This was truly a supersonic nightmare for this beautiful aircraft!
In 2004, in my view, the second worse act of Concorde’s retirement took place with this airframe. It can only be called nothing more than a crude act in full view of the watching British public, and clearly a statement from British Airways that Concorde was dead and finished. She could not fly to her museum in Scotland, unlike the other five Concordes that left Heathrow, so she had to be dismantled at Heathrow and re-assembled at her final museum in Scotland, therefore having been moved by road and sea. But the method used seemed to be so crude to all of us watching this sad event
There have been many comments made concern this move, but one point that is too often forgotten, is that the only other way that Alpha Alpha could of left Heathrow was as scrap, and we have already seen this even worse act happen to an Air France Concorde. So let us all be glad that this fate did not fall to Alpha Alpha. The other comments concern the way in which her wings were removed. Many, including myself, were very upset that the wings seemed to be just cut off in such a crude way, and they state that they were upset that they were not removed at the manufactures joints, and therefore the aircraft has been destroyed forever. The fact that we have to remember, myself included in this matter, is that Concorde does not have any manufactures joints between the wing and fuselage. The only manufacturing joints in the wings are those connecting the outer wing sections to the centre wing, just outside the nacelles. Even after taking off the outer wing sections, you are still faced with an ‘outsize load’ that is 14.5m (almost 50 ft) wide, far too big for the narrow roads leading from LHR to the Thames. (For further reading concerning this go to this link)
Air Salvage International, under the direction of British Airways, used a six-man-strong team of engineers to cut the wings off Alpha Alpha, yes it seemed to be carried out in a crude way, and it hurt all Concorde fans around the world, me included; in fact the scars remain to this day on the re-assembled airframe in Scotland, if you know where to look you can see them.
One important fact I must state, is that ASI carried out a very careful study and the actual location of the cut was decided very carefully from the structural drawings (even Concorde engineers got involved in this one). The cut itself was very narrow (about half an inch).
But the feelings ran strong, some had tears in their eyes, but I really feel the words of Katie John of the “Save Concorde Group” sum up this better than any other that I have heard so far….. “From Dream to nightmare – this is my response to what was done to Alpha Alpha. It took me two years to get around to painting this. I had been so shocked by the way Alpha’s wings had been sheared off, and by seeing her mutilated body paraded through the centre of London. (It reminded me of that bit in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where Lucy finds Aslan tied to the sacrificial slab, with his mane shorn away.)”
Alpha Alpha’s, wings were sawn off and her nose and tail removed, she was loaded onto the lorry that was to take her to the River Thames and the waiting barge.
During February 2004 work was well under way on a nine-week task of dismantling and packaging Concorde G-BOAA in a hangar at Heathrow, from where it was planned that she would begin her final journey to the Museum of Flight in East Lothian on April 4th. Her wings and tail were removed and she was loaded onto a massive truck which took her to the River Thames, where she was shipped along the Thames and out to sea and transported to Torness. The operation cost several hundreds of thousands of pounds to complete.
The task of moving this Concorde was massive; The Company used to move her was “Abnormal Load Engineering Limited”. The transportation specialists, engineers, museum staff, police, councils and the army were all used to assist in transporting the plane. The safety of the public was of prime concern; detailed assessments of various route options had been undertaken and liaising with appropriate authorities throughout the UK on the exact detail of the final programme.
The aircraft fuselage had been stripped with its 1990’s 100 classic grey seats wrapped in polythene at the hangar; they were shipped by road and re-fitted in the airframe in the hanger in Scotland. The Scottish Executive granted NMS £2 million for the cost of transporting Concorde and its reassembly.
It was taken by road along the A30 and A4 on the Saturday night from Heathrow to Isleworth, where it was loaded onto a special 2,000-tonne barge at the PLS’s slipway near the London Apprentice public house, Church Street for the journey to Scotland. Thousands came to line the Thames to watch Concorde’s last appearance in London. Its departure down the Thames and up Britain’s east coast had been delayed owing to tides until 12 April 2004, a spokesman for Robert Wynn and Sons Ltd, which owns the barge Terra Marique, stated on the Sunday that Concorde had been loaded successfully. But he said it had been decided to delay the journey to Scotland following discussions with the Port of London Authority about changing tides on the Thames.
Alpha Alpha spent five or six days on the North Sea, then was carried ashore at Torness, by the nuclear power plant. She was put on another transporter and pulled across the fields to East Fortune. The army had to lay a special track for her. Several trees at the edge of the airfield were pulled down to get her in; they are only now re-growing. There is more information on the Museum of Flight’s website: http://www.nms.ac.uk/our_collections/collection_highlights/concorde.aspx
Alpha Alpha has today been reassembled and looks beautiful, East Fortune has a very nice, well-done exhibition right next to the aircraft. The museum do a super job looking after her, but she could never fly again due to the nature of her dismantling at Heathrow and her re-assembly in Scotland
There have also been comments made stating that her wings couldn’t even support the weight of the engines now. This is I’m afraid also untrue, the static safety margins used by ASI to calculate the technique used for the re-assembly were considerably higher than those of the airframe structure itself.
Obviously they were calculated for the static case… not for in-flight stresses.You could put the engines back at any time, if you really wanted to. But unless you intended to display the aircraft with one of the engine bays open to show the engine in place, it would obviously be a total waste, since the engines are invisible from the outside. I would have to check, but I think one of the engines is on display separately at East Fortune.