The last of the Concordes to fly!
The.She was the last of the Concordes to be built, and the last aircraft to be built at Filton, the oldest aircraft factory in the world. Concorde 216 was really the last aeroplane built by the famous old Bristol Aircraft Company, even the famous Olympus 593 engines, the powerhouse of Concorde were Bristol engines, built and developed by the old company until the take over by Rolls-Royce.
Concorde 216 made the final fight of all the Concordes and closed the chapter on supersonic passenger travel, when she lifted off the Heathrow runway for the final time and flew back to Filton, on November 26th 2003, a day that ended the Concorde dream for all the many fans around the world.
Concorde G-BOAF, which is known as Alpha Foxtrot, or just simply as ‘Foxy’ was relocated to Filton to serve as a lasting testimony to the engineers, designers and everyone who helped develop and build Concorde, it was to rightful place to locate this amazing aircraft. The plan was to place her on public display and have her undercover within three years, sadly this hasn’t happened but all is far from being sad as there are great plans now in place for her.
“Concorde at Filton” was amazing place to visit; every tour was a true technical tour, conducted by a wonderful team, some of which worked on Concorde as designers, engineers and technicians, their stories and knowledge were second to none, but behind the scenes there were problems at Filton.
The worse event was when a visitor to “Concorde at Filton” sadly fell to his death, at that point understandably everything changed at the exhibit, two members of the management were held in a Police cell over night, with the possibility of being charged with man-slaughter, and then following that the attitude of Airbus seemed to change towards the exhibit. Some even went as far as stating that Airbus had become tired of Concorde and would have done anything to see this one removed from their site, but this is only hearsay and their later preservation works carried out to the aircraft seem to show that this Concorde has the backing of Airbus in the UK.
Following the sad accident, both Airbus and BAC were fined, with Airbus taking the biggest hit and blame. At that point again understandably, Airbus Health and Safety started putting more and more pressure on the “Concorde at Filton” team, The volunteers could no longer open hatches on the underside, which they did to allow airflow to circulate, the main landing gear water deflectors to be removed, as someone might hurt their leg if they went too close. Also they stopped certain maintenance tasks from being carried, after hearing some of the things that were banned; it seemed like more of a case of H&S going silly and over the top. The team were also banned from using any steps to reach panels on the under side of the airframe, or walking on the wing, you have to remember that the team needed to carry out these tasks to carry out general maintenance and care of the aircraft, all of these tasks are conducted at other Concorde museums.
There were a few other problems, but only minor ones, as followers…
There were reports in the press that she suffered a problem with rust on one on her wing outer edges. The truth was that she had an in-service repair carried out by British Airways engineers before the end of Concorde services life. After being grounded at Filton, they used a jet wash to clean her, the filler that BA had used came out, it was simply just repaired, and was only about the size of a small UK 10 pence coin. So this had nothing to do with the way she has been looked after at since her arrival at Filton, she arrived there in this condition. But as always the press jumped before it could walk, basically before it has the true facts.
The biggest shock of all came during 2010 when Airbus in the UK announced that it was closing down the tours and that Concorde would be removed from public display. At that point the stories went wild, and the situation became nasty, all sorts of claims were made, in public, in the press and on television.
The Steve de Sausmarez of Heritage Concorde organized a Public meeting at Filton leisure centre, attended by the local MP, even the local council held a discussion regarding the matter. I spoke to the British Airways CEO who assured me that it was being removed from public display as it required a great deal of maintenance (due to it being outside for seven years) and therefore had to be placed inside one of the hangers at Filton over the winter months, but would return to public display once the work was completed, but no date could be given at this time, this being the Airbus line at the time. Of course after all the fighting, “Concorde at Filton” was closed down.
Then Airbus made the statement that Concorde 216 would not return to public display in its present location, something that was always believed would be the case anyway. There were so many conflicts between Airbus and “Concorde at Filton”, that it was seen by many as a way to remove this thorn in their side, we will never know the true reasons for the closure, but you have to remember the museum at Filton was losing money and I guess that was the main reason.
Following the restoration of the aircraft, Airbus, while at all times in consultation with BA, the aircrafts owners regarding the works, then sealed the fuselage to prevent any further water ingress. This work both showed the commitment of Airbus and the Concorde Trust to the aircrafts future in Bristol.
After many years of working in partnership with the Bristol Aero Collection, The Concorde Trust transferred it assets and undertakings to the fellow charity in May 2012. All directors of The Concorde Trust became trustees of the merged charity and, later in the year, the name was changed to the Bristol Aero Collection Trust (BAC Trust).
In December 2012 a site on Filton Airfield was formally pledged to BAC Trust by landowners, BAE Systems for the creation of the Bristol Aerospace Centre. The site includes two First World War, Grade II listed hangars which, it is planned, will be refurbished to provide a first class aviation heritage museum, catering and retail facilities, community and learning spaces, archive, workshops and stores. A new building of c.3,200m2 footprint will offer a permanent home for Concorde, related exhibitions, technology centre and corporate facilities.
Bristol Aerospace Centre will conserve and display the region’s rich aviation heritage, telling the stories of the great technological advances, including Concorde, and the role of the community and workforce. It will help people learn about and participate in this heritage, and promote learning amongst the next generation of designers, innovators and engineers.
So all looks good with regard to this Concorde over the next few years!