Farnborough Air Show

Brooklands Museum Brings The Concorde Back to Life

 - July 11, 2012, 3:30 PM

Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, a few short miles from Farnborough not only has a Concorde (G-BBDG) but it has also reassembled and refurbished the simulator that British Airways used to train pilots on the iconic supersonic aircraft. AIN went to find more about the “Brooklands Concorde Experience” before the show.

The Experience starts with a tour (including fascinating exhibition and simulated flight in the cabin) on “Delta Golf”–the Concorde that so many contributed to rebuilding after it had been broken up and transported from its former home at Filton.

Housed in the former acoustic chamber where many of the Concorde’s structural components (including control surfaces) were tested for their resonance (response to vibration) characteristics, the simulator is in close proximity to Delta Golf and provides a more than apt second part to the experience–where you actually get to take the controls of the aircraft.

AIN flew a couple of circuits around Hong Kong, landing the famous “checkerboard” approach at the city’s former airport, Kai Tak. Assisting with the flying was Ian Smith, who was a Concorde flight engineer with British Airways for 20 years and proved an excellent guide to the controls and instruments.

It seemed to make little difference that the simulator is no longer on its hydraulic jacks; it is fixed-base, but you still feel as if you are in motion. The Concorde is surprisingly responsive and clearly very powerful–pilots say that the simulator is very realistic.

Gordon Corps, deputy chief test pilot at the UK CAA, once said: “It is by far the nicest aeroplane in the world to fly; I fly all types and the Concorde just spoils you for flying anything else.” I can see where he was coming from. The designers did the impossible, creating an aircraft that could fly at twice the speed of sound while passengers hardly noticed getting there, while sipping champagne and viewing the curve of the Earth; while at the same time being able to have virtually no vices at low speeds–as this author saw in bringing her around into Hong Kong’s Kai Tak.

During final approach, aircraft rotates to 11.5 degrees, which is why the undercarriage is so long and there is a mini wheel bogie at the back. The undercarriage is shortened using mechanical links before stowage.

What the Concorde could do that no other aircraft has matched was sustain Mach 2 supersonic cruise without afterburner for two hours. It is impossible to describe the advance that was the Concorde without mentioning the engines and intakes. It had ramps to form shockwaves to slow the airflow to Mach 0.5, which is what the engines needed–and the afterburners that, on takeoff, boost each engine’s thrust by 6,000 pounds. Cleverly designed intake and exhaust (clamshells acting as both expansion chambers and thrust reversers on landing) generated half the thrust.

The Brooklands Concorde simulator is not available during the summer break, but slots are going fast right through to 2013. Delta Golf is available for tours, which take around half an hour and are well worthwhile. Captain Bannister, on a video, takes you to Mach 2 and it so well done it is not unknown for grown men to shed a tear.

G-BBDG first flew in 1974 and her final flight was in 1981, being aircraft 202, one of two production aircraft used for the certification, further development and on sales/demonstration campaigns. DG was the first production Concorde to land at Heathrow and the first to reach Mach 2 with 100 passengers on board.

Some more key dates:

•first meetings, BAC/Sud Aviation (France) in 1961; agreement reached in 1962…

•1969 saw the first flight of Concorde 001 from Toulouse on March 2, and on October 1 it made the first supersonic flight….

•on Nov. 4, 1970, the Concorde reaches Mach 2 for the first time…

•it is certified by the UK CAA on Dec. 5, 1975.

It never made money, but for £1 billion it was a stunning achievement– and it is a travesty that there was no replacement waiting in the wings (if you’ll pardon the pun!). Final flight: G-BOAF from Heathrow to Filton, on Nov. 26, 2003. The end of an era.