CONCORDE SST - MEMORIES

Peter Duffey - British Airways Concorde Captain 1975 - 1980

Concorde 2O2 G-BBDG stood gleaming in the morning sun outside the huts that served as accommodation for the test centre. My first session of landings was with test pilot Johnnie Walker, but apart from a high altitude supersonic session over the Bay of Biscay with Roy Radford, I was under the care of Eddie MacNamara. The test pilots were helpful, if a little diffident with our group. We were able to experience the effect of engine failure at Mach 2.O2 (i.e. more than twice the speed of sound) when spilled air from the intake caused an opposite reaction to that expected and also to handle the aircraft without auto-stabilization, demonstrating the excellent basic stability. The test pilots had discovered how easy it was to lose height when circling an airfield. The auto-throttles, set to control a specific airspeed, did an accurate job, but a small nose down pitch could result in descent without physical cue. We soon learned to be alert to this effect.

The droop nose provided excellent visibility when on final approach, and had an intermediate setting for takeoff. When raised after takeoff the wind noise reduced dramatically. At higher speed the visor was raised to fully streamline the nose profile and silence reigned. The prototype aircraft were fitted with a visor that obscured forward vision, but production Concordes had a fully transparent visor that gave us the ability to see ahead.

The achievement of a smooth landing, always a mark of confidence and satisfaction to a pilot was possible through a simple technique. The delta wing produced considerable ground effect, and as the runway approached this could be sensed as a cushioning feeling, provided that the descent rate was moderate. The pilot's eye height, similar to that in the 747, is about 35 feet above the runway at touchdown. With a steady approach speed over the last part of descent, the auto-throttles are disengaged at about 5O ft wheel height above the runway, and the power smoothly reduced at about 20 feet with the nose held steady in pitch to counteract nose-down trim forces. Any relaxation of back pressure on the controls allows the aircraft to land immediately, and with a bang. Care has to be taken to avoid over-rotating the nose, as a tail wheel strike can result, and if this is accompanied by a small bank angle this can mean contact with the runway by the thrust-reverser buckets as they are deployed after touchdown. The lack of side fuselage area, and the short wing span helps to produce very good cross-wind performance. The use of roll input into wind for take-off in strong cross-winds is avoided.

We soon became used to the high drag on approach at low speeds. Power had to be increased as we slowed. To reduce noise the initial approach was flown at higher speeds, if weather conditions allowed. A deceleration of about 30 knots between 800 and 500 feet above the runway helped to keep the decibels down. Despite fears to the contrary we found that handling with the autothrottles disengaged was simple, provided that speed was carefully controlled.

Taken from Peter's book - Comets and and Concordes

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