CONCORDE SST

10th Anniversary Formation Flight
24th December 1985

All pictures by Adrian Meredith, unless otherwise stated

www.concordephotos.com

In 1986 Concorde celebrated 10 years in commercial service, and had accumulated 71,000 supersonic flying hours.

To celebrate those 10 years of services, BA attempted something never done before. They decided that there could be no better way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Concorde than to fly four aircraft in formation for a very special birthday photo.

Days of detailed planning went into the project that would see 4 Concorde in the new BA Landor livery flying together over the south coast of the UK.

Concorde schedules were scoured to find a date when 4 of the fleet in the new livery would be available, although the dates were hard to come by. Three dates were found and the teams of engineers set to work to ensure that the 4 chosen aircraft would be serviceable and not have to be withdrawn at the last moment.

BA’s Senior Concorde crews were chosen to fly the aircraft for the event:

 
G-BOAA (leader)
G-BOAC
  • Captain Brain Walpole
  • First Officer Dave Rowland
  • Engineering Officer Ian Smith
  • Captain John Eames
  • First Officer Peter Horton
  • Engineering Officer Roger Bricknell
G-BOAF
G-BOAG
  • Captain John Cook
  • First Officer Jock Lowe
  • Engineering Officer Bill Brown
  • Captain David Leney
  • First Officer John White
  • Engineering Officer Dave MacDonald

Each crew was given a special task to look after. Captain Brian Walpole, general manager of the Concorde Division, flew as leader and also decided on what formations would be flown, as well as overseeing the planning for the event. Captain David Leany took charge of the detailed flight planning, that included working with air traffic control. The other planning work was undertaken by Captain Jock Lowe and Engineering Officer Dave McDonald.

As well as the flight deck crews, the airline felt it was important to share the moment with as many of their staff as possible, so each aircraft would carry 65 passengers during the 1 hr subsonic formation flight. The tickets were distributed to the staff by their heads of department who each had an allocation.

The formation flight was scheduled initially for November 1985, but due to technical limitations and very bad weather it was postponed until Christmas Eve when there would be better aircraft availability, due to fewer services being flown.
Concorde G-BOAA, G-BOAB, G-BOAF, and G-BOAG, line up outside Tech Block K. Note a 5th in the engine test run area.(Ken Pettit)
The unmistakeable line-up of Concorde noses.(Ken Pettit)

After weeks of detailed flight planning and briefings, the morning of the momentous day arrived, and the crews with the expectant passengers in tow were met with a very rare sight, with all four aircraft, G-BOAA, G-BOAB, G-BOAF and G-BOAG parked up side by side, ready and waiting to make history.

Each of the aircraft was pushed back off it stand and its engines started before the police closed off the road crossing so all 4 could taxi across to the main airport apron.
The on-lookers cover their ears as the aircraft taxi out.(Ken Pettit)
Taxing to the departure runway

The convoy of 4 Concordes, led by a Lear jet that would capture the event on film and video, departed from the ramp outside Tech Block K. Each aircraft lined up on Heathrow’s runway 28R (now 27R) and within 10 minutes all 5 were in the air, heading for the rendezvous point 15,000ft above Lyneham in Wiltshire.
High above the English countryside the 4 aircraft closed up into their first formation, the Diamond, with Alpha-Alpha leading and Alpha-Golf bringing up the rear. Another one of the pictures taken at this time was subsequently computer-enhanced, for the new livery, in the late 1990's
As they headed towards Land's End they formed into their 2nd formation: a Concorde "swan like" outline, built with 4 Concordes.
The final formation called for the aircraft to line up for the set of famous pictures that we still see used today, with the new Concorde liveries airbrushed on and the colours levels adjusted!

To this day the captains still argue who’s fault it was that the line-up is not perfect, although the imperfection helps to prove that the picture was real and not a mock up. The captain in G-BOAB will tell you he was formatting on the leader while the other 2 were too far ahead, while the captains of Alpha-Foxtrot and Alpha-Golf will tell you they were formatting on the leader and it was Alpha-Bravo that was falling behind!

Two days later, 6 of the aircraft were lined up on the ramp of the engineering base for a unique shot of 6 aircraft together (the 7th was in the paint shop being put into the new livery).

This was the most Concorde ever photographed together until late 2000, when all 7 were brought together for the first and only time, before work got under way on the return-to-flight modifications.

Brian Walpole famously told the photographer that as the weather was bad:
"if he had to crash, please don't crash on the Concordes as you will wipe out nearly my entire fleet!"

 

Copies of the original air-to-air photographs can be obtained from

www.concordephotos.com