Nostalgia by Robert Heaven

FOR an iconic aircraft built to cross the Atlantic, it was a mere hop, skip and a jump of a journey.

But the 22-minute flight between Filton in Bristol and RAF Fairford 50 years ago was one of the most important in aviation history.

Next month will see the golden anniversary of the inaugural flight of the first UK-built Concorde.

On April 9, 1969, pilots Brian Trubshaw and John Cochrane took their precious piece of British engineering on a journey that saw the plane head towards Wantage before coming in to land.

Fairford was chosen for its long runway and remained the British test centre for the Concorde aircraft until 1977.

Aircraft engineer Robert Heaven recalls: “It was hard to ignore Concorde in our area. The frequent test flights shook the doors and windows and the sound of it was unmistakable. I don’t think it ever flew supersonic over Ciren but I do remember it was very noisy nonetheless.”

Many of the engineers who worked on the Concorde project at Filton – including Robert – were trained at what was then RAF Kemble on the Wiltshire-Gloucestershire border.

Mr Heaven added: “I caught up with a few of my old apprentice mates recently and discovered that now places like RAF Kemble are no longer there to employ specialist aircraft engineers, they now commute to Heathrow to work.”

The flight across the west came a few weeks after a similar test in France, and Mr Trubshaw described his first British journey in Concorde 002 as one of the highlights of his career.

Mr Heaven said that most people in Gloucestershire at the time could only dream of flying as a passenger on Concorde.

“It became much easier to get to airports when the M5 was extended southwards through Gloucestershire from 1967 to 1977 and the M4 in the early 70s. Bristol airport or Lulsgate as it was called back in the 60s became a straightforward drive, and while a ticket on the Concorde might have been beyond the reach of most people’s pockets, a flight from Bristol was well within the budget for many Ciren people. In 1965 for example, Clarksons Holidays destinations included Spain, Portugal, Italy, Yugoslavia and Greece and it was possible to have full board in Palma in Majorca. including flights for 14 nights for £50.”