Aviation enthusiast, author and publisher Jonathan Falconer talks about his passion for all things aviation – especially his short but intimate relationship with Concorde
My passion for all things aviation goes back to early childhood, but my interest in airliners accelerated past V1 and hit Vr when my job took me to south-west London in the mid-1980s. I lived a few miles south of London-Heathrow airport where apart from the regular low overflights from BA 747s and 757s, I was treated to the sight of relatively rare birds like Anglo Cargo 707 freighters, turboprop Ilyushin 18s of Tarom and Ghana Airways’ dazzling DC-10s. But the most magical sight of all was seeing Concorde take off at night with full reheat engaged. It was like watching four blazing blue gas rings rising up into the bluey blackness.
Thanks to a dear friend who was a senior Concorde captain with BA, one freezing cold morning in January 1989 I was invited to join him at the airline’s Hatton Cross engineering facility to look around Concorde G-BOAD, which was in for a Major check. Inside the hangar, we found Delta sitting there buck naked, stripped of all her paint and fittings, her four Olympus turbojets had been removed and her luxury cabin interior gutted.
After an hour or so of being shown around and introduced to various technicians and supervisors, I was let loose with my camera to photograph pretty much whatever I wanted. ‘Just don’t go falling off or into anything.’ To say I was as happy as a pig in fertiliser didn’t come close. It was mid-afternoon before I’d gorged myself stupid on Concorde and run out of film. I’d experienced Delta from every conceivable position – inside, outside, over the wings, under the wings, looking down from the top of the tailfin.
Apart from the fact that Concorde is no longer in service, this kind of hands-off access to photograph a real live aircraft could never happen today. It belongs to a not-so bygone era before 9/11 when if you were a genuine enthusiast (and with the right contacts) you’d be trusted to behave yourself, not break anything, and say thank you when you’d finished. How I miss those days.