40th Anniversary of the first Concorde Test Flight

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Concorde's 40th Anniversary
9th April 2009

John Allan's story

Observers on first Concorde flightJohn Allan 'Obs 1' (pictured nearest us) shares his story...."The days before first flight had been somewhat subdued. Having completed a lengthy ground running schedule to check all the systems functioning and the engine behaviour at static ambient conditions, the subsequent low- and high-speed taxiing tests were hindered by a failure flag appearing on the Captains airspeed indicator at around 100 knots. The technical investigation found the instrument serviceable but the signalling threshold too sensitive. This resulted in an adjustment to the signalling circuit, which affected all airspeed indicators and therefore required official paperwork sanction, with the inevitable delay.

Flying the Concorde from Filton was not as straightforward as one might expect. The full runway length was needed and this required the aircraft to position well back on runway 27 which was close to the A38 main road, so for safety reasons the road was closed to pedestrians and vehicles, with a traffic light system when we operated, to prevent everyone being blasted by the strong jet efflux.

As the weather on the 9th was good, but with an approaching warm front, when we assembled for briefing it had been agreed by Brian Trubshaw that if the warning flag did not appear then we would continue the take-off. Everyone was prepared for that to happen.

We were all dressed in the low altitude flight safety equipment which included regulation Mk 3 helmet, visor and oxygen mask, life jacket, flying overalls, boots and gloves. The parachute, the dinghy packs and oxygen supply were seat mounted which required the occupant to manually connect to the services.

The three Flight Test Observers sat in the forward cabin, facing starboard, at the array of standard and test instruments, mounted on a massive 15ft panel with writing desk. This enabled the occupants to record visual numbers and test sequences against ships time-base on handwritten sheets that were distributed to the technical offices for subsequent detailed analysis of recorded data.

Obs 1 John Allan had operation of the in-flight flying control forced excitation equipment, for flutter tests, as well as analogue recordings of control movement, and was able to monitor the basic flight conditions, structural temperatures and strains, and also the fuel distribution status.

Obs 2 Pete Holding ran the instrumentation recording equipment and was able to monitor hydraulics, electrics, constant speed drives, air conditioning, pressurisation, fuel temperatures pressures, airframe de-icing and engine air bleed control.

Obs 3 Mike Addley was dedicated to monitor engine starter, air intake, engine low and high pressure compressor rpm's, JPT's, secondary nozzle, reheat and reverser operation and fire detection system. He also had an oscilloscope to identify unwanted engine vibration sources.

In the early afternoon the crew-bus took us to the aircraft and by now expectation was running high. Here we are, on the threshold of one of the most exciting civil aircraft development programmes in the world, and a successful first flight would signal to the British people that our involvement had started.

Settled in our seats all safety services connected we start our check lists and this absorbing occupation takes over an hour. Then engine start, everything comes on line and we are checking satisfactory instrumentation functioning on ships power in conjunction with flight deck further checks up to ground power disconnect and ground crew chief giving us thumbs up.

Cleared to taxi, runway 27.

By now all road traffic has stopped on A38 and the crowds gathering rapidly, not that we can see, as all cabin windows are obscured, but someone on flight deck makes mention.

Once more that exciting movement and aircraft response from taxiway disturbances, that are not yet familiar, all eyes scanning and instrumentation running, the adrenalin now kicks in, but we stay quiet and hope for a satisfactory airspeed indicator.

Brakes on - everything looks good - cleared to open up to full power, short heat soak, then re-heat select. - no. number 2, try again -that's OK-- rpm's, T's and P's OK -- let's go.

A rapid acceleration-- 80kts call-- and now above 100kt with no fail - we are on the way -- V1 -- Vr -- and we fairly leap into the air, being lightweight, Wow ! No gear retract on this flight, nose stays at 5 degrees, quite a lot of vibration and noise from the nose position but OK. A deal of air traffic chat, we all comment on the situation so far, keep scanning the panel and no snags yet.
Up to our planned altitude, 230kt and we look at general aircraft handling and gentle engine response. All systems appear to be working OK, all indicators functioning, all recorders running and plenty of writing taking place. Still a lot from air traffic and where has the time gone, we are positioning for Fairford and landing.

Turning to finals, everything looks good, the chase Canberra is still alongside. Bother! or something like that, says Trub, the Radio Altimeters have failed, need these for talk down to landing flare. However steady on the glide path and over the threshold, check and a firm but good landing, reverse OK, brakes good and nose wheel steering. General relaxing as the checklist for shutdown is started having taxied to the South side of runway.

The main cabin door eventually opens and crew chief appears. We all struggle out of our confined seats and dispense with hard-hats etc., Trub, John Cochran and Brian Watts are down the steps followed by us.

WHAT A WELCOME!! Company Directors, Government officials, local dignitaries, cheering crowds, huge media activity and our lives are transformed".

‹-- read Peter Holding's story
‹-- read Mike Addley's story

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