Manchester Airport Runway Park was our destination on an icy winter afternoon with tickets booked for a tour of Concorde. Son had heard of the supersonic beauty but that was about it. Husband and I remembered this special aircraft in her heyday and never imagined one day we’d step on board – albeit not taking off. I remember once, years and years ago, sitting in a queue for take-off at Heathrow when the noise level increased dramatically and we realised we were about to see Concorde rise into the skies. Well impressed then, sad now we will never see that again, so this tour of the aircraft inside and out has to be the next best thing.
It is hugely popular, advance booking is essential, we followed the advice and arrived in good time for our tour slot. Everything kicked off with a video about Concorde and all the facts and figures. There were about sixteen people of various ages on our tour, all very different and all proof that this is not just for aircraft aficionados. A brief talk by our tour guide then we headed into the huge hangar to get up close and personal with the star of the show.
I felt a real sense of anticipation and excitement when I saw Concorde – she is a stunner, no doubt about that and it really was special to be climbing the steps to go on-board.
We took a seat and listened while the guide told us more about the aircraft. I was instantly struck by how narrow things are inside – pretty obvious I suppose when you think about it, but the lack of space is striking. Just two, fairly small, seats either side and a very snug aisle, all intentional and to do with speed, they made everything as narrow as was absolutely possible while still maintaining comfort. The legroom with each seat was pretty good though, Son was fascinated by the tiny windows.
The bathrooms were nothing special either, but on board Concorde it was all about the service and that was what made this experience so special. Passengers were served the finest food accompanied by the finest champagne. The return fare to New York in 2003 when Concorde went out of service was £7,000. Business men loved it, they could easily travel from London to New York and back again all in one day.
I would have loved it too, not least because the journey time was always three hours and twenty minutes, weather was never a factor and there was never EVER any turbulence – my idea of heaven. Head or tail winds didn’t feature as the plane flew so high above all of that – it doesn’t get better than that for me. The aircraft once went back and forwards across the Atlantic four times in one day. They could only go into supersonic mode away from land, apparently the pilots knew the exact point in the Bristol Channel and it was then the aircraft soared. The numbers flashed on a screen at the front and the passengers knew they were flying supersonic.
After our talk we were taken into the cockpit in groups of four or less. Again such a narrow space, so many buttons and levers it was mind blowing. Son took the captain’s seat while I sat in the trainee pilot’s chair. Apparently this was the Queen Mother’s seat of choice when she used Concorde.
Son got to push up the throttle and we listened enthralled as the guide told us how the aircraft expanded in flight. He showed us a photo of the captain’s hat fitting into a gap that Son could barely squeeze his little finger into.
Our tour continued outside the plane. Lots of technical stuff about the engine and wheels which Husband found fascinating. I just enjoyed the sleek beauty and wonderful lines of the aircraft as we walked around and underneath before receiving our certificates to say we had been on board.
Coffee in the cafe next door to warm up – that hangar was super cold, then we had a look around the Airport Runway Park. Surprisingly busy they have a number of other old aircraft you can climb on board and explore, this particular one with seats facing backwards and forwards over a table was our favourite.
Three raised viewing mounds gave a clear view over the airfield – an unbeatable place to watch planes take off and land and a popular spot. We were amazed how many people were crowded there with cameras and recording equipment – the place to come if you are into planes for sure.