G-BOAE - Last flight from Heathrow 17 Nov 2003
Monday 17 Nov 2003 was a cold and very very wet winter's day, it was G-BOAE’s last ever flight from Heathrow.
She was scheduled to leave Heathrow Airport in the afternoon at around midday-ish pm and was destined to fly to the sun kissed Caribbean island of Barbados.
Flight number - BA9095C
• Captain ................................ Captain Mike Bannister
• Co-pilot ............................... Captain Les Brodie
• Engineering Flight Officer ..... Robert Woodcock
• Engineering Flight Officer ..... Warren Hazelby
Robert Woodcock was also the Engineering Flight officer on my Concorde flight.
I got to Heathrow at around 11-ish-am, I worked out she was going to take off on the south runway (the runway next to Terminal 4 and Hatton Cross tube station) and she would leave the ground on the 09R (West side of the south runway)……So I headed towards the Esso petrol station (located next to the end of the runway) to see her from there, after 45 mins of walking to the petrol station I was very wet and cold but the chance to see her last flight was to stronger magnet to let the cold wet weather stop me.
When I got to the petrol station I met a few old Concorde friends who said they where going to drive and park on a public foot path directly opposite 09R and directly under her flight path and gave me lift.
When we got there the foot path was packed full of other Concorde chasers as far as the eye could see…..it was unbelievable that on this cold wet November day so many people where there to see Concorde take off and while we stood there yet more cars where pulling up and parking on or near the foot path.
At around 11.40am one of my friends checked his air band ATC radio and found out there was a delay in her take off, she would not be taking off at 12-ish pm and she may not be using 09R.
Unknown to us the delay to G-BOAE was caused due to problems with one of the main wheels…..Before Concorde was allowed to move her pilots asked Concorde engineers to change one of the main wheels.
This caused the delay (as changing one of the main wheels was a real pain in the backside job and it took ages to do), but once one of the main wheels was changed and the pilots where happy with it G-BOAE was allowed to have passengers board her before she departed for the last time.
For her last flight she was not destined to use her home outside Terminal 4’s Concorde lounge, instead she was told to use Terminal 1 so was towed to terminal 1 and was made ready for the long flight to her new home.
At Terminal 1 one of my friends + 74 others boarded G-BOAE, 20 mins later she was pushed back from Terminal 1 for her last and final departure from Heathrow.
At 12.23pm she slowly started to taxii from Terminal 1 to east side of the North runway 27R, when she got near there, she saw que of other planes waiting to use the north runway so G-BOAE waited in the que ready for Air Traffic Control to give her permission to take off..
Outside Heathrow we had no idea what was going on…..at around 12.30pm one of my friends checked G-BOAE’s status and found out she had switched runways and was now taxiing to the north runway to take off over on the 09L (West) side of the north runway but we didn’t know why she'd switched runways…..we heard roomers British Airways big bosses wanted to see her take off from that runway (as it was easier for them to walk there from their offices) but no one knew the real reason for the switch.
We didn’t know what time she’d take off, all we knew was that she had suddenly switched runways and she could take off at any time soon……We where all in a sudden and extremely urgent urgent panic as we where in the wrong place at the wrong time…….We had to get to the right place at the right time as quickly as we could……We could see a few others had found out the same thing and where getting in their cars and driving quickly to 09L.
We all got in my friend’s car as fast as we could and raced to 09L. (This was great fun and this why we called our self Concorde chasers as we chased Concorde, in 2003 this was the 5th time we’d chased Concorde like this.)
When we got to 09L all the best parking spots had been taken, the public foot paths and road at the end of the north runway was full of hundreds of people see -
(Above are photos of the scene taken by a friend)
They where standing there waitng for G-BOAE, so we had to park 5 mins walk from the runway.
We all got out and tried to find a good place to stand to see her, I wanted to stand on the public foot path out side runway 09L as I thought I’d get good pictures…… at first we couldn’t see a public entrance and I felt very sad then I found one and thought yippee I followed a few others thought it but this turned out to be a huge huge mistake as afterwards I realised it was the worst place to take pictures of her in this very wet type of weather.
It would have been better to stand to the side of the runway to get a side or rear view but at the time I didn’t have time to think and I chose the end of 09L’s runway.
On my way to 09L I saw loads of photographers with high spec SLR camera’s similar to mine, some had huge 500-800mm zoom lenses bolted on their camera’s (which where much bigger than mine) I thought how can they hand hold such heavy lenses they must have arms as strong as Rambo as those lenses weighed a great deal.