G-BOAF - Last flight of Concorde
Journey to Heathrow
Wednesday 26 Nov 2003 was a very cold and very wet winter's day……The night before it had been raining hard and the ground had puddles of rain water dotted around everywhere.
It was the day of G-BOAF’s last ever flight from Heathrow,….. it was also the last and final day Concorde would ever fly, after G-BOAF no other Concorde in the world would ever fly again.
G-BOAF was scheduled to leave Heathrow at around 11-ish am and was destined to fly to Filton (near Bristol)……After leaving Heathrow for one last time, she was scheduled to fly supersonic around the Bay of Biscay before heading back to England and to her new home in Filton.
Filton was chosen as it was the birth place of all British Concordes. British Airways wanted to give one to them as a thank you for all their hard work in making such a remarkable plane.
On 17 Nov 2003 after G-BOAE left Heathrow, my friends and I found out what day G-BOAF was leaving Heathrow…… A few of my Concorde friends (Sparky etc) had a whacky but wonderful idea where we would all watch Concorde take off from Heathrow and then while she was flying around the Bay of Biscay we would jump in the car, race down to Filton and see her land.
This was the craziest and most fun Concorde chasing idea we ever had and it was something we all really wanted to do….. But we were not sure if this could be done as Heathrow to Filton is a long way and unless you have clear roads and no speed cameras getting to Filton and seeing Concorde land would be a hit-or-miss thing, but we had this idea and we were all ready to go for it.
There where 3 main Concorde chasers
• People who felt it wouldn’t work and went to Filton to see her land
• People who stayed at Heathrow to see her take off
• People who wanted to see if they could
• See the take-off from Heathrow
• Race down to Filton
• See her land at Filton.
I wanted to be one of the third group as this would be have been huge fun but it wasn’t meant to be.
On 24 Nov 2003 a job agency called me and wanted me to work a night shift on the 26 Nov 2003, I told the job agency I couldn’t do it as I wanted to see Concorde’s last ever flight…… They were not happy with this but I couldn’t let Concorde down, I had to see her…… So I gave up one night’s work and one night’s pay as there was no way I was going to miss G-BOAFs last flight….. I knew if I did miss her I would regret this for the rest of my life….. I didn’t want to live with this guilt and regret, I wanted to be there and watch history in the making…………..
On 25 Nov 2003 I went to Romford and got the train ticket for 26 Nov then went to Jessops to buy 1 roll of Fuji 36 exposure ASA/800 film + a fresh set of 8 AA alkaline batteries to power the camera……I wanted the higher speed film as this was the last and final flight……Even if weather conditions got very bad with this film I could still use high shutter speeds to freeze the action and get the 1 or 2 magic pictures.
Proper ASA/800 film was also less “grainy“ than uprating an ASA/400 film to an ASA/800 film so it was a win, win situation……That single film cost me as much as the train ticket to Heathrow in the rush hour but I felt I had to get it to record the final flight.
On 26 Nov 2003 I got up early, made sure I had a further 3 extra reels of Truprint ASA/400 film, in case I needed to get some extra photos then got myself and the camera ready and left home to see Concorde’s last ever flight.
Although the 24 Oct 2003 was Concorde’s last “official“ day, today 26 Nov 2003 was her last “real“ day and her last flight into history.
Unlike all the other Concorde flights, I knew today this was the big one, this was it. After this Concorde there was no “one more Concorde“ flight, there was no 2nd chance, this was her last and final day and I had to see her…… I knew I would be very upset by it all, but I tried to put this to the back of mind and wanted to see her last take-off and there was no way on earth I was going to miss this one…… no way…..
I got to Heathrow at around 10.30am, found out she was going to take off on the North runway, heading towards Windsor……After the bad experience of G-BOAE’s take off, I learned from my mistakes and didn’t want to muck this one up and I didn’t want to walk to the 09L side of the north runway……I wanted to play it safe and get side-on views of her taking off, so from Hatton Cross I walked to the Renaissance hotel.
On my way there, Peer (one of my Concorde friends) called me and left a message on my phone, he asked me to meet him further up the same road near a car park, I was confused at what spot he meant.
Time wasn’t on my side and I didn't have any money left in my phone to find out where Peer was, so to play it safe I knew there was a place next to the public side of the airport fence (opposite Heathrow Police car pound).
(Above me in yellow standing next to North runway)
During the summer of 2003 I’d stood there countless times to see her land and take off, so I knew I’d get good pictures of her making the take-off run, going past me and then taking off in the distance.