Philip Cairns – Concorde engineer at British Airways
10 November 2003 – First Day
Diane, Jenny and Sharon went to our hotel in New York, Bob, Ugo and I went back airside to assist with the movement of OAD to the hanger, where she would be de-commissioned.
The JFK British Airways Licensed Engineers could taxi aircraft for maintenance purposes, We all then got back on board 'our' aircraft and along with our American colleagues who were at the controls, started the great four Olympus engines for the last time.
The aircraft was then pushed back and was taxied to the hanger which took about 15 minutes.
The engines were shut down in a wonderful way by New York lads who managed the occasion with some style.
It went a bit quiet for a while as we all realised a piece of history had just taken place.
We then pulled the aircraft into the hanger with the tug that had done the push back.
We then shut up shop for the night and made our way to New York and the hotel.
11 November 2003 - Second Day:
The decommissioning had been planned by the Concorde Core and would be carried out in accordance with an Airform designed to do the task as OAD would be lifted on to a barge and floated on the river to the Intrepid Museum.
To enable the lift to be carried out the panels over the Main Landing Gear were removed, this would allow the crane sling access to lift that part of the aircraft, another crane would be positioned at the forward end of the fuselage to lift there.
Engine bay doors were opened and we started the task of removing all four engines, each engine weighs 3.5 tonnes, this was done to reduce the weight of the aircraft because of the lift.
We also started draining the fuel tanks and hydraulic systems which was iaw the air form.
12 November 2003 - Third Day
Engine removal continued, I seem to remember two engines were removed on the second day and two more on the third, fuel tanks were continuing to be emptied as there are 13 tanks this would continue most of the week.
13 November 2003 - Fourth Day
I was given a day off and Diane and I went to visit Ground Zero, this was incredibly emotional and it seemed to put things into some perspective.
We entered St. Paul's Church where many of the rescue workers of 9/11 were supported with food, rest and prayers.
The whole church was decorated with Banners, Flags and memorabilia donated by Fire Fighters from all over the world in recognition of the local Brigades that bore the brunt of the emergency.
I was so glad to have visited this part of New York, we did some more sightseeing and we had a good day, New York is a wonderful city.
14 November 2003 - Fifth Day
Back at work, we had to function all the Escape Slides, the data recorded would be passed onto the slide manufacturers, we took films and we had a go on one of the slides, great fun!
We also had to remove all the safety equipment and dismantle parts of the toilets to get access to the fire extinguishers.
As each day came to an end I found my way up a series of stairs that led to an inner bridge inside the hanger.
From this point I could look down on Concorde OAD and recall all my memories I had of this remarkable fleet of aircraft.
Once again my emotions would get the better of me and I was glad I was alone.
15 November 2003 - Final Day
The last day was filled with making the aircraft neat and tidy, we refitted all panels, closed engine bay doors, checked the interior for cleanliness and made sure all the flight deck was intact and switches and controls in the right positions.
All the work was completed by our American colleagues and we assisted where we could.
Ugo and I went to visit the Intrepid Museum where Gerry Roberts, the Intrepid representative showed us around, he even took us all out for a meal on one of the evenings.
We flew back to the U K from Newark and we were feeling quite deflated to be back to going subsonic again.
It had been an interesting week and we had met many old friends and colleagues who took the trouble to come next see us.
The Concorde fleet was a family in itself and we were all thrilled to be part of it.
Looking back as one does, I started work on the Concorde project in September 1966 and was involved with the manufacturing, the flight testing and maintenance right up to the last day.
I had authorisations not only on the Concorde Fleet but also on VC10, and the Boeing 757.
As I retired at the end of that November and can only thank God for a wonderful career at British Aerospace and latterly at British Airways, who will always have my admiration for the way they took on Concorde and made her the iconic flagship she became.
I would like to mention the flight test team at Fairford, for their courage, persistence and leadership in bringing this great aircraft through an onerous programme that covered all aspects of flight operations.
Brian Trubshawe and his team were made of the right stuff to get things done, as were a lively and intelligent Flight crew at British Airways who flew her in service and who helped bring about a wonderful team spirit that eventually became the Concorde family.
At British Airways I met and worked with some fantastic engineers who are to numerous to mention, but I still hold them all in the highest esteem.
Many thanks for taking time to read this. Philip Cairns, ex British Airways and Concorde Ground Licensed Engineer.