Opinion: Unique aircraft brought together people from different walks of life

Original article written by Stephen Fear for the Bristol Post on 2nd August 2017 (also featured on SouthWestBusiness.co.uk on 2nd August 2017):

BRISTOL has many icons. I’m not talking here about famous people, as much as famous “manufactured” items.

Cabot’s original timber ship, The Matthew, which was possibly built in Bristol in or around 1495, is one.

The famous iron ship, the SS Great Britain, built in 1839 is another. Both ships are now moored permanently in Bristol and enthral tourists every day with their history and beauty. Although, in The Matthew’s case, it is a beautiful replica which was built in 1994.

Without doubt, Bristol’s most recent manufactured icon is the supersonic airliner, Concorde, whose name means “harmony”, which was built in Bristol and Toulouse, France, in the mid to late 1960s. This iconic aircraft became a world first. It flew at twice the speed of sound between London and New York before being considered too expensive to keep in the air.

I was very fortunate to be present at the inaugural Concorde dinner which took place recently in its permanent home “The Concorde Hangar” in Filton, Bristol.

The dinner was attended by HRH Princess Anne, so I was pleased to be able to tell Her Royal Highness before dinner that I saw Concorde’s maiden flight from Filton, Bristol, in 1969.

Glued to the fence where I had camped out the night before, it was a bit scary because a big crowd developed behind me and were pushing to get closer. As they did, I climbed the fence in an effort to avoid being crushed. No safety barriers in those days!

At the time I lived in a little council flat in Brentry with my Dad, and would regularly run to the runway, at the end of what is now Concorde Drive, where they were testing the plane’s engines. The noise was deafening but the experience was something I will never forget.

There used to be a dog boarding kennels near the runway (I doubt it’s still there) and every time the famous aircrafts engines were tested the dogs would howl approval. At least that’s what I took it to be!

On the day of Concorde’s British maiden flight, the howling from dogs and people created a sort of harmonious concerto with the roar of the plane’s engines. What a day!

Growing up, the Princess Royal may not have had much in common with a little boy from a Bristol council estate but our paths were brought together by a unique aircraft which was built in my home city.

Another area I spent sometime living as a boy was Malmesbury, Wiltshire, so it was good to see a living “manufacturing” icon, in the form of Sir James Dyson, at the dinner. The inventor, who lives near Bristol, located his business in Malmesbury and is now also world famous.

With Brexit about to become reality, manufacturing and export must take on new importance if Britain is to build on its success so it’s good seeing some effort being put into creating engineering apprenticeships and therefore a new generation of designers and engineers.

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