Friday, 1 October 2010

Captain Andy Barnwell visits our Concorde

Bankers under Concorde, listening to Captain Andy Barnwell

I had a nice surprise this lunchtime. I turned up at Concorde to do a series of tours for a corporate event for a major bank, and found that ex-Concorde captain Andy Barnwell was giving the pre-lunch speech. I was particularly taken by his observations of his first flight when he was co-pilot on the aeroplane, when unusually it suffered an engine surge.

Engine surges on Concorde were quite rare, but when they did occur they were dramatic in the extreme. The offending engine would effectively 'backfire', the flow reversing and coming out the front, with an unbelievably loud series of bangs, about twice a second. Because of the paired engine arrangement on Concorde, the adjacent engine's intake air was disturbed, and it, too, would surge in sympathy.

The noise and vibration with two mighty Olympi surging together, with the associated loss of half the available thrust, was such that all the crew could do was pull all four to flight idle, which caused the other two to pop-surge as they ran down, and slow down and descend to thicker air to start to run the engines back up to speed. All this cost fuel, and usually meant a diversion. In the case of Andy Barnwell's flight, to Halifax Novia Scotia. And sitting in a row of seats close to the action was none other than Gordon Brown and Ed Balls. Who, when Andy went back into the cabin, were observed to be ashen - grey - totally shocked and silent, unlike the rest of the passengers who just took the view 'these things happen' and ordered more bubbly. I guess the fatuous duo just didn't expect a touch of reality to impinge on their worlds!

It was good to be able to accompany Andy back into his 'office' at the pointy end of our Concorde G-BOAC. He was so disappointed with the way Concorde services ended that he'd refused to be involved with operations after the 'end' had been announced, and went to the 747-400 Jumbo Jet, which as a swansong to his career didn't impress after the magic of Concorde.

Andy nearest to camera, back in his old 'office'

Cloud effect projected onto AC

Tonight, the band practice before the celebration dinner begins

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