By Norma Dunlevy
This was written by Norma the wife of Concorde engineer John Dunlevy, on the day that BA retired Concorde
I witnessed today one of the proudest moments and the saddest in aviation history……. the end of Concorde. It was without doubt the most spectacular sight. Three Concorde planes landing in succession over London on Friday 24th October, a day which will go down in the already very extensive history of this beautiful plane.
As the day dawned I left work early determined to meet up with John at Heathrow. I didn’t care how long it took, I would be there. I knew it would take me at least two hours as the roads would be jammed and John couldn’t leave work to pick me up as we would never have made it back. I jumped out of the train at Hatton Cross, near Heathrow with 10 minutes to spare before the three Concords were due to land. John was waiting for me and we ran literally all the way to get to our vantage point for the best view. The traffic all around came to a stand still and it really bears witness to the great British public who are so passionate about this plane, even though most of them would never have got the opportunity to fly in her.
We watched all afternoon as all the rich and famous got off the three flights. There was Joan Collins, the duke of Kent, Sir David Frost, Elle McPherson, Tony Benn to name but a few, and in the evening i was lucky enough to be given a pass to enable me to attend the farewell event in the hangar with john.
It was very sad and very nostalgic, they showed Concorde over the past three decades on a big screen, you could have heard a pin drop as everyone stood in silence and watched her story. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place. We talked to all the crews and engineers who have been so involved over so many years and who were really quite devastated to be saying goodbye to her, I don’t think anyone could quite believe this was it, the final farewell.
I felt very proud standing next toJohn and listening to all the pilots and crew coming over to shake his hand and to thank him for all his hard work and help over so many years. They really did think a lot of him and I know this means a lot.
I crawled into the cockpit for my photograph and sat in the seats up the back where no doubt there had been a very famous bum sitting not a few hours before, I imagined flying her to Barbados and New York and wished wholeheartedly that she were being launched to go and not to finish………we finally said our goodbyes……..
John first started 38 years ago as an apprentice and has travelled all over the world with her, testing and showing her off as if she was a superstar, which of course she is. he made history with Concorde and has had the most fantastic career ever imaginable; so will retire fittingly with her.It was way beyond its time when it was built in bristol by so many dedicated young men and woman and thirty years on it is still way beyond its time, it has to be the most exciting and remarkable plane ever to grace the skies………..she was compared to a swan landing on a lake and you couldn’t get more graceful than that.
We will miss this beautiful plane flying over our house every day, rattling the windows; it didn’t matter what you were doing, you heard that unmistakeable rumble and rushed outside to gaze up at her till she had disappeared into the sky with the sun glinting off her white body, she set off car alarms in car parks as she took off at Heathrow, and to watch the re-heats glowing at the back of the engines as it lifted into the sky was a sight to behold, if you were ever on the tarmac ready to take off on your holidays at Heathrow and the captain said look out of the window the Concorde is just taking off, how many of us didn’t look!! British airways what were you thinking when you decided to ground the Concorde in her prime!!!!!
John Dunlevy – Former British Airways Concorde Engineer, the longest serving British Concorde engineer. John has been connected with Concorde since 1965, when he became an apprentice with the Bristol Aeroplane Company and streamed for test flight avionics and production avionics. He specialized in the aircraft air intake developement at Fairford on the prototype and preproduction Concordes, and was involved with the British prototype 002 tours and British pre-production 101 endurance flying. He left Fairford in 1977 to join British Airways