It was the summer of 1969 and there was a mood of excitement at my school. Somebody had heard that Concorde would be making a test flight in the area later that day. The British prototype Concorde, G-BSST (002) had recently made its maiden flight at Filton, Bristol, a few weeks after its French counterpart F-WTSS (001). I didn’t give it too much thought: even if Concorde did overfly the school, we’d probably be in lessons. But I was wrong – it was the lunch hour, we were in the playground, and Concorde came swooping over the school.

Concorde had been in the news for as long as I could remember; I’d seen innumerable artist’s impressions of it in flight; like millions of others, I’d watched the live coverage of 001’s maiden flight from Toulouse – but now here it was for real, flying over the school.

I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my father I’d seen Concorde!

In adult life, living in London, Concorde became a familiar sight after it entered commercial service in 1976. It was always an attention-getter, in part because it was far louder than anything else flying, but in the main because it was utterly unlike anything else you were likely to see in the skies above London.

Almost three and a half decades after the British prototype made its flight over my school, most of my office in Fleet Street turned out to watch Concorde’s grand farewell as three aircraft flew in low over the Thames on their way to Heathrow and into retirement. It is the only occasion that I ever saw more than one Concorde at the same time.

I never got to fly Concorde – even the chartered trips around the Bay of Biscay seemed too expensive to justify, though I now regret not having taken the opportunity.

Fifteen years after its retirement, Concorde remains one of if not the most evocative name in aviation history. Almost half a century after its maiden flight, it remains the only passenger airliner to have flown the Atlantic in under three hours.

Only twenty Concordes were ever built, including two prototypes and four pre-production and development aircraft. Fourteen aircraft entered commercial service, seven each with British Airways and Air France. Further orders failed to materialise due to enormous cost overruns, and the restriction of supersonic flight to ocean crossings.

After the British and French governments wrote off the cost, Concorde was nevertheless profitable right up until the beginning of the twenty-first century. The end came with the Air France Flight 4590 disaster on 25 July 2000, which led to Concorde being grounded while safety modifications were carried out. This was followed almost immediately by the downturn in air travel following 9/11. Accordingly, BA and Air France decided to retire Concorde.

Air France’s final Concorde flight took place on 27 June 2003 when F-BVFC retired to Toulouse.

The British Airways Concordes retired on 24 October 2003. G-BOAG flew from New York while G-BOAF made a round trip over the Bay of Biscay, carrying VIP guests including former Concorde pilots, and G-BOAE made a round trip to Edinburgh. The three aircraft then circled over London, having received special permission to fly at low altitude. Witnessed by tens of thousands (including myself as noted above), they flew along the Thames before landing in sequence at Heathrow.

The last flight of any Concorde took place on 26 November 2003. Fittingly, it involved G-BOAF (216), which was the last Concorde to be built. The aircraft flew from Heathrow, going supersonic over the Bay of Biscay and performing a lap of honour over Bristol before landing at Filton, where it now forms the centrepiece of the Aerospace Bristol Museum.

Of the twenty Concordes built, all but two airframes still exist. F-BTSC (203) was lost in the Air France Flight 4590 disaster and F-BVFD (211) was scrapped in 1994 having been laid up since 1982.

There has long been talk of returning Concorde to flight, but to date nothing has come of any proposal. Sadly, the practical difficulties of getting even one of these iconic aircraft back in the air appear to be all but insurmountable.

Exterior of G-BOAF at Aerospace Bristol Museum, Filton.

Views of the cockpit and cramped interior. Note the tiny windows. On the other hand, the seats were upholstered with the finest leather.


Flight suit of test pilot Brian Trubshaw, who piloted the British prototype G-BSST (002) on its maiden flight on 9 April 1969.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Located in New York’s Museum Mile on the East Side of Central Park, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum was founded in 1939 but did not adopt its present name until after the death of its founder in 1952. The move from rented space to Frank Lloyd Wright’s landmark building came in 1959 but the need for a purpose-built space was identified in the early 1940s. Wright was commissioned to design the building in 1944: it took him 15 years, 700 sketches, and six sets of working drawings to realise the project, which is his only New York building.

Brooklyn Bridge

Linking Manhattan island to Brooklyn, the mighty Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883 after fourteen years under construction. The bridge’s main span is 486.3 m (1,595.5 ft) and it was the first steel-wire suspension bridge to be built. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It was originally named the New York and Brooklyn Bridge and later the East River Bridge. However, it became informally known as Brooklyn Bridge, and this name was officially adopted in 1915.

One World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial

One World Trade Center is the 541 m (1,776 ft) tall skyscraper built to replace the Twin Towers destroyed in the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.  Two memorial reflecting pools, framed in steel, now occupy the footprints of the Twin Towers. The height in feet is a reference to the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

The names of 2,983 victims are inscribed on 152 bronze parapets on the memorial pools: 2,977 killed in the 11 September 2001 attacks and six killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

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Staten Island Ferry

The Staten Island Ferry provides a free 7/24 hour link between Manhattan and Staten Island. The short voyage provides excellent views of Lower Manhattan and of the Statue of Liberty, making the ferry popular with tourists. Passengers are required to leave the ferry when it reaches Staten Island, but many simply re-embark on the next ferry back to Manhattan. The vessel shown in the first picture is the MV Samuel I. Newhouse. At 3,335 tons gross and a capacity of 6,000, she and her sister ship Andrew J. Barberi were the largest ferries in the world when they entered service in the early 1980s.


American Museum of Natural History

To paraphrase the late Douglas Adams, the American Museum of Natural History is big. Mind-bogglingly big. The museum complex comprises 45 permanent exhibition halls housed in 28 interconnected buildings, as well as a library and the Rose Centre for Earth and Space. The total floor-space is over 190,000 sq. m (2 million sq. ft) which can nevertheless display only a fraction of the museum’s 33 million specimens at any one time.

Rooftop water towers of New York

As much a part of the New York landscape as yellow cabs and the Empire State Building, the seemingly antiquated water towers are still very much in use, needed to maintain water pressure in buildings of more than six storeys. Most are made from wood, and they are cheap and easy to install.  They have a lifespan of 30 – 35 years before needing to be replaced.