Concorde the Supersonic Aircraft


Concorde Pilots


Mike Bannister (born 1949) was an airline pilot. He is most famous as the chief pilot of Concorde, a post which he held from 1995 until its withdrawal from service in 2003. He joined the crew of Concorde in 1977 where he became its youngest pilot, and flew more hours on Concorde than anyone else, ending with the last ever flight which was captained by Captain Les Brodie and where Mike acted as co-pilot.

Chief Pilot Mike Bannister (left) and other pilots on flight deck of BA002 30th August 2002

public domain.

Chief Pilot Mike Bannister (left) and other pilots on flight deck of BA002 30th August 2002

French Major André Edouard Turcat, born October 23, 1921, is a former French test pilot.

A graduate of France's prestigious École Polytechnique, Turcat joined the Free French air force during the final years of World War II and stayed with Armée de l'Air after the war. During the Indochina War, Turcat served as a pilot of C-47 transport aircraft and demonstrated exceptional skills in handling a number of flight emergencies, thus earning an assignment to EPNER, France's test pilot school. Shortly after graduating, Turcat took over the test campaign of the Nord 1500 Griffon, one of the world's first ramjet-powered aircraft. During this successful program, Turcat flew the Griffon at Mach 2.19, a feat that earned him the prestigious Harmon Trophy in 1958. A few months later (February 25, 1959), Turcat broke the world speed record over 100 kilometers with the Griffon at an average 1,643 km/h (1,021 mph).

Turcat left the military after the Griffon program ended and joined state-owned aircraft manufacturer Sud Aviation as the Concorde supersonic transport (SST) program was starting. He became Concorde's chief test pilot and Sud Aviation's director of flight testing. On March 2, 1969, Turcat had the honor of lifting off the first prototype of Concorde for its maiden flight. Later that year (October 1), he was also at the controls for Concorde's first supersonic flight. Turcat conducted the rest of the French side of the Concorde test program (Brian Trubshaw being the chief test pilot on the British side) and retired from active flying duty in the late 1970s.

Brian Trubshaw was the first British pilot to fly Concorde in April 1969. He died on 25 March 2001. Brian Trubshaw's wife Yvonne confirmed his death, saying that he had died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Tetbury, Gloucestershire. He had not been ill.

Trubshaw shot to fame when he first flew Concorde in April 1969 on a flight from Filton to its Test base at RAF Fairford. He emerged from 002's then futuristic cockpit with the words: 'It was wizard - a cool, calm and collected operation.' Brian had weeks earlier piloted an early test flight of the Indentical French prototype Concorde, 001, commanded by Andre Turcat

Brian trained as a pilot in the US, learning to fly Stearman biplanes after joining the RAF in 1942 at Lords cricket ground. He later becoming a bomber pilot and a member of the Kings Flight, flying members of the royal family. He subsequently joined Vickers-Armstrong as a test pilot on V-bombers and tested the UK¹s first atomic bomb before taking up his role with the Concorde project. Speaking later about his time at the controls of Concorde he said: "Many test pilots would have given almost anything to be in my shoes and I well appreciated how lucky I was."

Tributes were paid to Mr Trubshaw from many in the aviation industry: British Airways Chief Concorde pilot Mike Bannister was among the first to pay tribute to Brian Trubshaw's determination.

"Without doubt his energy and commitment was vital to making the Concorde programme the success it was."

A British Airways spokesman said: "BA is extremely saddened to learn of the death of Brian Trubshaw, the original British test pilot for Concorde, and extends its deepest sympathies to his family. " "Everyone in BA who worked with him could not help but be inspired by his continued enthusiasm and joy for Concorde.

Buckingham Palace also paid tributes to Mr Trubshaw, who was close to the Royal Family and a particular friend of Prince Philip. A spokesman said: "The Duke is very sad." Mr Trubshaw was awarded the CBE in 1970 and was known as "my Brian" by the Queen, who knew him from his days with the King's Flight after the war.

Howard Berry, a spokesman for BAE Systems, who worked for Mr Trubshaw before his retirement in 1986, said: "He'll be greatly missed in the world of aerospace."

Mr Trubshaw's autobiography was launched the day after the Paris crash and his book opened with the sentence: "It is not unreasonable to look upon Concorde as a miracle". In his book, "Concorde: The Inside Story", he said he remembered the aircraft's test day as if it were yesterday:

Crew members were issued with air-ventilated suits and parachutes and the pre-flight checklist took one hour. Mr Trubshaw said: "We were off down the runway with extremely rapid acceleration."

He was awarded the OBE in 1964 and the CBE in 1970 and was awarded the French Aeronautical Medal in 1976. Full Obituary - Courtesy of Electronic Telegraph.

BRIAN TRUBSHAW, who has died aged 77, was a test pilot for 30 years, and became the idol of thousands of schoolboys after he steered Concorde through its maiden flight in Britain.

Trubshaw flew the British-assembled Concorde 002 from Filton in Bristol to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, on April 9 1969.

"It was a wizard flight," he said. Later, in his autobiography Brian Trubshaw - Test Pilot (1998), he recalled the crowds of onlookers who had lined the roads around Filton and Fairford, and the fact that "the eyes of millions of people all over the world were focused on us".

Trubshaw remained devoted to the aeroplane that Michael Heseltine, then the Minister for Aerospace, claimed represented "the biggest single leap forward in flying since the first flight of any aircraft".

Trubshaw said: "Many test pilots would have given almost anything to be in my shoes and I well appreciated how lucky I was." He later placed a weather vane depicting the plane on the roof of his house at Cherington, near Tetbury in Gloucestershire.

His enthusiasm was undimmed by Concorde's first crash near Paris last year, when 113 people died. Responding to claims that the aircraft was unsafe, he said: "I have never heard so much bloody rubbish in my life" and bluntly declared Concorde "the safest aircraft I have ever flown."

Ernest Brian Trubshaw was born on January 29 1924 and educated at Winchester, where he was captain of cricket. He had been captivated by flying since the age of 10, when he saw the Prince of Wales's aircraft land on the beach at Pembrey, Carmarthenshire, not far from where his family then lived. In 1942, on a visit to Lords', he signed up for the RAF, training on a Stearman biplane in America. He joined Bomber Command in 1944, flying Stirlings and Lancasters, before transferring the next year to Transport Command.

His flying skills were rated as "exceptional" and, in 1946, he joined the King's Flight, piloting George VI and other members of the Royal Family; he was occasionally roped in for after-dinner games with the young Princesses at Balmoral.

After teaching at the Empire Flying School and the RAF Flying College from 1949-50, Trubshaw was almost sent to Malaya as one of only two RAF pilots who also had helicopter experience.

Instead, he was given permission to leave the service to become a test pilot for Vickers-Armstrong, where he remained for 30 years, becoming chief test pilot in 1960, and director of test flights from 1966. Trubshaw worked on the development of the Valiant V-bomber, the Vanguard, the VC-10, and the BAC-111, all of which he test flew.

His coolness in saving Britain's prototype VC-10 from disaster on an early test flight won him the Derry and Richards Memorial Medal for "outstanding test flying contributing to the advance of aviation" in 1965. Structural failure had been threatened when an elevator section broke loose and the aircraft shook "as though the tail was shaking the dog".

Trubshaw could not read the instruments because of the violent motion, but broadcast to base the nature of the trouble in case he could not get back. He then managed to land the aircraft with only half the elevator control. He later described this manoeuvre as "one of my trickier moments".

Three years earlier, Trubshaw had been awarded the same medal for his work in the early 1950s on the Valiant jet bomber, on which he tested the delivery system for Britain's first atom bomb, the 10,000 lb Blue Danube. In 1985, on the eve of his retirement, Trubshaw revealed that while flying a Valiant V-bomber, he had been compelled to drop a concrete replica of the weapon into the Thames estuary.


In 1962, the British and French governments signed an agreement to develop a supersonic transport aircraft, eventually called Concorde (the French having insisted on the final "e"). The chairman of BAC, George Edwards, selected Trubshaw as test pilot.

Development of the aircraft proved problematic, as costs rose from £140 million to more than £280 million. But despite some political opposition to the project, Trubshaw piloted Concorde on its first British flight in 1969.

He immediately concluded that Concorde was "a very precise aircraft to fly" - a sanguine judgment, in view of the fact that he had been required to make his own estimate of his height for landing after the failure of the altimeters.

Nor was it the last difficulty with which the plane presented him. After its first supersonic flight over land, in 1970, when it travelled at an altitude of 11 miles and faster than a bullet, Trubshaw had to land the plane on three engines because an instrument showed the other to be overheating.

The next year, shortly after receiving the Air League Founders' Medal for outstanding work on the development of the plane, Trubshaw again had to fly on three engines when a metal plate fell off and pieces went through the fourth engine.

In 1972, Trubshaw piloted the aircraft on a world tour. Two years later, the third test model, Concorde 101, completed what is still the fastest civil transatlantic flight, travelling from Fairford to Bangor, Maine, in 2 hours and 56 minutes. Concorde eventually went into commercial service on January 21 1976 when British Airways flew to Bahrain and Air France to Rio de Janeiro simultaneously.

Trubshaw ended his career as divisional director and general manager of the Filton works of British Aerospace from 1980-1986. From 1986-1993 he was a member of the board of the Civil Aviation Authority, and worked as an aviation consultant.

In 1999 he was a passenger as Concorde retraced his first flight to mark its 30th birthday. Trubshaw declared that the major difference was that the trip was more luxurious. "There weren't any seats in the back the first time," he said.

Trubshaw was appointed MVO in 1948 and CBE in 1970. He received a dozen aviation awards including, in 1973, the Bluebird Trophy, awarded by friends of Donald Campbell for contribution in the realm of high speed.

A burly, extrovert figure, Trubshaw added golf to his abiding interest in cricket, and later became involved in equestrianism. He was for some years a fence judge at Badminton Horse Trials, and kept two Shetland ponies, Caspar and Senator.

He married, in 1972, Yvonne Edmondson (nee Clapham)

Captain Brian Walpole OBE led the Concorde fleet for British Airways since the beginning of the supersonic era, and was the mastermind of its commercial success.

The career of Captain Brian Walpole is second to none in the history of post-war aviation. Not only has he flown the world's only supersonic jet airliner for twelve years, he commanded the fleet and also ran its commercial operations as General Manager Concorde. In this role, he was responsible for all aspects of British Airways Concorde operations from marketing and advertising to constant control of the fleet's day to day operations.

Captain Walpole started his career in aviation by joining the RAF in 1952. He served as an operational fighter squadron pilot, flying Meteors and was also a member of the Fighter Command formation acrobatic team, giving displays all over Europe. In 1956 he joined BOAC later to merge with BEA and become British Airways. Initially First Officer on the Argonaut Fleet he was made first training co-pilot in BOAC and in 1971 was promoted to command becoming Fleet Captain of the 707 Fleet in 1972.

In 1975 he commanded the 707 aircraft for the Royal Tour to the Far East which Her Majesty the Queen undertook and a year later transferred to the Concorde Fleet. In 1977, he commanded the Concorde which flew the Queen from Barbados to London and the first supersonic commercial service from London to New York. His achievements were recognised in 1978 when he was awarded the Britannia Trophy, presented by HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, for his work on the launch of the Concorde New York service.

He was promoted in 1982 to General Manager Concorde Division, British Airways and during the eighties had the privilege of commanding this unique and prestigious aircraft on which so many international VIP's have travelled.

His achievements in aviation were again recognised in 1983 when he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and two years later he was granted the Freedom of the City of London.

In 1988 he became an Officer in the Order of the British Empire in The Queen's Birthday Honours List.

Christopher John Dugmore Orlebar was a British Concorde pilot with British Airways, and is now well-known as a lecturer and writer and as a frequent contributor to TV aviation documentaries, on aviation subjects generally, and on the Anglo-French aeroplane in particular.

Orlebar went to Rugby School. He learned to fly with the Southampton University Air Squadron (RAF), and then finished his training in civil aviation, at the College of Air Training at Hamble. Orlebar joined BOAC (later British Airways) in 1969, and became a VC10 pilot, navigator and instructor. He became a Concorde pilot and instructor in 1976, flying the aircraft for 10 years. He went on to become a training Captain on the Boeing 737 from 1986, and retired from British Airways in 2000.

Orlebar's book The Concorde Story has been a bestseller since its publication in 1986. Now in its sixth edition, The Concorde Story has remained the most complete record of the history of Concorde in print since it was first published. Starting with Concorde's earliest development, it assesses other forms of supersonic transport and provides the background to Concorde's evolution. It reveals what it is like to fly Concorde, and the training procedures to which Concorde pilots are subjected. The latest edition (2004) brings the story up to date, with chapters on Concorde's final flight and decommissioning, advice on where to go to see Concorde at rest, and information on the Paris tragedy of 2000.

A liveryman of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators, and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, Orlebar is in demand as a lecturer and as a contributor to radio and TV programmes.

He is descended from the Orlebars of Hinwick, Bedfordshire, and is married with two grown-up children.

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