No pilot has spent more time flying faster than the speed of sound than Mike Bannister. From becoming Concorde‘s youngest pilot to flying the iconic aircraft’s final commercial flight, on which passengers included Tony Benn (the man who put the ‘e’ in Concorde) and Jeremy Clarkson, Bannister’s flying career encompassed a time when flying was faster and more glamorous. We met Bannister to find out more about the most beautiful manmade object that ever flew.
Describe Concorde in three words...Fast, Elegant, Sublime
Was Concorde harder to fly than subsonic airliners? If so, why? No, just different and more complex. She was four aircraft in one – high, low, fast and slow. And aerodynamically different too.
What was the best thing about Concorde? The people. The people who flew in her, who designed her, who supported her and who cheered for her
..and the worst? Only 2.5 million people got to fly on BA’s Concordes
Biggest myth about Concorde? That she didn’t make money for BA
How would you rate Concorde in the following categories?
A. Take-off – Like a rocket
B. Landing – Like a swan
C. Pilot comfort – Like a limo
D. Cockpit ergonomics – Like a Chess Board
E. Acceleration – Staggering
F. Agility – Phenomenal
G. Ease of operation – A skill. That’s why it took Concorde Crews 6 months to learn to fly her rather than just 2 months for any other airliner
How many supersonic hours do you think – and do you know anyone who has more? I have almost 10,000 Concorde hours, of which almost 7,000 are supersonic. I’m told that is more than anyone else.
What was your most memorable flight and why? Flying at 325mph, at just 1,000 feet, with the Red Arrows down the Mall for HM The Queen’s Golden Jubilee – Why? It was huge fun!
Tell me something I don’t know about Concorde – She stretched up to 8 inches in flight as she heated up due to her speed through the air. As Concorde rushed along at Mach 2, 1350 mph, it heated up due to air friction and compression. The heating effect was huge. With outside temperatures of around minus 53 degrees, the nose of the aircraft would climb to as much as plus 127 degrees – a 180-degree rise. Heating metal causes it to expand. Concorde was made of metal – so it grew in flight. Up to 8 inches. The designers knew about this and built-in expansion joints. The one that could be seen was on the Flight Deck. A gap that was just fingernail thin on the ground could take your whole hand in flight. Fortunately, it cooled down again, and shrank, before landing.
Did Concorde make money for British Airways? Yes – about £500m in 2002 pounds. Almost a billion pounds in current values
What is the highest Concorde ever flew? With BA, 62,500 feet (almost 12 miles)
.and the fastest? She crossed the Atlantic, from New York to London, in 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds
Would you like to see the return of supersonic transport, and do you think it will happen? Absolutely and absolutely
What should I have asked you? Why did people always look up when Concorde flew over? The psychiatrists tell us that she appeals to both sides of the brain – the technical side for all of the ‘gee-whizz’ things she could do and the artistic side because she was so beautiful
How did you feel on Concorde’s retirement? Sad, but proud and privileged to have flown her for over 22 years.
Mike Bannister has written a book about his Concorde experiences you can order here
You can order The Hush-Kit Book of Warplanes here.