Crash is only blot on an impeccable safety record

The Test Pilot
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The Independent Online

"Everybody who has ever been associated with Concorde has fallen in love with it," says Brian Trubshaw, the first man to fly Concorde in 1969 as chief test pilot for British Aerospace.

"Everybody who has ever been associated with Concorde has fallen in love with it," says Brian Trubshaw, the first man to fly Concorde in 1969 as chief test pilot for British Aerospace.

Now 71, he is still enthusiastic about the aircraft that helped to make his name as one of Britain's foremost aviators.

"There is no question that it is a beautiful aeroplane to fly. It's handling is very precise and has superb flying qualities. In the air it feels very smooth. It really is a lovely aeroplane.

"Sitting at the controls and taking off in the aircraft differs very little from a conventional aeroplane. Even when the nose cone slides into position it is a a very smooth operation, almost a non-event.

"The whole experience is a silent one. In the cockpit with the visor [nose cone] in position you don't have any sensation of speed. The speed of sound is just a number on the clock.

"The only thing you are conscious of as a crew member is that everything is happening very quickly as the aircraft covers the ground at something like 20 nautical miles a minute - which is slightly faster than a rifle bullet. There you are romping along at these high speeds with everyone in the back sitting there in their shirt sleeves having roast beef and champagne."

Only when coming into land does the pilot experience anything slightly different in the handling, compared with more conventional aircraft. "To make sure you can see everything you're supposed to see, the nose cone has to drop. With this droop snoot position the pilot is afforded extra visibility to guide the aircraft down," Mr Trubshaw says.

Unlike conventional sub-sonic aeroplanes, Concorde does not have leading-edge flaps on the wings. Instead it adopts a high, nose-up attitude when coming in to land and because of this the pilot has a clear view of the approaching runway.

"It was a great day the first time I ever took the controls of Concorde. We thought we knew quite a lot about the flying characteristics beforehand and had undergone hours of simulator training. But once in the air, all I would say is, the aircraft was much nicer and much easier to fly than the simulator."

However, Mr Trubshaw dismisses any suggestion that Concorde pilots are a breed apart. "There is nothing special about the people who fly Concorde. They all go through the normal process of selection and training that takes place in the airline. The only slight difference is that the Concorde ground school takes a little longer and is more specialised because there is more to flying such an advanced aircraft.

"Concorde pilots have to stay ahead of the game just a bit more because everything happens so quickly.

"Despite the crash, Concorde has an impeccable safety record in airline service and I think at this time of great emotion people ought to remember that," the retired pilot says. "You have to keep your feet on the ground even in the midst of this great tragedy."

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