Family Outings: Concorde at Filton
Never flown supersonic? It's not too late to pretend you're Joan Collins
Sunday 22 August 2004
Concorde at Filton, which opened last week, is the final resting place for Concorde 216, the last of what were probably the most beautiful aircraft ever to be built. Actually, the visitor centre inside the Filton factory, where Concorde 216 was born and made her first flight in 1979, is not quite her final home - it's a temporary site donated by the Bristol factory's new owners, Airbus UK. A patch of ground behind a pre-fabricated hut on the side of an airfield may seem (and indeed is) an ignoble place for this ground- (and sound-) breaking plane to end up but it does give you a rare chance to get really close to the old bird. Sit in its leather seats pretending to be the Queen, David Frost or Joan Collins. Marvel at how the captain's hat got stuck when he put it in a six-inch gap that would open up in the cockpit when the plane reached Mach 2 at 55,500 feet.
Yes, there are other Concordes on show around the world but this one has made the journey home to its birthplace. It was one of the three to land in a row at Heathrow on their final day of service and it made the last flight ever of a Concorde when it returned to Bristol. Also, the chances are that your volunteer tour guide, from Bristol Aero Collection (the local aviation preservation society), will have worked at the Filton site and have personal knowledge of the craft. Only six people are allowed on board at any one time which gives the tour a personal feel.
Something for children
Well, not much at the moment. For safety reasons, Concorde at Filton will not admit children under five, and children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult. The centre has a check-in-desk, where visitors are given boarding passes before being ushered into a departure lounge to watch a video about Concorde while they wait for their flight to be called in true "bing bong" style. This might fire some children's imaginations - especially if they are interested in aviation - but those not besotted with the supersonic stunner may squirm in their seats.
Something for adults
Plenty. The one-and-a-half-hour tour is split into three equal parts. First is a coach tour of the Filton factory which looks remarkably like a Hollywood film lot - most of it is now being used to make the wings and various other components of the double-decker Airbus A380. Next comes an exclusive Airbus-commissioned video presentation charting the life and times of Concorde, from test flights in the late Sixties to its flight home to Filton last year. Bring tissues - the scene in which the sound of Concorde 216s engines fade away as they are cut, never to be heard again, will have your eyes glistening. Finally, you come face to nose with the real thing. From the wardrobe by the cabin door to the Sixties-designed cockpit in which you can hear a recording of traffic control talking to the crew as the plane approaches and lands at Filton at the end of its farewell flight, Concorde doesn't disappoint.
Hot drinks from a vending machine - remember this is a temporary centre. All profits go towards building a permanent home for Concorde (and the rest of Filton's aviation heritage) at some time in the not too certain future.
How about a plastic model of Concorde - which used to be given to every passenger - for £10? Alternatively, there are mugs for £8, key rings for £7, a teddy bear for £2, a Farewell Concorde video for £10 and a Concorde DVD for £15.
Admission and access
All tours have to be booked in advance and each one is restricted to 24 people. Visitors are taken by coach into the Airbus site. Once inside the visitor centre, they are divided into two groups: while one watches the video, the other is further divided into two groups of six, which are alternately shown around the interior and exterior of the plane. Concorde at Filton is open Wednesday to Sunday with guided tours at 9.45am, 11.30am, 1.15pm and 3pm. Admission: Adults £12.50, children aged five to 16 years £7. There is disabled access to the visitor centre, and from October visitors with impaired mobility will have some access to the aircraft.
How to get there
Concorde at Filton, Airbus UK, Golf Course Lane, Filton, Bristol BS99 7AR (0870 3000 578; www.concordeatfilton.org.uk).
By car: From the M4, exit at J19 for the M32 and at J1 take the A4178 to Filton. From the M5, exit at J16, take the A38 south to Bristol and turn right into Southmead Road. Concorde at Filton is inside Airbus's main factory in Filton, but because it is a secure site visitors must park outside in either the BAWA Centre car park on Southmead Road (weekdays) or Airbus's main reception car park on Golf Course Lane (weekends).
By public transport: Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway are the nearest mainline railway stations (08457 484950; www.nationalrail.co.uk) and there is a coach station (08705 505050; www.nationalexpress.co.uk) in the city centre. For bus connections to Filton contact Travel Line (0870 6082 608).
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