Concorde Flight in 1980

Flying the British/Singapore Air Concorde in 1980

This is a story contributed by reader Dr Bob Nadel from The Nadel Consulting Group, Inc


The story actually began when I read that New York’s Mayor Ed Koch had upgraded his first class ticket on Concorde from JFK to London for $300.

Wow, I thought, $300, I can do that. I was working for the Hay Group, a major worldwide management consulting firm. I had consulting assignments a few weeks hence in London to visit two clients along with another partner of the firm. I checked with her first, then checked with our in-house travel guru.

A regular first class British Airways round trip ticket was $900 to the best of my recollection.

And, just like Ed Koch, a one way up grade was $300. The only problem was that we would have to wait until Saturday morning, as the Friday afternoon flight was sold out. It was OK with me, OK with my partner, so we booked it.

On that Saturday morning, March 9, 1980, I felt great anticipation. What was it like going to be like to fly at Mach 2?  Did you feel the speed? Did you feel the take off? The sonic boom?

When we got to the airport, we could see Concorde. Wait. Two Concordes?! I walked the hallway and took some pictures. The first Concorde was liveried British Airways, and just down the hall, the second was liveried Singapore Airlines.

a plane parked at an airport a large white airplane on a runway

I must admit, I loved to fly, but the United States and Europe was my territory. What was the significance of Singapore Airlines? I didn’t even take its picture. I kept walking back and forth, never thinking it was the same aircraft.

Finally, time to check-in. We were not yet paying $12,000 a ticket, so the lounge and check-in was not extraordinary. Our seats were in the first cabin (Concorde’s interior was divided into two cabins) so it felt a bit more like first class even though all 100 seats were a single class. I’m six-foot-three and I remember having to duck. Later I remember the lavatory had a very low ceiling. The seats were not much wider than a DC-9 but they were posh leather and there was a lot of leg room. In the seat pocket was a faux-leather gift folder with some stationery, and a certificate of flight. (I took another one from a passenger’s vacated seat as we de-planed. I guess he was already so jaded that he didn’t need such a souvenir.)

On the bulk head was a lighted panel. It was a Mach speed indicator, and on the panel were two logos, one for British Airways and the other for Singapore Airlines.

I later learned I was on Concorde G-BOAD, the only Concorde painted with Singapore Airlines livery on the right side and BA livery on the left. There were not two aircraft at Heathrow, just one aircraft, two liveries. I was fooled.

As we were settling in, the captain came by and as if magic, one of the flight attendants was at my seat at the exact moment. I asked the captain what was it like to fly this beautiful bird. He generously replied, come see for yourself, and said to the flight attendant, bring this gentleman to the flight deck after Mach 2.

The tug pushed us back, we rolled to the runway, and took off. It was normal at first, then fast, and then a steep take off. Steeper than I remember on any other aircraft. (But not rollercoaster stomach dropping time.) We reached Mach 1 and no BOOM was audible in the cabin. And suddenly it was Mach 2 and the flight attendant remembered as if it was maritime law. She came to escort me to the fight deck with my camera in hand. I missed the hors d’oeuvres, the meal service and the champagne.

My partner told me later that I had missed the best caviar, wine and meal service, but she had saved my dessert and the place setting, which I promptly stole, along with some glasses and flatware.

She enjoyed the ceremony of the meal and I enjoyed sitting on a small jump seat and talking to the flight crew.

We were at 56,500 feet and flying at Mach 2.04.

a digital clock on a wall

While I was on the flight-deck she said looking out the small window and seeing the curvature of the earth was like being in a space ship. The sky was very dark above.

There was also a great management lesson from this as well. I asked the pilots if they flew together as a team all the time and knew each other. The response surprised me. “We have seen each other before, but we don’t fly with each other all the time. We don’t depend on each other’s habits. That’s why we have checklists and checkpoints. We need each other to check each other.”

Visit the Concorde cockpit during cruise
Visit the Concorde cockpit during cruise
a close-up of a panel of a plane

We landed at JFK three hours and 26 minutes after we took off. I was one hour and 35 minutes younger than when I left Heathrow.

The beautiful bird rolled to its gate and we deplaned. At customs and immigration we were handled in a special line. But then we waited one and a half hours for the baggage, because it seems the baggage door had frozen. But it didn’t matter, because I had just had a ride on Concorde, G-BOAD.

British Airways Concorde Flight Certificate
British Airways Concorde Flight Certificate
British Airways Concorde in-flight diningware
British Airways Concorde in-flight diningware
a brown and blue folders with text on them

This is a story contributed by reader Dr Bob Nadel from The Nadel Consulting Group, Inc

Have you flown on a Concorde? We'd love to hear from your story in the comment section below.