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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October, 2003, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Concorde collecting fever takes off
By Bill Wilson
BBC News Online business reporter

The original flightsuit and helmet - pic Inflight World
There will be great interest in Trubshaw's flightsuit and helmet

When test pilot Brian Trubshaw took to the air in the prototype Concorde on 9 April, 1969, he could never have imagined that one day the flightsuit he was wearing would be a highly desirable item.

The historic UK flight, from a test runway at Filton near Bristol to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, took all of 22 minutes.

Now, 34 years on, as the date for Concorde's last flight approaches and its legendary status is assured, demand for collectables from the era of supersonic passenger flights is soaring.

Air France has announced a prestigious auction of Concorde parts at Christie's in Paris, sales on Ebay are healthier than ever, and British Airways plans a Concorde sale of its own early in 2004.

Now the original Trubshaw flightsuit, as well as the helmet he wore on that British maiden flight, is to be auctioned online from November 6 to 16, by specialist sales agents Concorde Collectables.

'Aspirational'

Lisa Perez, of specialists Concorde Collectables, which has been selling souvenirs from the aircraft for three years, believes the growing interest in items is because "aesthetically, the aircraft is beautiful".

"There is also an aspirational jet-set, aspect to Concorde. Most people would like to have flown on it if they could."

It is the sort of thing that serious collectors and museums will be looking to snap up
Roland Arkell, Antiques Trade Gazette

She said the fact the supersonic era of passenger flight was coming to an end had also stimulated interest.

And Roland Arkell, of specialist paper Antiques Trade Gazette said: "Concorde has such iconic status, it is unique, and the idea of sharing in its history has always appealed to collectors."

Other lots included in the Concorde Collectables sale include an original black box data recorder, and a half-size Concorde engine meticulously carved from hardwood used for wind-tunnel testing in the 1960s.

Other items up for grabs from those test-flight days include wheels, cockpit instruments, service manuals, and wing parts.

Wing parts

At the end of the testing programme at British Aerospace in 1979, the items were saved by Commander Douglas Kingsford-Hale, a former Fleet Air Arm pilot.

He said: "I received a call from the development people, asking if I would be interested in their spare parts for my aircraft theme park, following the completion of their work.

Concorde
Concorde first took to the skies in April 1969
"Lieutenant Brian Trubshaw, a wonderful man, asked me if I would like the pressure suit he wore on that first British flight of Concorde, to also put on display.

"There is a great deal of feeling for Concorde - it is an icon to rank alongside the Spitfire. I don't know how much interest there will be in the auction, but there are some unique pieces there."

The auction will start at the beginning of November, and will last 10 days, with prices expected to range from 10 into the thousands of pounds.

Mr Arkell said:"It is the sort of thing that serious collectors and museums will be looking to snap up.

"Concorde has always been of huge interest - it is a popular part of the long-standing "aeronautica'"collector's market.

"Here there is the added bonus of primary provenance, which people are always interested in."

Museums alerted

Commander Kingsford-Hale had displayed the Concorde items at his Flambards Village Theme Park in Cornwall, originally known as Cornwall Aircraft Park.

However as the theme park was developed to include a rollercoaster and Victorian village, it was felt the Concorde pieces no longer fitted.

Lisa Perez, of Concorde Collectables, says: "These pieces date back quite some time, and there is bound to be extremely high interest.

Concorde facts
1969 - First test flight
1969 - Breaks sound barrier
1971 - First intercontinental flight
1976 - First commercial flight
1979 - First regular flights to USA
2000 - Crash at Charles de Gaulle airport
2001 - Returns to passenger service
2003 - Airlines retire plane

"We expect great interest from individual buyers, either collectors or people who worked or flew on Concorde."

In total, around 1,500 items from the Kingsford-Hale collection are being sold at concordecollectables.com. during November, with the first batch going online at the start of the month.

Air France also holds its major Concorde sale at Christies in Paris in November.

And online auctioneer Ebay has also seen a big increase in traffic since the announcement that the Concorde fleets in both France and the UK were being disbanded.

Butter holders

It has more than 1,500 Concorde-related items for sale, with most of them attracting bids.

Everything from blankets and duty-free catalogues are up for sale, as well as table items such as salt and pepper pots and butter holders, all bearing the Concorde logo.

Air France is auctioning Concorde parts and memorabilia on 15 November to mark the end of the supersonic airliner's 27 years of service.

The wooden model included fine detail - pic Inflight World
Half-sized wind tunnel test engine made from wood

Auction lots include Olympus 593 engines, built by Rolls Royce and Snecma, and a distinctive nose cone is expected to be another highlight of the sale on 15 November.

Meanwhile British Airways says it has also been inundated with requests for pieces of Concorde memorabilia.

A company spokesman said: "Interest has been phenomenal and our postbag gets bigger every day.

"At the moment we are concentrating on the last flights, but we are looking at holding an auction of our own some time early in 2004."

Enthusiastic supporters of Concorde are expected to gather at Heathrow to watch Captain Mike Bannister land the aircraft for the last time on a commercial flight on 24 October.




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