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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 October, 2003, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
Concorde - my part in her history
Catherine Davies in 1969
Catherine Davies in 1969 - working as a WREN aircraft mechanic...
Former aircraft mechanic Catherine Davies tells BBC News Online about her part in Concorde's development.

In 1969 I was working as a Wren aircraft mechanic at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, but my family lived in Bristol.

So when a notice went up on the boards asking for a volunteer to work at Filton for a month helping with the Concorde project, I jumped at the chance.

My job was to maintain the Buccaneer jet we were using for test flights as it had the closest shape to Concorde.

I also had to do all the daily checks on the jet.

I stayed with my parents, and travelled to Filton each day wearing my smart uniform, which earned some interesting remarks on the bus.

Technical work

But they were nothing compared to the comments from the lads when I arrived at the Concorde hangar, or the looks on their faces when I came out of the Ladies in my overalls and started work - climbing into the Buccaneer's air intakes to check the compressor blades.

They weren't used to seeing girls doing much technical work and I had a few problems when they climbed into the cockpit and refused to leave.

Catherine Davies in 1969
...and looking a little different, as 'Miss Fly Navy', in the same year

I soon put a stop to this by pointing out that they were sitting in a rocket-propelled ejector seat that could shoot them straight up to the metal roof at 90 feet a second.

Once I had the aircraft ready, the crew would fly up from HMS Heron in Yeovilton to take it up for as many flights as necessary, and I was responsible for refuelling and maintenance work.

The Buccaneer was parked in front of Concorde, and I used to man its brakes while it was towed out of the way to let the new plane out.

We Royal Navy folk were given a guided tour of Concorde - we were led through and all over the plane while one of the foremen extolled her virtues like a proud father.

Our Chief Petty Officer, who felt that 'his' Buccaneer was a much better plane, was getting fed up until, in a huge burst of one-upmanship, he said: 'Look at your air brakes - ours are much bigger'."

Birthday present

At Filton, we used to eat with the pilots and the day before they all left for the first test-flight at Toulouse, which was planned for 1 March, our navy pilot told them it was my birthday on 2 March.

One of the French workers said 'We shall delay Concorde's first flight for you, it shall be our birthday present to you!'

In the end there was bad weather on 1 March, so I got my birthday present!

Years later when my husband, a Dutch pilot, was working for KLM, he would often say: 'I was parked next to Concorde at Heathrow today - I said hello to her for you', though we could never afford to fly in her.

I am very proud to be associated with the development of such a unique and beautiful aircraft.


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