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Last Updated: Monday, 20 October, 2003, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
A high-flying farewell to the USA
Concorde cabin crew member Neil Smith
Neil Smith on the flight deck of Concorde
Concorde cabin crew member Neil Smith, 28, from Thornbury, near Bristol, shares his experiences as part of the plane's farewell tour of the USA with BBC News Online.

I was not quite six months old when Concorde made her first scheduled flight from London to Bahrain in 1976.

Having been raised in the Filton area where Concorde was built, and with many family members employed by Rolls Royce and British Aerospace, I grew up with lots of model Concorde aeroplanes in my bedroom window.

So it was with great honour and excitement (and a few nerves) that I opened the envelope containing news of which of the supersonic plane's farewell trips I would be working on.

Farewell visits

I am one of about 100 full and part time cabin staff dedicated to the Concorde fleet, and each of us will be taking part in the special visits around the UK and the USA to mark the plane's retirement.

A guard of honour greets Cooncorde on its arrival in Boston, USA
A guard of honour greets passengers on their arrival in Boston, USA

It is now some 27 years on from that first commercial flight, and here I am taking the aircraft and 100 passengers to Boston, the second and last time the aircraft has visited the city in its history.

Despite a technical problem which meant we had to change aircraft, the passengers and crew remained excited, buzzing with anticipation, as we finally set off from London at sunset.

As has become common practice in the past six months, the cabin was awash with flash photography and video cameras - we did our best to keep the champagne and food flowing, but with so much activity everywhere we looked, it was a tough job.

During the flight three men proposed to their respective girlfriends (the answers were all 'yes', to much rapturous applause), and American news teams interviewed passengers about their feelings and emotions as and when they could squeeze past the trolleys.

Special welcome

Outside we were making fantastic progress - the sky began to grow light again, and the sun appeared to be rising in the west.

This is a unique sight caused by flying at twice the speed of sound - faster than the planet rotates. It is an amazing view, best seen from the flight deck, but this is sadly reserved for pilots and crew since September 11 2001, as cockpit visits during the flight are now strictly forbidden.

A day to remember - and we beat a world speed record with the fastest ever westbound flight time between the UK and US.
Neil Smith
Concorde cabin crew

As Captain Mike Bannister landed the aircraft we all caught a glimpse of the media and crowds of people around the airport who had come to witness our arrival - Boston really had pulled out all the stops with its welcome.

Hundreds of airport workers had stolen a few minutes to see us to our stand, and for once the amount of flash photography outside the aircraft far outnumbered that inside.

The airport's fire department greeted us with a fantastic water-arch supplied by two giant water cannons for the aircraft to taxi through, and a military guard of honour was there to meet our disembarking passengers.

World record

With a gleaming aircraft fresh from its water salute, we were ready for the special soiree that was to take place in a nearby - carpeted - hangar.

Amazing - not only had we given everybody on the ground and in the air a day to remember, but we also beat a world speed record, with the fastest ever westbound flight time between the UK and US - a mere three hours five minutes.

Concorde before its flight to Boston, USA
The plane reached Boston, USA, in record time

The next day hundreds of local children toured the aircraft as we prepared to take 100 competition winners from North America for a subsonic 32-minute flight to New York.

Our American passengers clapped, cheered, whistled, cried and hollered as we raced down the runway at over 250 mph - what a buzz as we soared into the sky!

I have never seen such emotion, excitement, thrills and joy on the faces of those people lucky enough to enjoy the best that Concorde has to offer.

Treasured memories

I doubt I will ever see such a reaction to the act of flying again.

It is such a shame Concorde has to stop, but I feel such honour and privilege to have played a small part in this beautiful aircraft's history.

The photographs, souvenirs, stories and memories will live with me forever.


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