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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 October, 2003, 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK
Spending a day with Concorde

By Tom Bourton
BBC News Online

It was a real case of "how the other half lives" at Cardiff International Airport on Thursday, as Concorde dropped in as part of its UK lap of honour before it is retired.

Concorde in Cardiff
Concorde spent four hours on the tarmac in Cardiff

While the competition-winning passengers onboard sipped champagne and tucked into three course meals, spectators dressed in fleeces and warm coats and armed with flasks patrolled the perimeter fences.

Braving the cold, they jostled for the best positions to watch the 204ft-long jet with the infamous drooped nose touch down and take off again.

Their efforts proved the unique universal appeal of the sleek jet.

Plane spotting may not be everyone's favourite hobby, but who has not breathed an excited gasp when they saw Concorde's space-age shape flashing across the skies?

And Thursday's trip was something of a homecoming too - as Concorde was partly constructed nearby at Filton in Bristol.

To watch the day's proceedings, we were processed through a series of security checks and delivered to go "airside" and get a prime spot alongside the runway.

Concorde in Cardiff
Purser Ricky Pick said it was a sad day for the crew

It may sound glamorous, but it wasn't.

For "airside", read "a cold bus in a cold field by the cold tarmac".

But as time ticked down until Concorde made its entrance, a sense of anticipation and excitement built up all around the airfield.

The crackle from a security guards's radio informed of the jet's progress and, from 1130 BST, we craned our necks for the first sighting.

And there it was, gliding above the Vale of Glamorgan in a long arc, before beginning its approach run.

As it neared, the quiet of the October day was broken by its deep-throated roar, before it came down just yards from where we stood.

Up close, it is not as big as you might think, but looks majestic as it glides past the other planes on the runway.

Concorde in Cardiff
Concorde parked up outside the BA hangar

On the tarmac, staff and passengers alike thronged round the jets for souvenir pictures, and one engineer - Grant Findlay, even took the chance to set up his easel and paint it.

Exciting it all may have been, but an unmistakeable sense of sadness pervaded the atmosphere, not least among the cabin crew, who are being split up after years together.

Purser Ricky Pick, whose father is from Brynamman near Ammanford in south west Wales, admitted they were all feeling the effects.

"We have had lots of flights where all the passengers and ground crew have been crying - now it is our turn," she said.

Four hours later, Concorde was off again, bursting into the early evening south Wales skies and away to the Bay of Biscay, before it makes its way into the history books.




SEE ALSO:
Why I travelled to see Concorde
23 Oct 03  |  Wales
In pictures: Farewell to Concorde
17 Oct 03  |  In Pictures
In pictures: Concorde in Cardiff
23 Oct 03  |  Photo Gallery



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