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Throwback: When Four British Airways Concordes Flew In Formation


In 1985, on Christmas Eve, UK flag carrier British Airways celebrated the upcoming tenth anniversary of its launch of scheduled supersonic passenger flights operated by Concorde by flying four of the delta-winged jets in a formation.

The airline was specifically celebrating a decade since it launched its supersonic route from London to Washington DC. In those years, the Concorde fleet had gathered 71,000 flying hours. They had never flown these planes in formation until Christmas Eve, making it the perfect opportunity for a birthday photograph.

Planning the Event

Before this momentous event could even be made possible, multiple days of planning went into the project. One of the main difficulties was finding a time when four of the Concordes would be available to fly together across the south coast of the UK. After all, BA only flew seven examples during Concorde’s stint at the airline.

Once the planners for the special formation flight found a date when three of the aircraft were available, they could find a fourth one. However, they did still have to ensure that engineers would not want to service the planes involved at the last moment. Once the British national airline had identified the planes that would be set to fly, they could also choose the crew that would be involved in the flights.

The Crew

On G-BOAA, the lead jet, was Captain Brain Walpole, Engineering Officer Ian Smith, and First Officer Dave Rowland. On G-BOAC, Captain John Eames flew with First Officer Peter Horton and Engineering Officer Roger Bricknell. On G-BOAF, Captain John Cook flew with Engineering Officer Bill Brown and First Officer Jock Lowe.

On G-BOAG, Captain David Leaney, First Officer John White, and Engineering Officer Dave MacDonald were onboard. Each member of the crew had an important task. Captain Brian Walpole was the general manager of the Concorde Division, and he oversaw the entire planning for the event. Captain David Leany focused on the flight details, including managing the formation with the air traffic controllers.

Since this event was a celebration, BA also decided to allow 65 of their other employees to come onboard as passengers during the formation flight. BA originally scheduled the event for November, but because of technical problems and bad weather, they postponed it until Christmas Eve, when the flight finally took place.

The Big Event

December 24th was an astute choice, as Christmas Eve was one of the few days when there weren’t as many services being flown by BA’s Concordes. Furthermore, the weather was clear enough to get a good view of the formation.

The airplanes lined up on Heathrow’s runway and within a few minutes, they were all in flight. Once airborne they then got into their formation some 15,000 feet above the English village of Lyneham, North Wiltshire. The aircraft then performed their first formation, which was a diamond. Their second was a swan-like outline.

The final formation resulted with all of them in a line that resulted in the famous pictures that you see today. However, the final formation wasn’t perfectly lined up for the pictures. The imperfection helped prove that this was a genuine photo, and the captains still argue over who was at fault for the imperfect lineup.

A Video of the Flight

Captain John Hutchinson was on one of the planes while they were getting into formation, and you can watch this video to see him explain how the controls work.

Other Airlines have Also Performed Formation Flights

As it happens, British Airways is far from the only airline to have performed a formation flight with some of its most iconic aircraft over the years. Indeed, more recently, UAE flag carrier Emirates also got in on the act. Known for its love of daring stunts, the airline flew one of its Airbus A380s in formation with two jetpack flyers, which made for a spectacular sight over the Emirate of Dubai.

Source : Simple Flying


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