Flying Supersonic – What A Day In the Life of a Concorde Pilot looked Like

Source: John Tye

Imagine flying a plane that moved faster than the speed of sound as your day job. The Concorde was an airplane that was unlike any other in existence in its day (and even today). In this article, we’ll look at a day in the life of a Concorde pilot, referencing the memories of a retired pilot, John Tye.

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

Source: Wikimedia/Eduard Marmet

The Concorde is recorded in history as the fastest commercial plane that ever flew. The supersonic airliner would regularly make the flight from London to New York, moving so fast that it would get to its destination before the time it had left its origin airport.

Piloting these wonders of engineering were elite pilots like John Tye, who knew what it took to keep these planes on course and their passengers safe. John says it was one of the best experiences he’s ever had as a pilot, and he would love to relive those glory days again.

A Long and Storied History

Source: John Tye

The Concorde started its flying history in 1976. On January 21st, a crowd gathered along the Heathrow Airport tarmac to look at the world’s first supersonic airplane take off from the runway. Among the onlookers was a young John Tye.

A mere 20 years later, John would be the one in the cockpit of the plane. As a teenager, he had dreamed of piloting the supersonic jet, and he finally got that opportunity as an adult. He says he pinched himself to ensure he wasn’t dreaming when he first got the offer.

An Extensive Training Program

Source: Wikimedia/DarkAvira

Flying one of the most expensive engineering marvels of the day isn’t something the company took for granted. Each pilot, including John, was required to spend hours of training in the Concorde simulator before setting foot on the plane. The simulator was unique in its construction, offering a realistic feeling of being in the plane’s cockpit.

The training was so rigorous that few pilots could complete it. British Airways and Air France were the only companies that operated the Concorde. It was said there were more qualified American astronauts than BA pilots who could operate a Concorde.

The Real Deal Was Significantly Different

Source: John Tye

The intense training was supposed to prepare a pilot for flying the Concorde, and it did…to an extent. When actually climbing into the cockpit, it was a completely different feeling for any pilot contracted to fly the plane. Many expected it to feel like a regular plane on their first try.

John notes that the first time he turned the engines on in Sevilla, Spain, the power from the four Rolls-Royce Olympus powerplants blew his mind. Thanks to the massive thrust of the engines, each bump on the runway was magnified, meaning a pilot had to know their stuff or risk losing the plane before it even took off.

A Flight Like No Other

Source: Flickr/oatsy40

John mentions that flying the Concorde was a unique job. While everyone would be driving into London for their day, he would be going against traffic to board the plane for his morning trip. Once at the airport, the plane crew (which included John, another pilot, and six cabin crew) would prepare to leave Terminal 4.

The plane would leave Heathrow at 10:30 AM. Because of its speed and the time zone difference between both locations, it’s typical for the Concorde to get to New York hours before it left. It was a surreal feeling of time difference between the locations. An average plane takes many hours to make the same trip today.

A Star-Studded Passenger List

Source: Flickr/Mike McBey

While the Concorde was a valuable tool for those commuting between New York and London, it also had a considerable celebrity draw. Many famous people would regularly take the plane as the most efficient way to travel between the UK and the US. John actually met quite a lot of them during his trips.

Once the plane was in the air, the passengers were free to roam around and mingle. Some of them would even come to the cockpit to give John their compliments. Remember, this was in an age of much-reduced air safety controls, so this sort of behavior was typical.

Not The Most Comfortable Flight

Source: Flickr/Scott Lowe

Many people used the Concorde as a business flight. There was one recorded instance of a man taking the Concorde three times in a single day. The thrill of riding on the world’s only supersonic jet was well worth it. Tickets were in high demand and were pretty expensive as well.

Yet the flight itself was cramped and uncomfortable for some passengers. The sleek, aerodynamic design of the Concorde made for cramped quarters on the inside. Allowing the passengers to walk around while in flight was one of the creature comforts that made the flights bearable.

Like Going from a Bus to a Formula One Car

Source: Flickr/98octane

Like most other pilots, John was originally trained as a commercial airline pilot. This experience was the stepping stone to becoming a Concorde pilot. However, when sitting in the cockpit of the fastest bird that was ever built, many were amazed by the sheer power and speed of the airplane.

One former pilot described the experience as going from a bus to a Formula One racing car, and it’s not so far off. While average planes still take around seven to nine hours for a transatlantic flight, the Concorde set the record for it, completing the flight in just under three hours at its fastest.

Like a Mini Vacation For The Crew

Source: Wikimedia/Francisco Diez

So, what did the crew and pilots do once they got to New York? According to John, they were free to spend the day however they wanted. They’d typically head downtown for some shopping or to hang out for a bit. BA would put them up in a lavish hotel for the night.

Pilots and cabin crew needed a good night’s rest to ensure they were at the top of their game on the return flight. For British Airways, keeping their pilots and crew happy was a matter of investment. These were, after all, the best that they had.

A New Age of Flight

Source: Flickr/Phillip Capper

While the Concorde is now defunct, ending its operation in 2003, it introduced a whole new way of flying to people. Yet, despite its substantial ticket costs, operating the supersonic jet commercially was financially risky. The closure of the service meant we don’t have a supersonic plane currently in commercial service.

That may change, however. NASA has announced they are working on another supersonic jet – a spiritual successor to the Concorde. Maybe our dreams of supersonic flight aren’t over yet. Perhaps we need to wait just a little bit longer to fly faster than the speed of sound once more.

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Charlotte Clad

Written by Charlotte Clad

Charlotte Clad is a brilliant writer who possesses the remarkable ability to craft content that goes viral and leaves an indelible mark on readers. With an innate passion for storytelling and an unwavering commitment to her craft, Charlotte has consistently pushed the boundaries of creativity to captivate audiences worldwide.

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