Norfolk man recalls his key role on the first British Concorde 50 years on from its first flight
PUBLISHED: 11:43 02 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:43 02 March 2019
Clyde Brown was just 21 when he worked on the British Concorde prototype (Concorde 002), which would make its maiden flight on April 9, 1969 from Filton near Bristol.
He said: “I was involved with the Olympus engines that powered Concorde in Bristol - I had served an engineering Quality Control apprenticeship with Bristol Siddeley Engines, later Rolls-Royce, from 1964.
“From 1968-1975 I worked as an inspector in the final inspection area of the main engine build shop on various engines that, for example, powered Concorde, Vulcans and Harriers.
“The Olympus 593 for Concorde absorbed most of my time and just before Concorde 002 made her first flight from Filton in April 1969, I was seconded to the infamous Barbizon Hangar where the Concordes were constructed.
“At this time 002 was performing fast taxi trials prior to the first flight so I was tasked with inspecting the engine internals with the then new technology, boroscope equipment derived from the medical industry. I recall being a little concerned at a damaged compressor blade on engine number three but as I was the only one who had experience with the equipment I had to decide if it was acceptable.
“A lot of pressure was being placed on all of us as British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), no doubt pilot Brian Trubshaw himself plus the media, needed to get 002 in the air. A lot of pressure then for a 21 year-old inspector!
“I also recall that 002 was making quite an impression whilst performing her trials as she was known as ‘Smokey Joe’ due to her engine pre-production combustion systems. In fact she was so smokey that traffic lights had to be installed on the main Bristol/Gloucester road on the end of the airfield. Even more dramatic was she started her run so close to the road, to reach a good speed on Filton’s 8000ft runway and be able to stop, she blew landing lights away and a streetlight over!”
When the big day came and Concorde 002 made her first flight, Clyde said he watched nervously and found it hard to look ay anything else apart from one of the engines.
He said: “On April 9, we were issued with named tickets (I still have mine) to witness the take-off of 002. With fingers crossed and my eyes glued to engine number three, she took-off and landed safely at RAF Fairford where all the Concorde flight trials were held. I recall numerous trips to Fairford, once in a Dakota aircraft, but mainly in my Ford Corsair.”
Clyde later became a technical instructor at at Rolls-Royce Customer Training Centre at Bristol and was given the responsibility of conducting two-week Olympus Power-Plant courses for British Airways engineers before he retired in 2003. He moved from Somerset to north Norfolk five years ago.
Despite being a key part of the Concorde prototype 50 years ago, he only made one flight on the plane.
He said: “In 1984 I was returning from America having been involved with US Marine Corps in North Carolina with their AV8B Harriers when one of our tech reps at JFK managed to get me a flight deck trip home. The flight engineer had been on one of my training courses so I guess I made a good impression.” On November 26, 2003, Concorde G-BOAF, affectionately known as Foxy, not only made the very last landing of a Concorde but returned to her birth-place near Bristol as Clyde fondly remembers.
“Thousands of people came out to watch and there was not a dry eye in the place. For some time she was outside and myself and fellow volunteers, based at a visitor centre on the side of Filton airfield, conducted tours around her inside and out. She is now in a purpose built hangar adjacent to the now closed Filton airfield.”