diamond geezer

 Friday, October 24, 2003

Birdwatching

Mach 2I used to live under the Heathrow flight path, just a few miles away from the airport. Every evening at ten past seven I'd turn up the volume on my television to prepare for Concorde's daily flypast, awaiting the sudden arrival of a screaming silver bird in the sky, and then two minutes later return my TV to its normal volume. Anywhere else in the country a Concorde flypast would have been a special event, with crowds out on the streets to watch her pass over, but few of the locals round where I lived ever even stopped to look up. Their loss.

I used to live in Suffolk, where to spot any plane in the sky was a rare sight and Concorde was never seen. It still impacted on our lives though. On Tuesday 25th July 2000 a group of Suffolk students were on a summer trip to France and due to be staying in a small hotel in Gonesse, an obscure suburb of Paris. Their coach was still a few miles short of checking in when Concorde hit a metal strip on the runway at nearby Charles De Gaulle airport, burst into flames and crashed onto that very same hotel. Had the accident happened an hour later the terrible loss of life in that fireball would have been even greater, and would have included people I actually knew. Great loss.

I now live in London, rather further from Heathrow, but Concorde is still sometimes part of my sky. I remain one of those people who stops and stares every time she flies over, in the same way that an ornithologist would stop and stare at a passing osprey. Last year I took up position in Trafalgar Square for the Queen's Golden Jubilee flypast, not for the antique planes but for Concorde to fly directly overhead, flanked by nine Red Arrows. Most impressive. Today's final flypast sees three consecutive Concordes due to swoop into Heathrow at 4 o'clock this afternoon. I hope their final flightpath takes them over central London, because I'll be watching from my 7th floor office window just in case I'm allowed one last fleeting glimpse before the species becomes extinct. Our loss.


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