One of the key highlights of our recent Manchester Trip was to visit the Runway Visitor Park at Manchester Airport. The Park is a highly recommended location for aviation spotters and enthusiasts alike, with raised viewing platforms for spotters, facilities, 2 eateries, an aviation store, as well as a number of aircraft on display around the Park Grounds. The key attraction of the park is of course, a well maintained retired Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde, registration G-BOAC of British Airways. Unlike the other planes on display, the Concorde is housed within its own hangar, and access to the majestic plane is only available via ticket purchase. Of course, if you prefer not to pay, you could still see the plane through the glass panels at the front of the hangar. There mainly are 2 tickets you could choose to purchase to visit the Concorde only:
The Concorde Classic Tour -
£13.50 per person, approximately 40 mins
The Concorde Technical Tour -
£21.50 per person, approximately 1 hour and half.
Both tours allows you to walk around the plane, as well as board the rare supersonic jet, visit the interior cabin and even sit in the cockpit ! For us, we picked the Classic Tour due to time constraints.
THE WALK AROUND
The tour first starts at the waiting room, where our guide gave us a brief intro about the Concorde, as well as playing a short 10mins video about how the amazing plane came about, after which we wasted no time and proceeded to the hangar where the sleek jet rested. As we entered the hangar, and first gazed upon the Concorde, feelings of awe and amazement can't help fill the air around us. As a kid, I had a few Concorde toy planes as I grew up, and it was a dream to finally stand in person before the real plane. It truly was an impressive design, sleek and organic. Build for speed. An amazing detail that most fail to realise is that this incredible plane was designed in a time when there were no computer aided design softwares. Every inch of the plane was designed by hand, calculated and worked out by pure human ingenuity as well as intelligence. That fact made the plane even more impressive than ever.
The walk around outside the plane lasted about 15mins or so, as our guide took us in a circle around the plane, explaining details such as the delta wing design, engines, landing gear, and baggage hold amongst other things.
Some small fun facts highlighted by our guide:
The Concorde has a small cargo hold as compared to regular commercial jets. She was built for the business traveler, people whom travel light.
The engine intakes on the plane has variable intake ramps to control airflow during subsonic and supersonic speeds.
The engines are equipped with both Primary and Secondary Exhaust Nozzles. The Secondary Nozzles, shaped like clamshells, can be varied to control exhaust in all stages of flight.
The famous droop snoot of the Concorde was necessary in order for pilots to look out of the cockpit during taxing and landing. The Plane was a fuel guzzler, and it uses up plenty of fuel on the ground as much as in the air.
ONBOARD THE CONCORDE
Stepping onboard the world famous supersonic airliner was a dream fulfilling experience. Even when they were in service, an air ticket for a round trip flight with the Concorde from London to New York would have easily cost $20,000USD. One of the first things we noticed as we boarded was how small the cabin size was in comparison to airliners of today. Seat arrangements laid out in a single isle configuration, 2x2. The reclining seats had no IFE, then again you won't need to entertain yourself or watch movies to spend the time. Its a different style of flying, where high class fine dining, decent conversations plus the experience of flying higher and faster than anyone else out there gives passengers the enticement of flying with Concorde.
Another interesting thing you'll notice is the windows on the aircraft are small. Very small. The glass was also thicker than what we are normally use to. At high speeds, the planes exterior tends to heat up and expand, most passengers can feel the heat by touching the windows during flight. Heat dissipation is also the reason why all Concordes are painted in a special white paint. For the tour, only the forward cabin area was accessible, up until the lavatories separating the forward and rear cabins. Personally, I was amazed at the detailing of the seats in the cabin. Simple dark blue leather upholstery, with silver metal touches on nobs and panels really adds to the class of the Concorde. For the cockpit tour, groups of 2 to 4 pax are allowed up at a time. Wei Jie & myself were the last 2 up in the cockpit, and we spent a bit extra time chatting with the guide who was a pilot and ATC himself. Concorde's cockpit truly shows the era in which she was built, a time when digital screens and HUDS were just in some engineers imaginations. Full analogue dials, switches and panels filled the smaller narrow cockpit of the airliner, where the pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer operated. Sitting in the pilot's seat gave a sense of what it was like to be in cockpit, but only with imagination could one see what the view would have been like from 60,000ft in the air.
We had quite a good time talking with our guide, as fellow aviation enthusiasts have alot of tales and stories to share. Over staying the tour by about 10-15mins, we left the Concorde with good memories and photos, checking off one of the things to do in my bucket list.
If you are ever at Manchester, I highly recommend visiting the Runway Visitor Park, and going onboard the amazing Concorde. For more details,check out the Park's website at: book.manchesterairport.co.uk/manweb.nsf/Content/runwayvisitorpark