RAF Fairford remembers 75 years

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jennifer Zima
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs

1940’s swing music filled the open hangar as an audience poured in to celebrate. Military members, historians, aviation enthusiasts, radio specialists, falconers, and many other locals arrived for the RAF Fairford 75th Anniversary Heritage Day.

A B-52 Stratofortress, B-2 Spirit and many single-engine planes lined the runway outside the hangar. Inside there were remanufactured World War II-era jeeps, military gear, original World War II-era radios, and multiple information boards displayed.

In the back of the hangar were information boards and photographs describing the Concorde, a supersonic commercial airliner that could fly twice the speed of sound. RAF Fairford was a British test center for the Concorde.

“It is the 50th anniversary of the first flight of Concorde,” said Douglas Stewart-Newton, a retired flight test safety equipment officer.

Stewart-Newton and Richard “Dick” Hughes, a retired British Aircraft Corporation aircraft engineer, both worked on the Concorde at RAF Fairford. They were happy to share their stories about working on the Concorde.

“We were in Bahrain flying to Singapore,” said Stewart-Newton. “A Boeing 747 flew before us and arrived two hours later. The Boeing pilot approached us and asked if we were the same Concorde they saw at takeoff. I told him that in fact, we were.”

RAF Fairford was the British test center for the Concorde, a supersonic commercial airliner that could fly twice the speed of sound.

According to BBC, the British government aimed to improve flying speeds overseas for commercial airlines with the development of the Concorde. The goals was to cut flying time from London to New York from seven hours and 40 minutes to three hours and 25 minutes.

“It was the first supersonic passenger aircraft in the world,” said Hughes. “We did the flight test here at Fairford, and orders were placed for it to go all around the world. Unfortunately, Concorde didn’t sell as well as we thought it would.”

In 2003 British Airways and Air France ceased flying the Concorde, due to cost and other reasons. Most are now housed in museums around the world.