It’s one thing to have flown Concorde as a passenger. It’s quite another to have actually piloted it. On January 12 1972, Prince Philip took the controls of Concorde, the world’s first supersonic airliner, during one of its early test flights.
The Duke of Edinburgh stayed in control for 30 minutes, flying ten miles above the ground and at one point hitting 1,340 miles per hour, twice the speed of sound. Chief test pilot Brian Trubshaw commended his “pretty polished performance.”
Asked his flight experienced, Prince Philip remarked:
“A very pleasant aircraft to fly — nothing mysterious or complicated.”
At the time, Concorde was embroiled in controversy. Cost overruns threatened to axe the joint Anglo-French project and there was unease over its noise and smoke. Environmentalists and community activists wanted the project stopped, but the Prince’s cautious seal of approval helped to strengthen the project four years before its maiden commercial flight.
The Prince carefully noted:
“If you set out to do something as complicated as this, and succeed to the extent where people believe it will be a commercial success, then anybody associated with it has every reason to be proud.
‘That doesn’t include what possible side-effects it may have. If it has got side-effects they will soon become apparent, but that doesn’t detract from the technical achievement. I think it is a tremendous achievement in any language.”
One reporter asked him about the plane’s smoke and noise and Prince Philip, in classic form, quipped:
“Well I was inside, and I wasn’t smoking…”
But he then aded:
“No one needs to talk to me about aircraft noise.
“Windsor Castle is not far from one end of Heathrow’s main runway, and Buckingham Palace not far away at the other end. We know all about it. But no one is more conscious of the noise than the manufacturers.
“As far as I can make out they are very hopeful that the noise can be brought down to an acceptable level — or at least to the level of jets currently in use.”
You can watch a video from his flight here.
Oh to fly the Concorde. Even from across the Atlantic and outside the Commonwealth, I am thankful for Prince Philip’s life of service and devotion. And today I also salute him for piloting the Concorde.
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