Backstage with Iain Gray
Next week marks the anniversary of the final flight of Concorde to Filton. On the 26 November 2003, the Concorde Alpha Foxtrot G-BOAF flew into Filton for the final time. She was the last Concorde ever to fly.
The supersonic wonder of the aviation world then took its final journey in February 2017 to her new purpose-built home at Aerospace Bristol in Filton.
To mark this special anniversary, this week we went #BackstageWith Iain Gray, Chairman of the board of trustees at the Bristol Aero Collection Trust, the organisation behind Aerospace Bristol. On top of his role as Chairman of the trust, Iain boasts a stellar career in the aviation field, with his current role being Director of Aerospace at Cranfield University. Prior to this, Iain was the Chief Executive of InnovateUK and prior to this was the Managing Director and General Manager of Airbus UK.
Read on to find out Iain’s fondest Concorde memories, what ways we can help support Aerospace Bristol to preserve the cities rich aviation history, and so much more:
It’s so wonderful that our city has a place like Aerospace Bristol to preserve and celebrate our heritage and inspire future generations. In what ways does the museum help inspire the next generation of engineers?
The museum tells the story of the people as well as the story of the technologies and the products. It shows what ordinary people can achieve – designing, manufacturing and supporting products that were both iconic and world leading in their time. With a chapter of the story pointing to the future, Aerospace Bristol inspires young people to want to be the engineers who shape and create the aerospace industry of the future.
What’s your favourite Aerospace Bristol exhibition/feature and why?
I have many favourites – I love the secret Filton section as even though I have lived and worked at Filton for so many years there were things happening that I had no idea even existed. I also love a small exhibition case with various toys that marked Bristol products - it shows just how important Bristol products were across the globe when I was a child. And of course, I love Concorde.
What’s your favourite memory of Concorde?
I always loved seeing Concorde flying into Filton. I remember being at our local school summer fete in Stoke Gifford one year when Concorde flew over at very low altitude – it was amazing and so inspirational to my children and inspired me to take them on a Concorde flight to New York before it went out of service.
If you could share a Concorde flight with any past passenger of the supersonic aircraft, who would you choose?
I would have loved to have been with Phil Collins when he performed at Live Aid in Wembley and then flew in Concorde to New York to play at Live Aid in Philadelphia.
Do you feel that transforming the Brabazon hangars into a world-class arena with heritage at its heart is a good way to repurpose the iconic building?
The three humps of the Brabazon hangars are iconic in their own way – deep down I wish they were still home to assembling aircraft like Concorde – but that can’t happen and transforming it into a world-class arena is a great way to give people in the South West the events and concerts they deserve and protect those beautiful hangar buildings for future generations.
How, as a venue, is the museum coping during the tough challenges caused by the global pandemic? In what ways have you had to adapt the visitor experience?
It's been tough for all museums through COVID – being without visitors and events for several months meant we were without crucial revenue. If it hadn’t been for the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Government's support, we might not have made it. It was a big relief to reopen at the beginning of August and great to see good visitor numbers, but now we must face further closures through a second lockdown.
In what way can the city help Aerospace Bristol to support and preserve the rich aviation history?
Aerospace Bristol is a key part of the business and engineering legacy of Bristol and South Gloucestershire. The best way to show support is by working in partnership with Aerospace Bristol to promote career opportunities in the sector and encourage young people to develop the future skills required – using the legacy to inspire the next generation of engineers which will retain and build the aerospace industries of the future who will help invest to secure the legacy – the aerospace circle of life.
What do you like best about Bristol?
I love Bristol Harbourside – on a lovely sunny day it is the equal of any of the great harbourside venues from around the world.
Are you excited for Bristol to have an arena?
It is great that Bristol will have its own arena attracting the best concerts and events taking place around the UK to our great City – I am really looking forward to being a regular concert-goer.
What’s the first gig you attended, last gig you attended, and a future gig you’d love to go and see?
My first gig was in Aberdeen and was David Bowie on his Ziggy Stardust tour. I would love to see Muse play Bristol.
And last, but not least, what’s your all-time favourite song so we can add it to our YTL Arena “Backstage With” playlist?
My favourite song is Carole King, “You Gotta Friend”.
Want to find out more about the supersonic Concorde? Book your tickets now to visit Aerospace Bristol when it re-opens on 2 December.
Please also consider making a small donation today to ensure the museum can remain a special place, where Bristol’s aviation heritage can be preserved and celebrated for future generations. Aerospace Bristol, which is run by a charity, is a museum in its infancy. With the loss of vital visitor and event income, this puts the future of the museum and preservation of Concorde in real jeopardy. You can play a key part in helping to protect our local heritage by showing your support today.