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Concorde test pilot hails plane as 'a miracle'
FARNBOROUGH, England (Reuters) -- "It is not unreasonable to look upon Concorde as a miracle."
With these words, supersonic test pilot Brian Trubshaw opened his autobiography.
It was launched on Wednesday at Britain's Farnborough airshow just one day after an Air France Concorde crashed in flames outside Paris, killing 113 people.
Trubshaw, besieged by the media after signing copies for the show's aviation bookshop, said of the crash: "It would be wrong for me to say I was astonished. It was an incident I hoped never would happen, but at the same time one has to be realistic."
"Being mixed up with aviation for as long as I have, one knew that one day we could be faced with this situation," he told BBC Television.
The book -- "Concorde: The Inside Story" -- gives intriguing insights into one of aviation's most glittering status symbols for the rich and famous traveller.
The man who took the sleek, drop-nosed jet on its maiden flight over Britain wrote of his 15 years with the Concorde fleet: "It is the highlight of my aviation career ... I am proud now and proud then to have been so intimately involved."
He remembers April 9, 1969, as if it were yesterday.
The crew were issued air-ventilated suits and parachutes. The pre-flight checklist took an hour. "Good luck gentlemen," said the flight controller.
"We were off down the runway with extremely rapid acceleration," Trubshaw recalled.
With a true British gift for understatement, he said: "After the drama of take-off, there was little conversation among the crew so I thought I had better say a few words to the effect that everything felt fine and that we were doing very well."
On touchdown, they celebrated with a Concorde birthday cake made specially by lady aviator Sheila Scott.
Aviation experts argue that the Paris crash has sounded the death knell for Concorde, always hailed as a technological triumph but lambasted as an economic nightmare.
Trubshaw agreed there are great future challenges "but I believe that they can be met."
And he ends with a defiant plea to the industry to keep developing supersonic flight in the 21st century: "Someone needs to grab the reins and say 'I want some' and get on with it!"
Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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