RECENTLY we introduced a new line of discussion about Concorde’s three visits to Teesside Airport, and it has really taken off.

“I was on the Concorde flight to the Arctic Circle in 1986,” says Carol Levitt in Long Newton, who has the certificate to prove it.

Albert Dicken, the Teesside DIY retailer, was raffling seats on the flight for 50p, in aid of the Butterwick Hospice. “I bought four, one of my husband, my son, my daughter and myself, and it was mine that came out, although they thought it was a fix.

“I was sitting next to the groundsman from the Dickens store at Portrack Lane, Stockton, and he was petrified – he’d never flown before and he kept gripping my hand.

“It was fantastic. The food was amazing served on china plates with silver cutlery, and the champagne flowed freely.

“Everybody was taken into the cabin while we were flying, and we were all amazed at how small the plane was inside with very narrow seats and tiny windows.

The Northern Echo:

“As we were coming into land at Teesside Airport, the captain said ‘do you want to land?’ and there was a resounding ‘no’ so we zoomed off again, did a loop and then came into land with the Red Arrows by our side. Magical.

“It took us 45 minutes to get there and back, and when I met up again with my husband who was in the beer marquee, he said ‘you’ve been to the Arctic Circle and back and I’m still waiting for a pint’.”

The 1986 flight was probably the second of three flights that Concorde made out of Teesside. The first, in 1982, was to launch a travel agency and took 100 or so people on a supersonic flight up to the Arctic Circle. In 1986, Concorde was the star attraction at the airport’s annual airshow, and then in 1995, its third and final visit was a charter flight.

Christine Dickinson, of Yarm, still has her souvenir pack to show that she was one of the 100 passengers who paid £529 for a 100-minute flight at 1,354mph at 60,000ft towards Scandinavia.

“When I was first married, our back garden backed onto the runway of RAF Leeming, and I remember seeing Concorde touch down and take off from my own back garden and I thought ‘one day I’m going to fly on that’,” she says.

“We were bussed from Teesside Airport down to Leeds Bradford and took off over the North Sea – the G-force of take-off was phenomenal, but when you are up there cruising at Mach 2, you don’t realise you are going faster than the speed of sound.

“They took us two at a time into the cabin and you could see the curvature of the Earth with the black above it, and I thought ‘one wrong turning here and we are in orbit’.”

In Christine’s souvenir pack is the menu from her historic flight. It was all cold food. The starter was a fruit appetiser of melon, mango and fig, followed by roasted fillet of beef and grilled chicken breast served with potato salad, cherry tomatoes and a forestiere garnish (which is usually mushroom-related). Then there was cheese and crackers and a posh chocolate washed down by champagne.

Concorde returned Christine to Teesside, and she says: “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I’m so glad I did it.”

Our interest in Concorde was launched by a souvenir postcard lent to us by Betty Longstaff, who used to work at the airport. The postcard was on sale in Betty’s shop, but doesn’t have a date on it.

“I think it’s probably from the 1986 visit,” says Ian Hillary. “The British Airways logo on the aircraft was introduced in 1982, but I think that the Concorde that visited Teesside in 1982 was carrying the older livery.”

Then he confesses: “Actually, the thing that caught my eye was the vehicle parked near the number 3 lamppost (directly under the A of Airways). It looks like a VW transporter – I wondered if it was the ‘square headlights’ variant of the mid-1980s, but it’s not possible to tell.”