Bernard spiked my supersonic story

neil mackwood


Farewell then Bernard Shrimsley who although a gracious host at the Garrick he spiked one of my better stories.

I received a tip off from a BA Captain that the head of the Concorde fleet at the time was piloting the plane back from America when it encountered mechanical trouble. 

Concorde had to slow to subsonic speed causing it to use more fuel than usual and the co-pilots became alarmed that the craft wouldn't make it to Heathrow.

The first officer suggested a landing at Shannon to re-fuel but the captain refused and being a tartar insisted on pressing forward to Heathrow because by his calculations he had enough in the tank to get there. They didn’t.

The crew realised that they were perilously close to running out and called ahead for an emergency landing which was completed successfully. But the trim fuel in the wings was also running on empty and as Concorde taxied off the main runway the trim fuel ran out and the the plane's nose rose off the ground meaning that Concorde now could not be steered.

The VIPs on board (I never did find out who they were) were decanted by ladder and taken back to the terminal. A near disaster had been avoided.

When I presented this to Shrimsley he expressed great interest and asked for my source which I gave him. He called me in some time later and said that while it was a great scoop he had shown the story to the D-notice committee and they had requested that the story be spiked - as it promptly was.

I read with interest in the Telegraph obit that Bernard was a member of that committee. 

Bernard-Shrimsley-e1465559383363-1200x817 (1)

A few weeks later I read the captain of the Concorde had stepped down.

*Bernard Shrimsley, pictured right, who died on June 9 aged 85, edited The Sun, News of the World and the Mail On Sunday. He spent the last 13 years of his career on the Daily Express, first as assistant editor to Larry Lamb, who had left The Sun in 1981, and then as associate editor to Nicholas Lloyd whom he had recruited to The Sun in 1969.

Telegraph obit

Times obit

Link to Times if you have no subscription

Roy Greenslade’s tribute in The Guardian

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