British Airways Grounds Top Concorde Pilot For Rest of Career
LONDON (AP) _ British Airways said Thursday it grounded the most senior pilot of its supersonic Concorde jetliner division for the rest of his career because he broke company rules about fuel levels during a flight from New York to London in May.
The airline said in a statement that it banned Capt. Brian Walpole, 54, from flying and confined him to his desk job as general manager of the Concorde division until he retires on his 55th birthday in December.
Queen Elizabeth II had honored Walpole just this year on the advice of the government by making him an officer of the Order of the British Empire.
British Airways said the Concorde that Walpole had been flying developed an hydraulic fault, forcing him to reduce speed and so use more fuel than normal.
But it said that despite having the option of stopping at Shannon airport in Ireland to take on more fuel, he flew on to London’s Heathrow airport.
It said air traffic controllers at Heathrow responded to a request to clear the Concorde for a priority landing. The plane was found to have enough fuel for 25 more minutes flying instead of the minimum 30 required by British Airways rules.
″A rule had been broken. Capt. Walpole has ceased flying duties and will carry on his managerial duties as general manager of the Concorde division until his time (for retirement) comes,″ the statement said.
It said the 49 passengers on the flight were not endangered.
Walpole was the first pilot to fly Concorde across the Atlantic to New York on its inaugural supersonic flight from London, in 1977, after helping test- fly the plane.
In 1985, he flew Queen Mother Elizabeth in a Concorde as a treat for her 85th birthday.