“I would always find a half bottle of Dom Perignon stashed under my seat…” — Meet Concorde’s million mile man

Fred Finn flew 2.5 million miles on the supersonic jet — and explains the unique atmosphere onboard this historical anomaly

“It was a sports car, it wasn’t a Rolls Royce,” says Fred Finn wistfully as he provides a second-by-second account of taking off in Concorde, the iconic supersonic airliner. “It was bumpy — you sure felt it — and with the full reheats on, Concorde was like a fighter,” he says with a smile. Of course, for Frederick W Finn, describing every surge, smell and sound of a Concorde at full chat is second nature. At the age of 81, he holds the Guinness World Record for the most supersonic passenger flights. Of the 15 million miles Finn clocked up in the sky, 2.5 million of those were recorded on the 718 Concorde flights he took between 1976 and 2003, in ‘his’ seat 9A. Why that particular seat? Because “that’s where they started the refreshment service from,” of course. Fast becoming a regular on the supersonic service, Finn would always find a complimentary half bottle of Dom Perignon stashed under his seat to welcome him back to his 11-mile high, 1,350 mph home. “I became an ad hoc part of the Concorde family and still I am very much so to this day,” he says. 

Mean Machines: Fred Finn with a Mclaren F1 in front of a Concorde jet

Still travelling, albeit slower than the speed of sound thanks to Concorde’s involuntary redundancy in 2003, Finn’s tales from his life at Mach 2 are worthy of a film. “Johnny Cash was a big mate of mine. I used to fly out of Nashville with him…I arranged a helicopter for Phill Collins to get him to the Live Aid concert…I flew with Paul McCartney many times. He was a nice guy… I met President Gorbechev several times — I even stayed in his Dacha in Ukraine…and obviously, I know Richard Branson because I helped him start his airline.”

The list goes on, as do the obscure tales of how Finn came across his high-ranking friends at 60,000 feet. But Finn isn’t particularly fussed about the famous names. He’d much rather relay the details of the times he spent in the cockpit, alongside the handful of Concorde captains, staring out of the heat-resistant visor and over the trademark droop nose on approach to JFK. It’s only when pushed does he recount the names and details of his supersonic encounters. From heading out for ribs with Johnny Cash in New York and arguing the toss with Sir David Frost about who flew on Concorde more frequently, to advising Richard Branson on his new airline strategy and parties with Ayrton Senna, there weren’t many people in the public eye that Finn didn’t meet over a glass of Dom Perignon at Mach 2. “You have to understand on Concorde, it’s not like any other aeroplane where there’s economy, business and first. Everyone on Concorde knew they’d earned the right to be there, some way or another, so everyone was equal. I mean if you’d tried to get in the office of the people I met, it would have been almost impossible.”

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rorysmith

rorysmith

Rory is motoring editor-at-large at The Gentleman’s Journal. Most familiar with four wheels but can also be found falling off two.

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