Over the years, I have had some interesting experiences involving aircraft. Some have been amazing, others terrifying and are as vivid today as they were at the time they happened.


In the 70s, I made two filming trips a year from New Zealand to Britain. This was a time when Concorde was a marvel in air transport. Before one of my trips back to England, I came up with the idea of promoting TV ONE in a novel way. I presented the idea to a producer at NZ television and he thought it was quirky so agreed to my innovative plan. My idea was to make a series of channel promos with the tagline: “TV ONE- GOING PLACES” which would play in gaps between programmes. I was given a magnetic decal (a moveable sticker) featuring ‘ONE’ written on it. It was the channel’s current logo and the decals were used on car doors to identify the vehicles as belonging to that channel.


When I arrived in London, I contacted the publicity department at British Airways to see if they would play ball with my plan. They thought it would be an interesting promotion for the Concorde as they hoped the supersonic plane would someday fly to Australasia. I was given instructions on where to meet the person at Heathrow Airport who would take me to the plane. The BA man lead me through a series of corridors until we were ‘air side’. It was an empty space between two loading gates with airbridges positioned beside the terminal building waiting for an aircraft to arrive. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen while the two of us made polite conversation. He smiled as the aircraft of the future suddenly appeared. I was not prepared to see the magnificent sight of Concorde being towed by an airport buggy. “Where would you like it?” he asked. I was speechless as I gazed at the supersonic aircraft being hauled towards me. I realized how special the moment was. Afterall, how many people were offered a Concorde at their disposal. The BA guy could see I was somewhat overcome, “We can position it anywhere you like or at the gate. It’s due to fly to Bahrain this afternoon and needs to be prepared.” I nodded my approval as I took in the sleek lines of this plane towering over me. I was struck by how high it was off the ground. The curve of the wings and the huge engine housings made it especially interesting to admire. Of course, the famous pointy nose was the main feature that made this aircraft so special. Once it was parked at the gate, a British Airways van raced into view. A guy jumped out and asked me for the decal. I handed it to him. He gave an order on his intercom. I now watched as a hydraulic hoist was brought from a layby under the loading gate. It was wheeled up to the side of Concorde with a guy standing on the platform clutching the ONE decal. I watched with a certain amount of pride as he positioned my decal just below a side cockpit window. The BA guy asked,“Is that where you want it?” I nodded my agreement as I set up my camera for the shot I was after. Once the hoist had been removed the Concorde stood in all its glory with the ONE decal attached to its side. What an achievement! I took a whole series of shots to maximise the opportunity. I believe the footage was used on TV One a few times. I never saw it onscreen as I spent the rest of that year based in Britain.


When the filming was done I was offered the chance to look inside the plane. I was struck by how narrow the cabin was with just 4 seats abreast. However, these seats were particularly plush and looked great in their silvery blue leather coverings. It was a small aircraft with just 128 seats in total. Concorde passengers were attracted by its speed, not the interior space it offered. It was a step back in air travel when the last Concorde flew in 2003. It has to be said though that it was a very noisy aircraft. I used to visit a friend who lived near Kew Gardens. At around 2pm every day, you could hear the distinctive roar of the Concorde engines as it flew over his house on approach to Heathrow at the end of the daily flight from New York. You would always hear Concorde before actually seeing it. There were only 20 ever built, operated by British Airways and Air France. Today, there is talk of building a new generation of supersonic aircraft. I’m not holding my breath.

Concorde (Wikipedia)

A few days after decorating Concorde, I received permission from London Taxis to place my ONE decal on a London taxi. I set my camera up opposite Buckingham Palace and filmed a black cab with ONE on the driver’s door, drive past with the palace in the background. The driver agreed to do a number of passes until I was approached by a policeman who informed me I was breaking the law as it is prohibited to advertise anything in front of the palace. Once I explained what I was doing and where I was from, I was let off with a warning. At least I achieved my goal of ONE- going places!


In 1958, the government owned National Airways Corporation (NAC) purchased the British built turbo prop Vickers Viscount to replace the World War Two era, DC3. I remember as a young boy flying on a Viscount and was impressed with its speed and comfort, and large windows! It was a highly popular plane at the time but with the arrival of the jet age, NAC needed to look at replacing the Viscounts. The NAC board decided on the American built Boeing 737. NAC was one of the first non-American customers to purchase this brand-new aircraft model. The first of eight arrived in NZ in 1968. There was a great deal of interest in these jets as they almost halved flight times between Auckland-Wellington-Christchurch-Dunedin, the ‘main trunk’ route on which they served. At the time, I had just joined the Dunedin television studios as a teenaged cameraman. I was full of ideas and as I wanted to fly in the new jets, but couldn’t afford the steep ticket price, I came up with the idea of making a short promotional film featuring the service onboard a jet flight from Dunedin to Auckland. Luckily, NAC head office agreed to my proposal. A day was set, and I was sent a ticket for the flight. I excitedly boarded the jet with a small hand-held 16mm camera. After take-off, a flight attendant announced over the plane’s intercom that I would be filming the various activities onboard and if anyone didn’t want to be filmed, they were to make themselves known. Not one person on the full flight objected. I had fun filming tea and biscuits being served, the safety demonstration and various passengers enjoying a smooth flight. It was a great day and I got to have a free return flight on a jet plane. The edited film ran for 5 minutes and I handed it to NAC for their own internal use. They were happy. I was happy and the 737 went onto become one of the most successful and loved aircraft in history.

Perhaps I should’ve offered to make a similar short film onboard Concorde for British Airways. Who knows, I might have been given a free return flight from London to Bahrain. Ah, there’s a lost opportunity.!

Ceidrik Heward

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