Gander Newscaster Plays Role in Concorde’s Commercial Travel Test

by Terry Hart

As a young boy growing up in Grand Falls-Windsor, I, along with my two sisters and two brothers, would periodically jump into the family car with our Mother and Father and take a Sunday drive to Gander, and of course visit well-known Gander International Airport.

Little did I know some of the most memorable times in my broadcasting career would take place years later involving Gander International Airport, a career that would span some 46 years with VOCM Radio and Steele Communications.  My work experience covering stories in Gander and its airport allowed me to make lifelong friends in the town, relationships I still maintain today.

I covered many stories throughout the years and lots of them involved trips from Grand Falls-Windsor to Gander International.  I had the opportunity to interview world leaders like, Cuban President Fidel Castro (several times), Soviet President Brezhnev, President Tito from Yugoslavia (name of country at the time), Mohammed Ali and others. I also reported on the tragic Arrow Air crash at Gander, along with other air crashes, the jet fuel embargo which impacted Gander Airport in the 70's, and other airports worldwide.

However, one story I vividly remember covering was the Concorde Supersonic jet which used Gander International Airport as part of its testing for the new aircraft. While covering the story about British Airways plan to use the Gander Airport as part of its testing, I was invited by airline officials to fly on some of the first test flights from Gander to London and return. I also arranged for VOCM's province-wide News Director, Elmer Harris of St. John's, to participate in this event. When we boarded the Concorde for the flight from Gander there were already dignitaries aboard, including political, aviation and leaders of smaller countries from the British Empire.

We flew from Gander International to London in two-hours and 16 minutes, and the return flight took two-hours and 22 minutes. When we landed in London, we were bussed to Bristol to tour the plant where the Concorde was manufactured for British Airways. I was also invited to fly Concorde flights from Gander to Paris and Gander to Bahrain but had to decline due too other commitments.

One of my observations flying on the Concorde was the quick acceleration and steep take off compared to a regular flight. It was also a thrill when the Concorde aircraft reached supersonic speed breaking the sound barrier. A lit sign indicated we had reached supersonic speed.

Because of my experience covering this story, radio station CKGA Gander, part of VOCM Radio Newfoundland Network, submitted a presentation on Gander International Airport’s role in flight testing in the North Atlantic. CKGA won the Charlie Edwards Award for best spot news coverage in the Atlantic Provinces for its 15-minute feature presentation on the Concorde jet, and its use of Gander International Airport. The presentation won out over more than 50 other radio and television stations in eastern Canada. Charlie Edwards is a former General Manager of Broadcast News and was well respected in the broadcast industry for his outstanding commitment to the profession.

Gander was very fortunate to have many world class aviation people such as Cy Rowsell, Royal Cooper, Jack James, Les Gettel, and Austin Garrett who knew the aviation industry well. The Town of Gander and all those involved in aviation can certainly be proud of the role it played in the 70's in testing the Concorde for supersonic travel.

Gander International Airport still services overseas flights, however not to the same degree as the past because of advancements in technology. Gander air traffic controllers still play a huge role in air travel between North America and Europe. As well, Gander is also home to Gander Flight Training, owned and operated by wife and husband team of Florence and Patrick White, who train students from all over the world for their pilot license. They have been doing so for just over 25 years.

Contributed by Terry Hart - Retired Broadcaster


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