Brian Trubshaw, Concorde and the Llanelli Connection
The name Brian Trubshaw is synonymous with Concorde, the supersonic transport aircraft which was often referred to as 'the silver bird in the sky'.
Brian was a local boy who became a renowned aviator and a friend of the Royal Family. Although he grew up locally, the family originally came from the Staffordshire area. Apparently the family can be traced back to the year 1285 when an ancestor named Henry de Trubshagh was married in Wigan – this would suggest that Brian was of Norman descent.
His grandfather, Ernest Trubshaw, came to Llanelli from the Midlands when he married the daughter of an industrialist from the North of England who owned the Western Tinplate works in Station Road (later known as the Marshfield). Ernest was sent to Llanelli to be the manager, and he and his wife lived in Ael-y- Bryn House in Felinfoel(now the Diplomat Hotel). He was very active in the social affairs of the area and was a founder member of the Ashburnham Golf Club.
One of Ernest Trubshaw's children was called Harold (Brian's father) who took over the management of the works on the death of his father. Harold and his wife, Lumley Victoria Gertrude(nee Carter), lived initially at Caedelyn House in the Furnace area of the town. In 1924, contrary to popular belief, Brian was born in Liverpool (Ref: England & Wales, Birth Index: 1916-2005). When he was three years old, the family moved to the Links in Pembrey and at the age of eight, he was sent to a preparatory school in Twyford.
When he was ten, while on holiday, he witnessed an aircraft (carrying the Prince of Wales – later King Edward VIII) landing on the beach at Pembrey near his home. Apparently, this sight made an impression on him and triggered an early interest in flying.
At the age of thirteen, Brian was admitted to Winchester Public School where he remained until he was eighteen, when he joined the RAF and spent some time flight training in the USA. He then joined Bomber Command and flew Stirling Bombers during the latter stages of World War Two.
When the war ended, he was selected as a pilot on the King's Flight, flying members of the Royal Family all over the world. He became a friend of Prince Philip and was a favourite of the Queen, who referred to him as 'My Brian'.
In 1950, aged twenty-six, he retired from the RAF and joined Vickers Armstrong, flying Viscounts, Vanguards and V bombers.
The following year, his father died and his mother moved back to North Wales. This effectively ended his main link with the Llanelli area.
During 1959, The British Aircraft Corporation was formed by the amalgamation of Vickers with other aircraft companies and shortly afterwards, the Concorde project was approved by the British and French governments, with the responsibilities being apportioned equally between BAC in Britain and Sud Aviation in France. A decision was made to manufacture sixteen Concordes – eight at Filton near Bristol and eight at Toulouse. Brian Trubshaw was appointed as the Chief Test Pilot of the British side of the project with subsequent promotion to General Manager of Flight Operations at Filton.
In 1969, following a nine year development period, the first test flight of a French Concorde took place, with the French senior test pilot at the controls. One month later, on 9 April 1969 the prototype jet flew for 22 minutes taking off from Filton near Bristol and landing at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire. Shortly afterwards Trubshaw was awarded the CBE.
1972 was a special year for Brian when he piloted Concorde on a world tour and also, at the age of 47, married a widow called Yvonne.
Concorde eventually went into commercial service in 1976 when British Airways flew to Bahrain and Air France to Rio de Janeiro simultaneously. A number of airlines had placed provisional orders for Concorde but eventually, partly due to the sonic boom concern, British Airways and Air France were the only airlines using the aircraft. Regular transatlantic services were introduced later that year, initially from London and Paris to Washington and later to New York. The flight duration was 3.5 hours and the return fare was £8,000.
During supersonic flight, travelling at 1350 miles per hour (twice the speed of sound and faster than a rifle bullet) and cruising at 60,000 feet, the heat generated caused the fuselage to stretch by up to 10 inches. The photograph shows the insertion at supersonic speed of a crew member's hat to show the expansion of the metal components in the plane. The cap could not be removed when the plane returned to subsonic speed.
Concorde consumed 5,400 gallons of fuel per hour, making running costs very high.
In 1977, the British Aircraft Corporation was nationalised and became British Aerospace. Three years later, Brian Trubshaw was appointed Divisional Director and General Manager of the Filton works of BAe. He retained this post until he retired in 1986 at the age of 62, having spent 36 years in the aviation industry and flown over 100 types of aircraft during his career. In retirement, he took on a number of advisory posts including becoming a board member of the Civil Aviation Authority.
During the year 2000, an Air France Concorde crashed shortly after take-off from Paris with no survivors. All Concorde flights were grounded as a result. Although services were resumed the following year, in 2003 both airlines announced that they would cease operations. That was the end of the Concorde era. In retrospect, it could be said that the aircraft was a technological wonder but a commercial failure since it had been developed at a tremendous cost to the British and French taxpayers. On the other hand, Concorde was an iconic supersonic aircraft and a number of the planes produced may now be seen at aircraft museums in Britain, France and the USA.
Brian died at the age of 77 years at his home near Tetbury in Gloucestershire after a period of ill-health. A memorial service was held in his honour at St Clement Danes in the Strand, the official church of the Royal Air Force. Prince Michael of Kent represented the Queen and Lord Tebbit, an ex-pilot, gave an address in which he spoke of Brian Trubshaw as a great aviator and a very good man.
This was a fitting tribute to an outstanding individual who, despite all the accolades and numerous professional awards which he received during his career, remained a staunchly modest and private man. He surely deserves a permanent memorial in the locality.