Mike Bannister Biography #1

Mike graduated from the Ashton School in Dunstable, and the College Of Air Training Hamble, having been awarded a Royal Air Force Flying Scholarship in 1966. Mike then joined BOAC  (British Airways’ predecessor) in 1969 as a pilot and flight navigator on the Vickers VC10 fleet.  He became the youngest pilot on the Concorde fleet in 1977, completing the first ever course for ‘Line Flight Crew.’  Over the following years Mike was a member of a number of government and industry policy groups dedicated to aviation safety, and became a Concorde pilot instructor in 1986.

Mike joined British Airways Management becoming Assistant Training Manager and a Captain on the BAe1-11 fleet in 1989.  He also served as Flight Crew Manager for that fleet and the A320 fleet.  In 1990 he was appointed Flight Manager (Technical) for the BAC 1-11 fleet.  In 1992 he moved to the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 fleet as departmental Manager Business Development & Communications and was named Head of Communications, Flight Operations in 1992. In that role he managed all aspects of Flight Operations communications, media contact and use whilst being a key contributor to British Airways corporate media, publicity and branding activities.  In addition he acted as a lead spokesman for British Airways for a number of key issues whilst also developing the departmental and corporate Business Plans. He was appointed the airline’s Chief Concorde Pilot in 1995 and, until the aircraft’s retirement, and regularly flew as Captain on all of the aircraft’s routes world-wide.

From July 2000 Mike was very actively involved in the corporate and industry efforts to achieve Concorde’s safe return to service in November 2001.  In that role he liaised closely with manufacturers, accident investigators, Air France, Governments and the Authorities as well as representing the company in a range of arenas.  He led the development of the Safety Case for ‘Return to Service’ and was a key member of the team that wrote the associated ‘Business Case’.  Additionally he developed and delivered the retraining of Concorde Flight Crew in preparation for Concorde flying duties following their extended secondment to other types. Mike was seconded to the Air Accident Investigation Branch as Lead Technical Delegate during the Concorde Accident Investigation. Mike delivered significant Concorde presentations to customers, staff, insurers, service partners and authorities including landmark events for the Top 50 Concorde Customers at Engineering Base at Heathrow and the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York.  He also performed a crucial role as Media Spokesman for all Concorde matters over an extensive period of time. Mike was at the controls of British Airways’ Supersonic Flagship when she returned to service on November 7th 2001 and for the final scheduled flight from New York to London on October 24th 2004.  In addition he flew the aircraft for all of the ‘Air to Air’ photographs and movies of Concorde that were used in supporting presentations. His other Concorde “firsts” are too numerous to list, highlights include: landing the aircraft on inaugural visits to Oakland, Philadelphia, Denver, Dallas, Baltimore and Miami. He commanded the aircraft in June 1996 on the 50th Anniversary Fly Past of London Heathrow Airport, flying in formation with the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows. He flew Concorde to New York on her 21st birthday on Jan. 21st 1997, and commanded former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s State Visit to Denver for the G7 Summit meeting later that year.  He has worked with NASA and Boeing on the next generation SST and commanded the Concorde / Red Arrows Fly Past at the State Opening of the Scottish Parliament on June 1st 1999.  At the end of 1999 he commanded Concorde as it overflew the British Airways London Eye on ‘Millennium Eve’. In the USA Mike was instrumental in developing the British Airways ‘Ride The Rocket Roadshow’ having worked closely with US staff to produce the introductory video, provided much of the technical information and some of the exhibits.  He was also a key Technical Advisor to Microsoft for the development of the Concorde model within their then best selling Flight Sim 2000 PC program.

As ‘Chief Concorde Test Pilot’, Mike commanded the first British Airways Concorde flights following embodiment of the series of safety modifications.  The two Technical Verification Flights of the first Concorde to have its Certificate of Airworthiness restored ~ G-BOAF ~ took place in July 2001.  Following that he established and ran the Refresher Training programme for flight Crew including Base Training at Shannon in Ireland in the summer of 2001.  He subsequently flew the first scheduled flight as Concorde returned to regular passenger service.  He was well prepared for these both in experience terms, having been a Concorde Instructor since 1986 and having qualified as a CAA Test Pilot to fly Concorde Certificate of Airworthiness Test Flights since 1996.

In March 2002 Mike’s responsibilities were extended to cover all aspects of the Flight Operation of British Airways Airbus A319 and A320 fleets together with the Boeing 737, 757 and 767 fleets.  He continued to fly Concorde on a regular basis on her scheduled routes to New York and Barbados until her retirement. A particular highlight of Mike’s Concorde career was commanding British Airways Concorde G-BOAD as she flew in the 27 aircraft formation that closed the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Celebrations on June 4th 2002.  He took his element of the formation, Concorde plus nine Hawk aircraft of the RAF’s Red Arrows aerobatic team, down ‘The Mall’ and over Buckingham Palace at 1500 feet to the cheers and applause of the million plus spectators gathered to honour the occasion. As a climax to his Concorde career Mike commanded and flew the final Concorde commercial flight from New York to London on Friday October 24th 2003. Subsequently he flew the flights of the Concorde Fleet to their final resting places in Manchester, Barbados, New York, Seattle and Filton.  By the time Concorde retired Mike had amassed over 9,200 Concorde flight hours – around three quarters of these, 6,900, being at supersonic speeds. In addition to his Concorde responsibilities Mike had responsibility for the Flight Operations of British Airways Airbus, Boeing 737, 757 and 767 Fleets from March 2002.  In February 2004 he also assumed responsibility for the Gatwick operation.