Concorde will carry passengers for the final time this afternoon (Friday, 24 October) when the supersonic jet lands at London’s Heathrow airport.
The flagship of British Airways for the past 27 years will touch down for the last time in her illustrious career at around 4pm, where thousands of people are expected to gather at Heathrow Airport.
As part of the celebrations British Airways has organised for three Concordes to land at Heathrow. The Concordes will be arriving from New York, Edinburgh and a third will complete a supersonic loop out over the Atlantic Ocean before joining the other two aircraft in the celebrations.
The flight from New York carrying 100 people includes a businessman who booked his ticket a year ago before the plane’s retirement was announced.
Celebrities will experience the last of three flights on Friday as the plane flies from New York to London. Amongst these, actress Joan Collins and British broadcaster and frequent flyer Sir David Frost are also expected to be on the plane.
Lord Marshall, chairman of British Airways, will host guests on the final flight from New York. Concorde will take off from John F Kennedy airport at 7.05am (US time), 12.05pm (UK time).
Since joining the British Airways fleet in 1976 Concorde has flown monarchs, prime ministers, Hollywood stars, pop legends and elite business travellers.
Lord Marshall commented: “Concorde is a wonderful aircraft and her last day is one of mixed emotions.
“Everyone has enormous pride in all that she has achieved but there is inevitable sadness that we have to move on and say farewell.
“Concorde’s magic has attracted millions of loyal fans who enjoy her unique blend of speed, grace and beauty.
“The decision to retire Concorde was a tough one, but it is the right thing to do at the right time”.
Veteran British politician Tony Benn, who held technology and industry posts in government in the 1960s and 1970s and who will be on the final flight, commented: “It is very beautiful and when people look at it they are very proud. It’s its beauty and the people who built it. The end of Concorde is very symbolic.
“People are really inspired by it. It’s like the Royal Family or the space programme.”
At one time the Concorde was heralded as the model of futuristic technology. This airplane flew at nearly twice the speed of sound. It could fly across the Atlantic and return to Europe before a Boeing 747 would be able to make the journey one way.
The marvelous technology notwithstanding, Concorde resulted in heavy losses for the European airlines. The downturn in the world economy left the plane struggling for business, with top corporate executives taking fewer flights.
Additionally, BA’s Concorde fleet never really recovered from the crash of Air France’s aircraft outside Paris in July 2000. The French planes retired in May and BA said the high cost of spare parts meant it could not continue. British Airways and Air France decided to phase out their supersonic Concorde service.
Although it is not known yet exactly what will happen to the decommissioned planes, some will be given to museums. British Airways will make an official announcement next week regarding where its fleet of seven Concordes will be located after retirement.