LATEST NEWS

STORY ARCHIVE May 2003

BA chief blames French for killing off Concorde - 1/5/03

Reports in the London Times suggest that British Airways was forced into retiring Concorde because Air France and Airbus-France, the French half of the manufacturer, refused to continue supporting it, the airline’s chairman said.

Lord Marshall said that BA would have been keen to continue operating the plane beyond the end of October if the French had been prepared to share the burden of extra maintenance costs.

BA originally said the decision to retire Concorde had been taken jointly, but Lord Marshall told The Times : “Concorde can’t keep flying unless the manufacturer is willing to go on producing the parts.

“Airbus said they were not willing to support Concorde beyond the end of October. We might well have considered continuing if they hadn’t.

“It would have made it much more difficult for Airbus if Air France and BA had presented a united front in supporting the continuation of scheduled services.”

Lord Marshall said that Airbus had been determined to redeploy the staff who supported Concorde to more profitable production lines. Airbus told BA that it would have to spend £40 million on maintenance over the next two to five years to keep Concorde flying.

Air France said that the decision had been taken “in close conjunction with Airbus”. Both airlines said it had been made for economic reasons, mainly due to falling premium passengers loads, which would no longer be able to fund the forthcoming costs.

Jock Lowe, BA’s former chief pilot and commercial manager of Concorde in the late 1990s, said that Air France had always been less interested in maintaining Concorde flights. “They never made as much money as BA on Concorde. They failed to upgrade the product in the way BA has over the years.”

BA spent £14 million on refitting the interiors of their aircraft while they were grounded after the Air France accident, in a long planned move that would have taken the aircraft up to the end of its projected life towards the end of the decade.

Captain Lowe said that BA should have invoked the terms of the 1962 treaty on Concorde signed by Britain and France, which obliged them to continue supporting the aircraft even if one wanted to withdraw. BA could make a profit from Concorde for several more years if it promoted it properly. “The massive demand for tickets since the retirement was announced proves how popular Concorde continues to be.”

Lowe said that he supported Virgin Atlantic’s attempt to take over BA Concorde services. “They would need a huge amount of expertise but there is a pool of recently retired engineers who would be very willing to help. Virgin has the marketing flair needed to make it work.”

Portions of text courtesy of The Times


Government can offer no help to Branson - 6/5/03

Virgin airline boss Sir Richard Branson has failed to win government support for his bid to buy Concorde from British Airways for a nominal sum.

The UK’s trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt is writing to Sir Richard to tell him there are no grounds for government ministers to intervene in the dispute that has hit the headlines over the past weeks, since British Airways and Air France announced their plans to retire Concorde this year. Sir Richard, owner of Virgin Atlantic, said he believed his company could make Concorde a success.

Ahead of the official letter, Ms Hewitt telephoned the Virgin Atlantic boss today to tell him there are no grounds for ministerial support for his plan. "It is not for the government to make a decision on either the cessation of Concorde services or the disposal of the aircraft concerned." Ms Hewitt said in a letter.

Virgin had demanded to see BA’s Concorde financial figures, but BA maintained the aircraft were not for sale, and even if they were, the manufacturer would not provide the level of support required for the airworthiness certificates to be retained. The Virgin boss had argued that under an Anglo-French treaty signed in 1962, the aircraft manufacturer Airbus has an obligation to maintain the fleet.

Ms Hewitt had raised Virgin's hopes on Monday, when she told BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour she would be "very interested" in looking at any proposition from Virgin.

Virgin's bid for Concorde has been resting on a deal signed in the 1980s. Sir Richard has claimed the agreement contains a clause saying if BA no longer wanted Concorde, then another British airline should be allowed to operate the supersonic fleet, which was developed with billions of pounds of taxpayers money. Government officials are understood to have found no sign of the critical clause.

In 1979 the 2 unsold UK built Concordes were placed at the disposal of British Airways, as no other airline wanted or could operate them. In a March 1984 deal, that wrapped up the UK government’s involvement in the Concorde programme, these were sold to BA for a nominal sum, as part of a 16.5 Million pound deal

Sir Richard had told a press conference at Gatwick airport that he hoped to hold talks with Ms Hewitt to ask for government intervention to prevent BA selling off the aircraft to museums and private firms, believing that they were a national asset.

A Department for Trade and Industry spokeswoman said: "If any further evidence comes forward about the future of the company then the Government would be happy to look at it."

Branson holds out the possibility of an alliance between his group, BA and Air France, to operate the aircraft under a joint venture agreement. These hopes now appear to have been dashed, and Concorde looks set to be retired gracefully in October.


Another rudder failure for Air France? - 8/5/03

As Concorde enters the home straight, it appears that another Air France aircraft has had trouble with a rudder de-laminating and part of it breaking away during flight. Air France Concorde F-BTSD flew out to New York as the AF002 on May 1st. The aircraft did not return the following day, but Air France re-timed their schedule to allow the outbound aircraft complete the inbound AF001 leg on the same day.

Sierra-Delta flew the AF001 service two days later. The tell tail sign of the incident was all too apparent when the aircraft returned to CDG; the upper rudder had been replaced by a spare wedge section that had not yet been painted into Air France colours. If, as assumed, the upper rudder failed, this would be at around a similar hours mark to when British Airways started to experience upper rudder failures in the late 80's and early 90s.

The incident, which has yet to be reported in he NTSB's incident database, follows a series of incident for the French based carrier; Flight International recently reported that the aircraft (F-BTSD) that diverted to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in February lost in the region of 16T of fuel, due to a fuel pipe rupture in the No3 engine. The publication believes that this was one of the key reasons the airline was in a rush to retire the aircraft from service as soon as possible, combined with the appalling loads that they had been suffering on their supersonic services, due to the backlash against the French by the American public over their stance on Iraq.

Air France told Flight International that the incident "had nothing whatsoever" to do with the decision to stop flying the aircraft, which was based on "exorbitant operating costs". Air France went further to point out that there were "far fewer" incidents since restarting operations than it did before being grounded, "but every small incident causes media interest, whereas it never used to".

With the amount of interest that Concorde is currently generating, it is expected that pictures of the aircraft arriving in New York will soon be available.

Picture Courtesy "Lolo"


British Airways plan UK farewell tour - 11/5/03

Concorde is to fly into retirement on a farewell people's tour of the UK, with seats up for grabs at just £5 a head.

British Airways are staging a prize charity draw for tickets to give the nation's favourite jet a grand send-off. A total of around five individual flights will take place from locations that will include Heathrow, Manchester, Glasgow and Newcastle. These are being planned so millions can wave farewell to the droop-nosed jet.

According to the Sunday Mirror newspaper, tickets for the lottery-style draw will go on sale next month and 500 winners will be treated to special two-hour trips over the Atlantic and around the Bay of Biscay. The money raised will go into a charitable trust for children, overseen by veteran Concorde fan Sir David Frost.

A source at BA revealed: "It's Concorde's farewell tour and she's going out with a supersonic bang. Celebrities have been invited to ensure she will be given the right send-off. Hopefully millions of pounds will be raised for charities. "What they are going to do is sell the equivalent of Concorde lottery tickets so everyone has a chance of becoming part of history."

The flights, which begin in October to coincide with the aircraft's official retirement, are the brainchild of BA chief executive Rod Eddington.

The airline has said it wants Concorde to go out on a high, so many more flights should be planned to allow everyone who has wanted to fly on Concorde that chance to do so, although maybe not for a fiver.

The diary in the retirement section will list where Concorde will visit, so you will have the chance to see her in the air for one last time around the UK


Concorde-lovers in France bid farewell to Concorde - 14/5/03

Dozens of people are flocking to the edge of Paris' Charles de Gaulle international airport to see Concorde soar skywards one last time before France withdraws the legendary supersonic jet from service on May 31st. Early each morning a gaggle of aviation enthusiasts gathers near a hangar at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport northeast of Paris to catch a glimpse of the famed transatlantic aircraft as it departs for New York.

" I think it is truly special plane, beautifully designed, it is the most beautiful in the world," said Jean-Pierre Ghillebart, a keen photographer, one of around 50 people who turned up to admire the jet.

" This is the second time I have come here since I got the the news that Concorde was being retired," he said, setting up his camera for a last shot of the great white plane.

Concorde takes off each day from Roissy at around 10:30 am (0830 GMT) for a three-and-a-half hour flight to New York, before returning later in the day.

Jean-Pierre accepted the decision to retire Concorde: "You have to know when to stop. If it is no longer profitable, that's just too bad."

Others disagreed, such as Valerie and Didier Prud'homme, who brought their two young sons to capture the jet on film.

" I liken it to a swan," says Valerie. "It breaks my heart to think it won't fly any more."

Gregory Anique, a former employee at Roissy airport, was also bitter: "It is a shame they are retiring it, it gave France a good image, it had not been matched for 30 years."

At around 10:30 am a hush fell over the plane-spotters as they strained to hear Concorde's engines -- the loudest in the world -- fire up for take-off. The moment the supersonic jet became airborne, the cameras all crackled at once, to cries of: "Here it is!", "It's so beautiful", "Fantastic".

Twenty seconds later, Concorde was no more than a speck in sky, before it vanished altogether.

" What a shame it is retiring," said Jean-Pierre with a laugh: "Because it leaves each morning and comes back just before dinner time, it was the signal for us to sit down for pre-dinner drinks."

Later on in the day the crowds again gather to watch the aircraft arrive into Paris from New York. The AF001 service from JFK arrives around 17:00 local time.

The Aircraft taxies along the "parallel" taxiway, that leads from the runaway Concorde uses to the Air France passenger Terminal at CDG. For many years this area has been a favourite with the enthusiasts and it a well known location.

So well known is this area, that the Concorde flight crews will stop the aircraft and droop the aircraft nose up and down, in Concorde traditional saulte to the gathered crowds.

In the UK, although Concorde will not be retired until the end of October, the amount of people gathering around Heathrow has increased markedly in recently weeks as families bring their children to see the aircraft. It is not just families who have stopped to watch by aircraft from BA and other airlines will park up and watch her depart at 18:30

The Heathrow viewing area is currently closed, but as Concorde mainly used the north runway good views can be found from the Heathrow visitors centre and its car park. Hopefully later on in the year when the airport runway re-surfacing is finally complete and Concorde is again cleared to used the same runway are all the other aircraft are using.

The viewing gallery may again be open, but this very much depends on the security situation. There is hope amongst the enthusiasts that the gallery may be opened for a short period at weekends around the time Concorde arrives and departs.

For details on where to see Concorde at Heathrow see the viewing Concorde page.

Pictures - Sven De Bevere, Bernard Charles


Air France retirement plans emerge - 17/5/03

After weeks of speculation Air France are set to announce their retirement plans for the Concorde fleet. Their 4 flyable aircraft will go to museums around the world, while the aircraft that was in a check, F-BVFF, will eventually go on show at Paris' Charles De Gaulle Airport.

First to leave the nest at CDG with be Concorde F-BVFA. Fox-Alpha, Air France's first Concorde, will head out the the Smithsonian Museum's Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport, Washington DC, on June12th. The museum has a long running contract with the airline to supply a Concorde which is set to be honoured, by them supplying the first Concorde to operate a commercial service to the US and that airport.

Next up for retirement will be F-BTSD. It is understood that although it may depart CDG on June 14th, it is possible that it willmake its ferry flight to its final destination of the Air and Space museum at Le Bourget on the first day of the Paris airshow on Saturday June 21st. Eventually Concorde 213 : F-BTSD, the 18th aircraft built, will go on show next to the first ever Concorde 001 : F-WTSS. Although at this time it is not confirmed, the aircraft could fly in formation with Patrouille de France, the Aerobatics team of the French Air force at the airshow.

On June 23rd F-BFVB will be ferried to the airport nearest to the Auto & Technik Museum at Sinsheim in Germany. It is expected to go on show at this museum on the roof adjacent to their TU144 later on in the year.

The final ever Air France Concorde flight will take place on June 27th, when F-BVFC is retired to its place of origin at Toulouse. It will not go on display next to Concorde 201, but will be placed at the entrance to the new Airbus A380 plant. Many in France feel that this is a strange choice, as Airbus are not know to have looked after Concorde 201 too well over recent years and it was Airbus' decision, as the manufacturer, not to support Concorde after October 2003 that lead to an earlier than planned demise.

For an up-to-date list of where the fleet will be retired, see the Retirement status page in the Concorde retires section.

Picture - Bernard Charles


Branson steps up his bid for Concorde - 21/5/03

Virgin Atlantic chairman, Richard Branson, on Wednesday May 21st cranked up his high-profile attempt to keep Concorde flying by holding a 2 hour meeting with officials from the aircraft's supporting manufacturer, Airbus.

Earlier in the week, Sir Richard visited the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, Cambridge, where he toured one of the early development models of the aircraft (Concorde 01), which is on show in a hangar. In Branson trademark move he was photographed waving out of the cockpit window, as far a British Airways are concerned. this is a close to the aircraft that he will ever get.

On the eve of his London meeting, he said at Duxford: "We will fight right up until October to keep Concorde flying. I think the British public is right behind us and we intend to keep the pressure on BA and the Government.

The previous day BA chief executive Rod Eddington again insisted that both his airline and Airbus were adamant Concorde's working life could not be extended.

" Our experts and their experts have both come to the same conclusion, it couldn't be clearer," he said.

However before Wednesday's meeting, Branson said he still hoped to "embarrass BA into not scrapping Concorde."

Branson, who insists Virgin could operate the jet at a profit, added that apart from flying to New York, his airline would consider using Concorde on routes to the Caribbean and the Middle East.

Along with a team of executives from his airline and retired BA Concorde staff, Branson met Airbus officials in London for what is expected to be the first in a series of talks to find out if they would continue to support the aircraft after October 2003, if they were operated by Virgin, BA or a joint operating company.

Sir Richard hailed the two-hour meeting as "very good". "We had a very good meeting with Airbus, where everyone put their cards on the table," Branson said afterwards.

" In the meeting our team put some practical ideas to Airbus to keep Concorde in the air and they have agreed to go away and discuss these before coming back to us."

The airline says the supersonic airliners must be taken out of service because of the increasing difficulty and cost of maintaining them, arguing that Airbus also backs this view and it was the natural time to stop after 27 years of operation.

Picture of Richard Branson in the cockpit of 01 at Duxford from Channel 4 news


Air France set for final flights - 23/5/03

With less that a week to go till the end of supersonic passenger services, the French carrier is understood to be planning a special farewell flight for its executives and Concorde VIPs.

The final scheduled passenger flight will take place on May 31st, with a back-to-back landing taking place at CDG airport with the "round the bay" charter flight (AF4332) landing immediately before the final inbound AF001 service from New York.

Two days later, on June 2nd, an Air France Concorde will set off for a final time to New York carrying the airlines board and people that have been associated with Concorde in France since 1976. The aircraft will return to Pairs on June 3rd.

Throughout June the aircraft will fly to museums as previously reported. One change to the schedule is that F-BTSD will fly to Paris Le Bourget on June 14th. This aircraft will therefore be in place for the start of the Paris Airshow, and will now not arrive on the first public day. It is understood that the French President will be on hand to welcome the aircraft to Le Bourget.

Although the airline is happy with its decision to end services, many prominent people in the country are not. Former French minister for Transport Jean-Claude Gayssot, astronaut Patrick Baudry and the pop star Jean-Michel Jarre signed an open letter on Thursday May 22nd calling for the continuation of Concorde flight after May 31.

The counterpart of Air France, "British Airways, intends to continue its services until October 31 with a program leading it to all the continents of the world, and carrying its colours high, whereas Air France and our country are left out", they said in their letter. "An end such as this is not worthy of the ambitions that have supported Concorde. It would project an image of France as a country turned in on itself, that would have abandoned a collective ideal for a balance sheet".

"Nothing yet guarantees the cessation of British Airways Concorde services on October 31, 2003!"

" It should be noted that since the announcement of the end of the services all the flights are full and the waiting list of the French eager to travel on the plane is sufficiently important so that Air France should continue flights until the end of October", they conclude.

The letter is also signed by Philippe Girard, former chief-pilot of Concorde and current president of the association of the Concorde crew, admiral Philippe de Gaulle (son of General de Gaulle), the deputy of Charente Jerome Lambert and finally Joseph Robin, former Concorde captain.

Picture: Captain André Verhust salutes the crowd, as he taxies F-BVFA to the terminal (Phillipe Noret)

 


Concorde passengers join 11 mile high club! - 25/5/03

It has not all been bad news for Concorde lately; Two Concorde passengers are believed to have joined the mile high club only feet away from the airline's boss. Normally such endeavours are confined to the aircraft toilets, but as Concorde's are so small this couple decided to try out the new cradle action seats for comfort

 

The Spanish couple claim they had sex as they sat together covered by a blanket, A stewardess tipped off BA's chief executive Rod Eddington, 53, who was sitting three rows behind the lovers, but it was reported that he smiled and said: "Let them enjoy themselves!"

A fellow passenger said: "The couple tried to be discreet but the cabin crew soon knew what was going on. Concorde is quite small inside, so it was hard not to notice."

A BA spokesman said: "We certainly want the last few months of Concorde to be a celebration - but this pair celebrated a bit more than we expected.

" We only hope that the earth moved for them at twice the speed of sound."

The drama on flight BA001 came midway into the three-and-a-half-hour trip from London to New York. The couple had flown in from Madrid, to catch a seat on the special £1999 flights that BA recently offered to celebrate the end of Concorde services in October


A Concorde could fly on after October - 28/5/03

The strongest indications yet that a solitary Concorde could remain in the skies, after their are retired from commercial service later this year, has appeared in the Bristol Evening Post.

British Airways' chief executive Rod Eddington has said he is negotiating only a semi-retirement for at least one of the supersonic jets. He is in talks with a number of museums in a bid to establish a charitable trust to keep it in the air, it has emerged.

It is not known if Mr Eddington has spoken to officials at Filton, who they believe to be at the top of BA's current list of potential museum locations. Although he has reportedly spoken to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford.

Oliver Dearden, curator of the Bristol Aero Collection, which is at the forefront of the bid to bring Concorde 216 - the last airliner built in Bristol - back home, believes Filton may be the only place in the country which has the level of expertise needed to keep Concorde flying after BA takes her out of service.

A team of 39 Airbus engineers still work on Concorde and are among only a handful of people who could make sure the plane retained the certificates it would need to continue flying at air shows and the occasional fly-past.

He said: "This is the first I have heard of this, but as far as I am concerned I am not sure if it would be feasible to keep a Concorde in working order.

" It would be a major undertaking and Filton would be one of the best-placed locations in the country, in terms of its technical experience, for this to happen.

" It would cost a small fortune to run, but it's a lovely idea and would mean it wouldn't stop flying altogether in October."

Mr Eddington emphasised that the jet would never again carry fare-paying passengers. He said: "I am looking at keeping at least one aloft as a museum exhibit. I have never said it had to be chained to the ground.

" It can fly and I am talking to a number of museums in the UK where that could happen."

However, he has repeated that the jet is not for sale to any other airlines and that it would be impossible for any rival to keep it in the air as a commercial venture. In a recent interview with the The Observer newspaper, the BA chief also said that he had not ruled out keeping one aircraft flying.

British Airways have 2 aircraft that are much lower in flying hours that the other in the fleet; G-BOAF and G-BOAG as they were delivered to the airline some years after the original five. It is only speculation but G-BOAG would in all likelihood be the aircraft that would be chosen, as it has 6,000 hours less flying time than it original sister ships and 2,000 less than that G-BOAF. Alpha Golf recently had a 1,200 hrs check carried out towards the end of 2002.

Although Filton are putting together a strong case, the skills to operate Concorde operationally are from the BA engineering and operations departments based at London Heathrow, where a Concorde could theoretically stay in the air for another 10-15 years, before the skill base becomes eroded.

However the final decision is likely to be with the manufacturers, Airbus, who would still need to provide limited support for the aircraft even though it was not carrying passengers.

The picture shows G-BOAG landing at Heathrow on May 18th 2003


Air France confirm retirement homes - 28/5/03

As was reported on this and other Concorde websites 2 weeks ago, Air France have confirmed the Concorde fleets will be retired as follows, (the dates are provisional):

Air France said in a statement that supersonic aircraft belongs to the world's aviation heritage and must therefore be seen – and admired – after its last passenger flight. This will be the case for Air France's entire Concorde fleet, as all the aircraft will be put on public display. Air France has therefore decided to donate four Concordes to the following major aviation institutions:

In doing this, Air France wishes to allow as many people as possible to see this legendary aircraft, which has made its mark not just on Air France, but on aviation history. Air France is therefore paying homage to Concorde, which, displayed on these sites, will live on forever.

The four Concordes will be ferried to their destinations in June.

The fifth Air France Concorde, which has just been overhauled, is scheduled to go on display at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport.

But the decision by Air France was ill-received at British-based carrier Virgin Atlantic, whose founder and leader, Richard Branson, had been trying to buy one or more of the Concordes to keep them aloft. "

We think it's a tragedy," a Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman said in London. "At the very least, they should be kept flying and preserved for historical reasons.

"Virgin Atlantic would like the opportunity to buy Air France Concordes but they are not responding at the moment." "I think we have made an approach, but they are not responding."

This website will detail the retirement flights and bring you the pictures of the aircraft in their final Homes.

The picture shows Concorde 201 (F-WTSB) which is a "gate guardian" at Airbus in Toulouse, but is not accessable to the public.


A Concorde could fly on after October - 28/5/03

The strongest indications yet that a solitary Concorde could remain in the skies, after their are retired from commercial service later this year, has appeared in the Bristol Evening Post.

British Airways' chief executive Rod Eddington has said he is negotiating only a semi-retirement for at least one of the supersonic jets. He is in talks with a number of museums in a bid to establish a charitable trust to keep it in the air, it has emerged.

It is not known if Mr Eddington has spoken to officials at Filton, who they believe to be at the top of BA's current list of potential museum locations. Although he has reportedly spoken to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford.

Oliver Dearden, curator of the Bristol Aero Collection, which is at the forefront of the bid to bring Concorde 216 - the last airliner built in Bristol - back home, believes Filton may be the only place in the country which has the level of expertise needed to keep Concorde flying after BA takes her out of service.

A team of 39 Airbus engineers still work on Concorde and are among only a handful of people who could make sure the plane retained the certificates it would need to continue flying at air shows and the occasional fly-past.

He said: "This is the first I have heard of this, but as far as I am concerned I am not sure if it would be feasible to keep a Concorde in working order.

" It would be a major undertaking and Filton would be one of the best-placed locations in the country, in terms of its technical experience, for this to happen.

" It would cost a small fortune to run, but it's a lovely idea and would mean it wouldn't stop flying altogether in October."

Mr Eddington emphasised that the jet would never again carry fare-paying passengers. He said: "I am looking at keeping at least one aloft as a museum exhibit. I have never said it had to be chained to the ground.

" It can fly and I am talking to a number of museums in the UK where that could happen."

However, he has repeated that the jet is not for sale to any other airlines and that it would be impossible for any rival to keep it in the air as a commercial venture. In a recent interview with the The Observer newspaper, the BA chief also said that he had not ruled out keeping one aircraft flying.

British Airways have 2 aircraft that are much lower in flying hours that the other in the fleet; G-BOAF and G-BOAG as they were delivered to the airline some years after the original five. It is only speculation but G-BOAG would in all likelihood be the aircraft that would be chosen, as it has 6,000 hours less flying time than it original sister ships and 2,000 less than that G-BOAF. Alpha Golf recently had a 1,200 hrs check carried out towards the end of 2002.

Although Filton are putting together a strong case, the skills to operate Concorde operationally are from the BA engineering and operations departments based at London Heathrow, where a Concorde could theoretically stay in the air for another 10-15 years, before the skill base becomes eroded.

The picture shows G-BOAG landing at Heathrow on May 18th 2003


Air France confirm retirement homes - 28/5/03

As was reported on this and other Concorde websites 2 weeks ago, Air France have confirmed the Concorde fleets will be retired as follows, (the dates are provisional):

  • F-BVFA - Washington DC - June 12th
  • F-BVFB - Germany - June 23rd/24th
  • F-BVFC - Toulouse - June 27th (Final AF Concorde flight)
  • F-BTSD - Le Bourget - June14th (although this may happen a few days later during the airshow, or they may fly the aircraft during the airshow)
  • F-BVFF - CDG

Air France said in a statement that supersonic aircraft belongs to the world's aviation heritage and must therefore be seen – and admired – after its last passenger flight. This will be the case for Air France's entire Concorde fleet, as all the aircraft will be put on public display. Air France has therefore decided to donate four Concordes to the following major aviation institutions:

  • Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace, Le Bourget, France,
  • Auto & Technik Museum Sinsheim, Germany,
  • Airbus, Toulouse, France, where it will be displayed at the future air museum, currently under construction.
  • National Air and Space Museum, Washington (Smithsonian Institution), with which discussions are taking place to implement the transfer agreement signed in 1989.

In doing this, Air France wishes to allow as many people as possible to see this legendary aircraft, which has made its mark not just on Air France, but on aviation history. Air France is therefore paying homage to Concorde, which, displayed on these sites, will live on forever.

The four Concordes will be ferried to their destinations in June.

The fifth Air France Concorde, which has just been overhauled, is scheduled to go on display at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport.

But the decision by Air France was ill-received at British-based carrier Virgin Atlantic, whose founder and leader, Richard Branson, had been trying to buy one or more of the Concordes to keep them aloft. "

We think it's a tragedy," a Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman said in London. "At the very least, they should be kept flying and preserved for historical reasons.

"Virgin Atlantic would like the opportunity to buy Air France Concordes but they are not responding at the moment." "I think we have made an approach, but they are not responding."

This website will detail the retirement flights and bring you the pictures of the aircraft in their final Homes.

The picture shows Concorde 201 (F-WTSB) which is a "gate guardian" at Airbus in Toulouse, but is not accessable to the public.


Air France ending Concorde services -30/5/03

Concorde begins its final journeys in France on Saturday as the national carrier takes the supersonic airliner out of service after more than a quarter of a century in the skies.

When flight AF001 touches down at Charles de Gaulle airport outside the French capital after the three hour and 45 minute trip from New York, it will mark the beginning of the end for a technological marvel that became a byword for grace and power.

A Charter flight that will take enthusiasts around the Bay of Biscay, operated by ALS and Goodwood Travel, will touchdown minutes before the final passenger service from New York arrives in Pairs.

Air France, which has five aircraft, and British Airways, which has seven, agreed in April to take their flagship out of service this year because the drain on resources finally outweighed the prestige.

After Saturday's farewell commercial flight, Air France Concordes will fly only six more times -- as the jets are taken for permanent display in the United States, Germany, southern France and outside Paris. A VIP trip to and from New York is planned also. The fifth will remain at Charles de Gaulle airport.

In October it will be the turn of British Airways to discontinue its flights to New York and Barbados, marking an end -- for now -- of 27 years of supersonic passenger travel.

The disappearance of the classic Delta silhouette comes as a sad blow to the 145 people who have flown and staffed Air France's Concorde fleet.

" We feel we have all be orphaned," said Sebastian Weder, the team's commander. "It was our life -- every day of it -- and from May 31 there will be a great void."

Indeed the plane inspired universal passion. Scientist boffins worshipped it; designers cooed over it; governments vaunted it; businessmen swore by it; pop stars and models adorned it; former Beatle Paul McCartney even played in it one Christmas, and everyone on the plane joined in.

The wistful mood of Captain Chatelain, 57, who has the looks of a central-casting commandant de bord, is matched throughout the close-knit Concorde family at Air France as the country salutes the passing of a symbol of Gallic glory.

" Every flight is a moment of delight. It is the Formula One of aviation -- with the perfomance of a jet fighter on a civil transport," said Jean-Louis Chatelain, who has flown Concordes since 2001.

In the narrow, 100-seat cabin of one of the airlines Concordes, Joelle Cornet-Templet, the chief stewardess of the fleet, said that a dream was ending. "It is a magic aircraft. The pleasure of flying in it is almost a carnal one," she said.

Air France and British Airways have always been extremely circumspect about the financial record of the Concorde, which cost an estimated five billion euros (5.9 billion dollars) to develop in the 1970s. The aircraft entered commercial service in January 1976.

For Air France, Concorde generated an annual profit of between 1.5 and three million euros from sales of 106 million euros before July 25, 2000, the day an Air France Concorde crashed near here just after taking off from Charles de Gaulle Airport, killing 113 people.

British Airways, on the other hand, made nearly £750 Million from Concorde operations since they turned it to profit it the mid 1980's after many years of losses.

It cost Air France some 40 million euros to keep its fleet of five Concordes grounded for 15 months following the crash. The lost Concorde was said to have been worth about 33 million euros.

Sales promotions a year and a half ago brought passenger loads of 70 percent of capacity. By early this year, they had tumbled to 20 percent at Air France, as fewer and fewer people were prepared to shell out the princely sum of 8,700 euros for the Paris-New York round trip.

The withdrawal of the Concorde should spare Air France annual operating losses of between 30 and 50 million euros a year, according to company chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta. Sales generated by Concorde fell to 43 million euros in the 2002-2003 fiscal year at a time when maintenance and other costs surged.

Taking Concorde out of service will cost Air France between 50 and 60 million euros, while British Airways included a special charge of nearly 122 million euros in its 2002-2003 fiscal period, which ended March 31.

Since 1976, more than 1.2 million people have flown aboard Concordes operated by Air France. British Airways, which had more flights, carried 2.5 million passengers.

Pictures: Phillipe Noret


End of Air France Concorde services - 31/5/03

Concorde touched down at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport on Saturday May 31st after its last commercial flight, bringing 34 years of French aviation history to a close.

Seventy-nine passengers, and one dog, arrived from New York on the three-hour trip on the graceful droop-nosed jet, while the final flight carried 100 passengers on a "supersonic enthusiast" charter around the bay of Biscay.

"In France we don't know how to hold on to what is beautiful," said one passenger. Others descended from the aircraft with tears in their eyes.

"Concorde will never really stop flying because it will live on in people's imagination," Air France Chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta said.

Three fire trucks sprayed red, white and blue water in an arc in front of the plane as it departed from New York

The 1 hour 40 minute charter flight that took enthusiasts around the Bay of Biscay, operated by ALS and Goodwood Travel, was due to touch down minutes before the final passenger service from New York arrived in Paris. However, Concorde got the last laugh, because when the aircraft was pushed back, one of its 4 engines would not start.

After a frantic period of activity by ground staff, the engine on Concorde F-BVFB roared into life and the aircraft departed an hour late, giving the passengers the dubious honour of being on the last ever supersonic passenger flight operated by Air France (for the next decade at least!)

The AF001, operated by F-BTSD, touched down at Charles de Gaulle Airport at 5:44 p.m, after flying over many thousands of people gathered at the end of runway 09 at Paris CDG

Several thousand more Concorde fans inside the airport greeted the "white bird", as Concorde is fondly known in France. As Sierra-Delta made its way along the taxiway followed by a convoy of airport well wishers, some held banners reading, "Thank you Concorde, we love you."

"It's the end of an era in aviation," Dominique Bussereau, France's transport secretary, said before the aircraft took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport, for its 3 1/2 hour flight.

Christopher Mazel, chief financial officer of Michelin Tires in Thailand, who was on the flight, said of the aircraft: "You're eating the most beautiful food, drinking the most beautiful wine. You can't compare it even to first class."

Passenger Vincent Olivetto said he shed a few tears on arrival. "I kept my eyes wide open during the whole flight to look out the window," he said, adding, "It's an unforgettable memory."

First-time passenger Pamela Goldin, 33, of Paris, decided to splurge on a $6,000 one-way ticket for the Air France Concorde's swan song. "How can I give up the opportunity to try this amazing feat that will end today?" Goldin said. "It's a great way to go home."

The landing of the charter (AF 4332), shortly after 18:30, marked the official end of Air France supersonic passenger services. On-board the aircraft, the crew waved out of the cockpit windows, as Fox-Bravo taxied past the crowds and headed towards Air France's Corporate Headquarters at the airport, en-route to Terminal 2.

The final flights will see F-BTSD fly a VIP trip to New York, and then 4 ferry flights to the museums. The final ever Air France Concorde flight is due to take place on June 27th, as F-BVFC flies to Toulouse.

More details and pictures will follow soon.

 

 

Paris Pictures : Phillipe Noret

New York Picture : Reuters