After 34 years Concorde has bowed out in style, ending the present chapter on supersonic aviation. Three Concordes landed at Heathrow airport in formation just after 4pm on Friday October 24th, watched by cheering crowds that had gathered from all over the world.
Enthusiasts and curious on-lookers armed with stepladders and cameras manned the airport's perimeter fences, desperate for a last look at the planes. Other spectators crammed into a 1,000-seater grandstand, which had been set up by BAA, the airport operator.
For many the final farewell had started the night before, when the final flagship BA001 service took off for New York from Heathrow. Thousands of people gathered at the end of the Heathrow airport runway to watch Concorde roar into the night sky. Before the aircraft took off at 19:20, Captain Adrian Thompson gave an emotional farewell to the aircraft enthusiasts gathered at the end of the runway listening in on their airband scanners.
Concorde - “I would like to thank you all, ATC, all the fans at the end of the runway on their airband radios, and to some of the media who have supported this aeroplane over the years, I would like to dedicate this last 001 take-off. But I can say that if this magnificent machine was alive it would be crying tonight."
ATC – “Well thanks for that, and we're all sorry up here as well.”
Concorde – “3 2 1 NOW” (probably the first time a Concorde commander has broadcast the countdown as he opened the throttles!)
Alpha-Golf's final scheduled flight to New York took around three and a half hours and it landed at 22:44 BST.
The BA001 was meant to be a quiet affair, but many saw it as the start of the farewell party, including the crew who grabbed the flags that had been put on the aircraft for the return journey, and waved them out of the windows, when they saw the sheer amount of people that had turned out to greet them. The final day “proper" started off at 10:30 when G-BOAE departed from Heathrow on the final leg of the week-long UK farewell tour.
Concorde last visited Edinburgh in 1999 when it flew over the city to mark the opening of the Scottish Parliament.
Friday's flight from Heathrow to the Scottish capital flew supersonic over the North Sea and passed over Aberdeen, Perth, Stirling and Captain Andrew Baillie's home in Bridge of Allan, before arriving at Edinburgh airport shortly before 12noon.
The crew flew the Scottish saltire flag from the window as they taxied to the stand.
Captain Baillie, 51, said: "It was the last flight, so it was sad, but I was bringing it home and that felt really special."
Cabin service director Jerry Smith, said: "Today has been a rollercoaster of emotions, sad, but everyone on board has had a fantastic time."
"This has been a great celebration of Concorde, which has been a great attraction and an icon around the world."
"I feel so privileged to be on it and so are the rest of the crew."
The flight had 100 passengers on board, including competition winners, VIPs and invited guests.
There was also a romantic touch when one man popped the question to his girlfriend during the flight from Heathrow.
Internet worker Rupert Pilgrim, from Buckinghamshire, got a 'yes' in reply from Catherine Murray.
Dan Craig, 63, who travelled with his wife, Suzanne, 59, from Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire, said: "We were so excited about today, I haven't been able to sleep for weeks."
"This really is the most fantastic occasion and we feel very privileged."
As Alpha-Echo was touching down in Edinburgh, final preparations were being made in New York for the departure of the BA002, Concorde’s final commercial service.
Captain Mike Bannister addressed the passengers and assembled media before boarding the flight to Heathrow. Joining Mike on the flight deck was SFO Jonathan Napier, who would have the privilege of flying the departure, along with Senior Engineering officers David Hoyle and Robert Woodcock.
Among those on board the flight were film star Joan Collins, ballerina Darcey Bussell, broadcaster Sir David Frost and Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone.
Speaking ahead of the plane's departure, chief Concorde pilot Captain Bannister, 54, said he would look back with pride as he powered her engines down for the last time.
"I am proud and privileged to be flying the aircraft. When I power the engines off the last time at Heathrow I shall be thinking of all the people in BA who've kept this plane flying successfully for 27 years," said Capt. Bannister. In New York, Lord Marshall said: "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. Concorde will always be part of BA and will hold a special place in the hearts of our staff and customers around the world," he added.
After pushing back from the stand, Concorde G-BOAG was greeted by a 3 coloured water cannon salute with the crew waved the union jack and stars and stripe flags that had been carried especially for the occasion.
Nearly every member of the BA staff at the JFK base was watching as the aircraft taxied off to runway 31L, with TV helicopters for all the local and network TV stations looking on.
After a short wait, to ensure the times were correct for the three-aircraft Heathrow arrival, the final BA002 took off from JFK on the world-famous Canarsie departure. The spectacular take-off, which was shown on TV screens around the world, was made even more spectacular than usual with the sun rising slowly over New York.
The TV helicopters followed the aircraft for nearly 15 minutes, until she was even possibly supersonic, according to one onlooker.
With the BA002 on time, the 2 other aircraft that would join Alpha-Golf for the back-to-back landing at Heathrow, were cleared for take-off.
Concorde Alpha-Echo flying out of Edinburgh was first in the air for its return leg followed minutes later by Alpha-Foxtrot departing Heathrow for a trip round the Bay of Biscay.
On board Alpha-Foxtrot were 100 VIP passengers that had been key to the Concorde story over the years. They included John Cochraine, the co-pilot of the first UK test flight in 1969, and some or the original Concorde captains from 1976 including Brian Walpole and Brian Calvert.
The flight from Edinburgh commanded by Captain Chris Norris made good time and took up it place in the Lambourne hold at 15:45, while Alpha-Foxtrot, commanded by Captain Paul Douglas took up position in the Oakham hold, to await the inbound BA002.
Alpha-Golf flying from New York entered British airspace for the last time at 3.15pm, dropping below the speed of sound off the west coast of Ireland and heading for the London area.
With the BA002 safely in the hold, Alpha-Echo followed by Alpha-Foxtrot were vectored by ATC onto final approach, while the BA002 was sent over the airport to take up position as the final aircraft in the 3 aircraft back-to-back landing.
In a similar fashion to the TV coverage in the United states the UK broadcasters had long range cameras and helicopters up to follow the aircraft as they landed at Heathrow for the final ever time.
The aircraft were allowed to fly slightly lower than normal over London on the final approach, to give the public and children on the school mid-term holiday a chance to see the aircraft for the final time.
At Heathrow, airport operator BAA had erected a 1,000-seat grandstand for spectators but the company, together with police and Highways Agency staff, warned other would-be spectators to stay away from the Heathrow area and to watch from other positions, or see the final landings on television.
Just after 4pm G-BOAE touched down in front of the thousands who had turned out at the west London airport. Three minutes later Concorde Alpha-Foxtrot landed.
At 16:05 the era of supersonic passenger transportation came officially to and end, when G-BOAG, flying the BA002 service from New York touched down on runway 27R at Heathrow.
The BA002 headed straight to the engineering base where the VIPS would depart through a specially constructed tented customs hall.
As she taxied to the engineering base, with the flight crew waving their flags out of the windows, the Heathrow airport fire service provided the traditional water cannon salute, which appeared to catch the crew off guard!
Once on the BA base, Alpha-Golf’s engines were powered off and she was towed for the final 500m to the red carpet where the media was waiting for the VIPS to depart.
On disembarking, actress Joan Collins said there were "cheers and tears" among the passengers when the plane landed.
Model Jodie Kidd, checking into the flight, said: "I always really love the rush of takeoff. I am just a speed freak."
With the formalities underway on the engineering base, Concordes Alpha-Echo and Foxtrot taxied on a grand tour of the airport before they too arrived in formation behind the BA002 for their VIPS to depart down the red carpet.
Later that evening all 5 of BA's flying Concorde were moved into position on the ramp for a group photo. A party for the BA's Concorde "Family" was held, and they too were photographed with the five aircraft that they had help run for 27 years at British Airways.
|Route||London LHR - New York JFK|
|Cockpit Crew||Capt. Adrian Thompson
SFO Les Evans
SEO Mike Hollyer
|Max Speed||Mach 2.00|
|Milestones||Final ever supersonic BA001 to New York|
|Route||London LHR - Edinburgh|
|Cockpit Crew||Capt. Les Brodie|
Capt. Andy Baillie
SFO James Bedforth
SFO Trevor Norcott
|Max Speed||Mach 2|
|Milestones||UK farewell tour flight to Edinburgh|
|Route||Edinburgh - London LHR|
|Cockpit Crew|| |
Capt. Les Brodie
|Arrival||16:03 GMT (1st aircraft of 3 in back to back formation)|
|Milestones||Final UK farewell tour flight|
|Route||London LHR - London LHR|
|Cockpit Crew||Capt. Paul Douglas|
SFO Mark Jealous
SEO Peter Carrigan
SEO Warren Hazelby
|Arrival||16:01 GMT (2nd aircraft of 3 in back to back formation)|
|Max Speed||Mach 2|
|Milestones||VIP trip "round the bay"|
|Route||New York JFK - London LHR|
|Cockpit Crew||Capt. Mike Bannsiter|
SFO Jonathan Napier
SEO David Hoyle
SEO Robert Woodcock
|Departure||07:28 EST (12:38 GMT)|
|Arrival||16:05 GMT (final aircraft of 3 in back to back formation)|
|Max Speed||Mach 2.00|
|Milestones||Final ever supersonic BA002 from New York to London|
British Airways Museum Ferry Flights
Retirement flight of G-BOAC (204) from Heathrow to Manchester Airport
Nov 3rd and 5th 2003
Retirement flight of G-BOAG (214) from Heathrow to Seattle's Museum of flight at Boeing Field, via New York JFK
Retirement flight of G-BOAD (210) from Heathrow to New York, JFK and to the USS Intrepid, Aircraft Carrier in Manhattan.
Retirement flight of G-BOAE (212) from Heathrow to Grantley Airport Barbados
Final Ever Concorde Flight
Retirement flight of G-BOAF (216) from Heathrow to Filton
Announcement - April 10th 2003
London April 10, 2003: British Airways announced today the retirement of its Concorde fleet of seven aircraft with effect from the end of October 2003.
The airline said that its decision had been made for commercial reasons with passenger revenue falling steadily against a backdrop of rising maintenance costs for the aircraft.
Detailed discussions over an extended period with Airbus, the aircraft’s manufacturer, confirmed the need for an enhanced maintenance programme in the coming years, the carrier added.
British Airways has decided that such an investment cannot be justified in the face of falling revenue caused by a global downturn in demand for all forms of premium travel in the airline industry.
The downturn has had a negative impact on Concorde bookings and is set to continue for the foreseeable future, according to the airline.
Rod Eddington, British Airways’ chief executive, said: "Concorde has served us well and we are extremely proud to have flown this marvellous and unique aircraft for the past 27 years."
"This is the end of a fantastic era in world aviation but bringing forward Concorde’s retirement is a prudent business decision at a time when we are having to make difficult decisions right across the airline."
Noel Forgeard, president and chief executive officer of Airbus, said: "Airbus’ predecessors Aerospatiale and British Aircraft Corporation created Concorde some 40 years ago and we are proud of this remarkable achievement.
"But its maintenance regime is increasing fast with age. Thus, as an aircraft manufacturer, we understand completely and respect the decision of British Airways, especially in the present economic climate.
"It goes without saying that until the completion of the very last flight, we will continue to support the airline so that the highest standards of maintenance and safety are entirely fulfilled."
Mr Eddington added that today's announcement is not a direct result of war in Iraq.
He said: "While the threat of war and resulting military conflict have had a further impact on premium travel demand, the decision to retire Concorde has been based on a long-term revenue and cost trend rather than recent events.
"I would like to place publicly on record my sincere thanks and appreciation to all our staff, past and present, who have made the Concorde story one of the most compelling in the history of commercial flight."
" Our pride in the aircraft will never wane and I am determined that we make its final six months in the sky a time for celebration."
Retiring Concorde will result in £84m write-off costs for the year ended March 2003.
The airline is already planning to make its Concordes available for the public to view in museums.
To honour the past 30 years of supersonic travel, British Airways will announce shortly a programme of special events and promotions for air travellers.
For the next few months, British Airways will continue to operate its Concorde services between London Heathrow and New York JFK and seasonal services to Barbados.
Concorde begins her farewell tour - 20th October 2003
Concorde begins her historic farewell tour next week, visiting five British cities in five days, giving thousands of people the chance to see the supersonic jet fly for the very last time.
On board the 90-minute champagne supersonic flights from and to London’s Heathrow airport will be 666 lucky guests, winners of the national Concorde competition, plus a number of VIPs and key British Airways customers.
The week-long tour begins on Monday, October 20, in Birmingham then continues through the week to Belfast on Tuesday, Manchester on Wednesday, Cardiff on Thursday and Edinburgh on Friday. All the flights will fly at twice the speed of sound – 1350mph - over the Bay of Biscay.
The final flight from Edinburgh on Friday October 24 will be one of three flights that afternoon to land at Heathrow to mark the end of Concorde’s commercial flying.
The other two Concorde flights will arrive from New York and Heathrow.
Martin George, British Airways director of marketing, said: “This is the very last chance many people will have to see Concorde fly and we are delighted that it is visiting all the capital cities in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as well as Birmingham and Manchester. People on the ground can say their own personal goodbyes and, of course, those travelling as passengers on the last flights will become a part of history.”
Concorde celebrates her last day in service - 24th October 2003
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.
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.
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, chairman of British Airways, said: “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.”
“Concorde will always be part of British Airways and will always hold a special place in the hearts of our staff and customers around the world.”
The 100 VIPs on board the final Concorde from New York to London Heathrow will be treated to the ultimate travel experience during the three and a half hour flight across the Atlantic.
British Airways will make an announcement next week regarding where its fleet of seven Concordes will be located after retirement.
Concorde retirement homes announced - 30th October 2003
British Airways today announced the locations where it intends to retire its fleet of Concordes after commercial services ended at London Heathrow last Friday afternoon.
Final negotiations are under way to house the seven Concordes in the British Airways’ fleet at the following locations:
· Airbus UK, Filton Bristol
· Manchester Airport
· Museum of Flight, near Edinburgh
· Heathrow Airport
· The Museum of Flight, Seattle, US
· The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, New York, US
· Grantley Adams Airport, Bridgetown, Barbados
British Airways’ chief executive Rod Eddington said: ”Since we announced the retirement of Concorde we have received a wide variety of interesting proposals from organisations wanting to give the aircraft permanent homes.
“ We have chosen the final homes based a number of criteria: their ability to properly exhibit and preserve the aircraft, their geographical location and accessibility to the public.
“ We are working closely with each of the new homes to make sure they show off each Concorde at her best.”
A technical feasibility study, headed by Captain Mike Bannister, Concorde chief pilot, as to whether a single Concorde can be maintained for non-commercial flying at public events, has been concluded.
Rod Eddington said: “A detailed study with Airbus has regrettably led us both to conclude that it would not be possible.
“ The technical and financial challenges of keeping a Concorde airworthy are absolutely prohibitive. Airbus has told us that they are unable to support such a project, whether it be for British Airways or anyone else.
“ While there is no prospect of operating an aircraft for flypasts and airshows, in the future Concorde will be accessible to the public with the majority of aircraft located in the UK.”
British Airways also announced today that it will be holding an auction of Concorde memorabilia on Monday, December 1. The auction, will be conducted by fine art auctioneers Bonhams, at Olympia Exhibition centre, in Kensington, and items will include a machmeter, a nose cone and Concorde pilot and passenger seats.
Profits from the auction will go to charity, with a key beneficiary being ‘Get Kids Going!’, a charity which gives disabled children and young people the opportunity to participate in sport.
The first Concorde to leave Heathrow will fly to Manchester airport on Friday, October 31. The other Concordes will leave to go to their new homes shortly.