Concorde to quit flying this year
The Concorde began commercial service in 1976.
LONDON (AP) - British Airways and Air France said Thursday they will take their Concorde jets out of service later this year, ending more than a quarter century of supersonic commercial travel.
Both airlines blamed falling passenger demand and rising maintenance costs for their decision to ground the needle-nosed jets that epitomized the economic and technological confidence of an earlier era.
The retirement of the service "will be permanent as of October this year," BA spokeswoman Sara John said. The carrier didn't give a date for its last scheduled flight.
Air France, the only other airline to fly Concorde, said its last scheduled flight would be on May 31, and the program would shut down at the end of October.
"It's a sad day in many ways, but we've decided to retire our Concorde fleet in October this year," BA's chief executive, Rod Eddington, told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "If you're laying people off and telling people in your business to tighten your belt, senior executives then find it inconsistent to go to the airport and get on Concorde rather than subsonic aircraft."
This decision is motivated by deteriorating economic results ... observed over the past months and which accelerated since the beginning of the year," Air France said in a statement.
Eddington said the decision to retire Concorde after 27 years of commercial service was not connected to possible safety fears arising from a crash outside Paris that killed 113 people in 2000.
"We have complete safety at Concorde, complete confidence in its ability to fly safely,'' he said. On July 25, 2000, an Air France jet, spewing flames, crashed into a hotel outside Paris just minutes after takeoff from Charles de Gaulle airport. All 100 passengers, mostly German tourists, were killed along with the nine crew members and four people on the ground.
BA suspended its Concorde service several weeks after the crash. Both airlines reintroduced supersonic flights in November 2001.
Concorde first flew in March 1969 and entered commercial service with British Airways in January 1976. More than 2.5 million passengers have since flown on BA's supersonic jets.
The plane was a commercial failure, partly because no country would permit it to fly over land because of loud engines, and partly because the fuel-guzzling Concorde carries just 100 passengers, making it less economical than a jumbo jet. Only 20 were built, with 12 remaining in service.
But the delta-winged, needle-nosed plane conferred matchless prestige on British Airways and Air France, drawing celebrities and business people who thought their time was valuable enough to justify fares of more than 6,000 pounds ($8,700) for a round trip across the Atlantic.
The Concorde flies faster than any other commercial aircraft, racing between Europe and New York in under four hours. Its fastest New York-London crossing was completed in just 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds.
CD interesting that you would post that because I was just telling someone that before Tara died it was one of my goals to fly in one of those jets. The price was a bit more than I could pay. I was telling the person that I had this feeling in light of all the recent problems,(the crash & some incidents of forced landings-i.e.Halifax) and lack of passengers, that they would have to soon retire the Concordes. Thanks for posting that.
French Concorde Makes Farewell Flight
May 30, 2003
The last commercial flight from Paris to New York by an Air France supersonic Concorde left Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport on Friday morning.
Rising maintenance costs and a fall in demand have hastened the retirement of the 27-year-old jets.
The French Concorde will make its final three-hour transatlantic flight from New York's JFK airport on Saturday when it returns to Paris.
Air France and British Airways are the only two airlines to have operated the supersonic plane, which has been condemned by environmental groups because of its high noise levels. BA intends to retire its fleet in October this year.
Swan song: Air France Concorde soars home in final commercial flight
10:50 AM EDT Jun 01
ROISSY, France (AP - ) - Air France's streamlined white Concorde swooped into a Paris airport Saturday in a final commercial flight home, ending 25 years of supersonic travel between New York and Paris.
The plane touched down at Charles de Gaulle Airport at 5:44 p.m. local time after cruising over the Atlantic Ocean at twice the speed of sound. Several thousand Concorde fans greeted the "white bird," as the jet is fondly known in French.
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 flight took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Three trucks sprayed red, white and blue water in an arc in front of the plane as it departed for its 3ï¿½-hour flight. Eleven crew members and 68 passengers were aboard - including a woman who bought a seat for her dog, Romeo, as she does every month.
British Airways, the only other airline that flies the Concorde, plans to retire its fleet at the end of October. Both companies say they can no longer afford the plane's maintenance.
The Concorde has served executives and celebrities since 1976.
Christophe Mazel, the chief financial officer of Michelin Tires in Thailand, said of the jet: "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. "It's an unforgettable memory."
First-time passenger Pamela Goldin, 33, of Paris decided to splurge on an $8,400 Cdn 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."
As Air France offered the last commercial flight, a privately chartered Concorde made a loop Saturday over the Atlantic. For $2,635, passengers could take off from outside Paris, pick up supersonic speed over the ocean and return home without stopping.
Air France will also invite dozens of guests to make a round trip between Paris and New York on Monday and Tuesday.
The Concorde's retirement comes after a July 25, 2000, accident over Gonesse, France, that killed 113 people, including four on the ground. The aircraft was taken out of service until November 2001 and overhauled based on findings by investigators.
A probe found that a stray strip of metal on the runway punctured one of the jet's tires, propelling bits of rubber into the fuel tank and starting a fire.
To ensure the jet's safety, aviation experts designed durable new radial tires and installed fuel tank liners engineered to prevent leaks if the plane's wing ruptured.
This summer, five Air France Concordes will go on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington; the Museum of Air and Space in Le Bourget, France; the Auto and Technology Museum in Sinsheim, Germany; and an aeronautics exhibit park in Toulouse, France. Another plane will stay at Charles de Gaulle.
Concorde Becomes Museum Piece
Jun 13, 2003
The last transatlantic journey by an Air France Concorde was made Thursday when the supersonic plane flew to Washington to become a museum piece.
It will go on display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum. Two more Concorde's will go on display to the public following the retirement of the Air France fleet from commercial service.
One will find a home at France's own air and space museum north of Paris and will circle the city tomorrow before taking up permanent retirement. A third plane will be housed at Germany's Technik Museum Sinsheim.
European aircraft manufacturer Airbus, which evolved from the company which built Concorde, will receive one of the aircraft at its Toulouse headquarters at the end of the month. The last of the Air France fleet will go on view at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Wiring Problem Grounds BA Concorde - Report
Jun 24, 2003
More safety concerns surround the ageing Concorde jet after British Airways engineers found problems with wiring on one of its supersonic fleet.
The plane, the oldest of the BA Concordes, has been grounded according to a BBC report. The news organization said the airline had confirmed that the damaged wiring was located near a fuel pump.
Tests are now being carried out on the plane which is understood to have flown from New York to London at the weekend. None of the airline's other Concordes, all of which are due to retire in October, has encountered similar problems.
The BBC report said that metal around the wiring had overheated.
Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic chairman Sir Richard Branson has accused BA of "industrial vandalism" because the rival carrier continues to refuse an offer to keep the pioneering aircraft flying.
On Sunday Branson raised his offer to buy the five BA Concordes for GBPï¿½5 million (USD$8.3 million).
Today, Sir Richard issued a statement saying: "We believe that grounding Concorde and ceasing commercial flights is an act of industrial vandalism. Frankly, we are staggered that British Airways seems intent on riding roughshod over the clear opinion of the industry, the nation and even its own staff and shareholders. BA forgets that it was the nation and not BA that built and paid for Concorde.
"If BA refuse to sell us the aircraft we are keen to help it find a practical solution to keep Concorde flying and continue to allow people to fly on it. Our offer to help fund a charitable trust remains open as does our offer of a 'summit meeting' between ourselves, BA and other interested parties."
Britain Awaits Concorde's Final Landing
By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press Writer
LONDON - The final scheduled flight of the Concorde ï¿½ an elegant technological marvel that proved to be a financial dud ï¿½ streaked across the Atlantic Ocean Friday, ending the era of commercial supersonic travel.
The British Airways jet carried 11 crew and 100 passengers, many of them celebrities and aviation enthusiasts, from New York to London at nearly twice the speed of sound on a farewell trip scheduled to take three hours and 20 minutes.
Thousands gathered outside Heathrow Airport to await a triple Concorde touchdown, expected just before 4 p.m. (11 a.m. EDT), with the New York flight joining up with two other Concordes that took off on special, nonscheduled flights from London and Edinburgh.
Spectator Marilyn Payne, 55, who lives under the Concorde's flight path, said she had heard the plane's enormous roar for 20 years, and got a thrill every time.
"I can hear the rumble as it takes off, and we all pile out into the garden," she said. "When Concorde flies over, a lot of people are covering their ears and complaining about the noise. I'm smiling. We're going to miss it a lot."
Jean-Paul Godard, 52, a Paris bank worker who traveled to London with about 100 other French Concorde enthusiasts, said he understood British Airways' decision to ground its Concordes but would miss them. Air France, the only other carrier to fly the supersonic jets, retired its planes in May.
"Now I'm going to have to find another hobby," he said.
BAA, the company that operates Heathrow, set up a 1,000-seat grandstand on the airport's grounds for spectators. Police, fearing massive traffic tie-ups, warned those without tickets to stay away and watch the landing on television.
Nonetheless, enthusiasts gathered along Heathrow's perimeter hours ahead of time, lounging on folding chairs, readying their binoculars and munching packed lunches.
The three Concordes were expected to land at Heathrow within minutes of one another. A jet from Edinburgh, Scotland, was carrying winners of a competition, and one that took off from Heathrow Friday morning was flying invited guests around the Bay of Biscay west of France.
At the controls of the jet that took off from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport was Capt. Michael Bannister, BA's chief Concorde pilot.
Passengers included broadcaster Sir David Frost, actress Joan Collins, model Christie Brinkley, ballerina Darcy Bussell and Formula One car racing boss Bernie Ecclestone.
The Concorde, conceived and built by the British and French governments, began commercial service in January 1976. It was hailed as a technological marvel, but its economics were shaky and it never made back the billions of dollars of taxpayers' money invested in it, even with round-trip fares of more than $9,000.
Planners expected to sell hundreds of planes, but there was little interest in the expensive, fuel-guzzling jets. Its limited range and rules that forbade it from setting off sonic booms over land meant it mostly stuck to its trans-Atlantic back-and-forth.
For years it was the favorite form of Europe-to-America travel for celebrities and high-powered executives. Cruising speeds of 1,350 mph meant westbound travelers got to New York more than an hour and a half before they left Europe.
The beginning of the end came when an Air France Concorde crashed after takeoff from Paris on July 25, 2000, killing 113 people and forcing both airlines to ground their supersonic jets for more than a year.
Overhauled Concordes returned to service two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, in the middle of one of aviation's worst slumps and a miserable global economy.
British Airways and Air France announced in April that they would retire the jets, citing ballooning costs and dwindling ticket sales. With the Concorde's departure, military jets will be the only aircraft regularly flying supersonic.
Daniel Payne, a British Airways pilot who flew the Concorde for three years, said the experience had been "a true delight" and brought his wife and children to watch the last landing.
"For 30 of the 100 years of aviation, supersonic travel has been available and now we're losing that," he said.
CONCORDE BIDS FAREWELL
Concorde has said farewell to central London by "posing" for pictures outside the Houses of Parliament.
Crowds watched from the banks of the River Thames as British Airways' last decommissioned supersonic airliner enjoyed a photo call.
The aircraft has been slowly making its way along the river in a specially-built barge, the Terra Marique, which is transporting it to Scotland.
The House of Commons stop was part of a day-long journey for the plane, codenamed G-BOAA.
It is due to reach its final resting home, the Museum of Flight at East Fortune Airfield, near Edinburgh, next week.
Emblazoned with the words Concorde to Scotland, the aircraft was wingless and without a tail, with the parts having been removed for the journey.
Goodbye to The Eye
However, the familiar Concorde nose cone was in place.
G-BOAA was used on BA's first commercial supersonic flight - from London to Bahrain in January 1976.
It made its final flight on August 12, 2000, having completed a total of more than 8,000 landings.
G-BOAA was one of BA's seven passenger Concordes.
BA decided to cease service of its flagship aircraft last year because it was no longer cost effective to maintain.
The fleet has been split up, with the planes being displayed across the globe.
Continental Reacts to Report of Charges
12.08.2004, 01:25 PM
Continental Airlines Inc. said Wednesday it was "outraged" at reports that French authorities want to prosecute the carrier and several employees over the Concorde crash that killed 113 people in Paris four years ago.
The airline issued a strongly worded statement after a French newspaper reported that investigating judge Christophe Regnard had summoned several Continental officials for interrogation and plans to place them under formal investigation along with the company.
"We strongly disagree that anything Continental did was the cause of the Concorde accident, and we are outraged by the media reports that criminal charges may have been made against our company and its employees," the airline said.
Continental said it had no independent confirmation of the charges reported in French daily newspaper Le Parisien, which did not cite its sources.
The French justice ministry and the prosecutor's office handling the case declined to comment.
The newspaper said other companies or individuals were also likely to face prosecution over the accident on July 25, 2000, when a Concorde plane crashed in flames onto a hotel shortly after taking off from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, killing all 109 people on board and four on the ground.
An investigation by France's Accident Investigations Bureau concluded almost three years ago that the accident was caused by a badly installed titanium "wear strip" that had fallen off the engine housing of a Continental DC10 that took off from the same runway minutes earlier.
The metal bar caused a Concorde tire to burst, the report said, projecting rubber debris into the supersonic plane's fuel tanks.
Le Parisien did not name any of the Continental employees it said would be summoned by Regnard, who is heading a manslaughter probe into the disaster.
In its statement, the airline said it was "confident that there is no basis for a criminal action" against the company. "We will defend any charges in the appropriate courts," it said.
Continental shares were down 2 cents (1 euro cent) to US$12.19 ($9.08) in trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.
Maybe the French authorities should prosecute a few individuals for the swissair tragedy? They did lose citizens in the crash or have they forgotten? The final report alone should have merited an investigation.
Piece of metal blamed for Concorde crash
A piece of metal that fell off a Continental Airlines jet was directly responsible for the Concorde crash of 2000, according to a French judge.
Concorde burst into flames and crashed after taking off from Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport in July 2000.
The judge saw a "direct causal link" between a burst tyre, caused by a shard of metal on the runway, and the crash.
Magistrate Christophe Regnard noted that Concorde had design flaws, since pieces of burst tyre punctured the plane's fuel tanks, causing a mid-air explosion.
The magistrate criticised the design of the thin fuel tanks, calling it an "important defect".
The report is the culmination of four years of investigations into the crash, and could prompt legal action by Air France against Continental Airlines.
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