DALLAS – Today in Aviation, Concorde Speedbird 001 last departed London Heathrow (LHR) for New York’s JFK airport in 2003.
At that time, BA had carried more than 2.5 million passengers on its fleet of seven such aircraft. Along with Concorde, the airline operated scheduled services primarily to New York, but also to Barbados, Bahrain, Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami, Singapore and Washington. It also operated charter flights to over 250 destinations worldwide, including annual flights to Lapland.
The first Concorde to land at JFK on October 19, 1977 was the French-registered Concorde F-WTSB, which was received by reporters, onlookers in mixed moods and Port Authority officials after the United States lifted the ban on the plane. BA operated the Concorde on BA 001 and BA 002 flights to/from JFK, departing LHR at 10:30 a.m. and arriving at 9:30 a.m. local time in New York.
You can hear audio from ATC below as Speedbird 001 departs LHR for the last time. “London frequency 1 3 2 decimal 905. Have a good trip and goodbye. 1 3 2 decimal 906… that was a pleasure. A YT commenter noted, “Beautiful, beautiful machine. So drained that he left. Every ATC at the end is so sad to see him go because it resonates beyond belief.
JFK’s last start at London Heathrow
The next day, the supersonic jet Concorde made its last commercial passenger flight from JFK to LHR. The BA flight carried 100 passengers, including the late Sir David Frost, actress Joan Collins, model Christie Brinkley and a couple from Ohio who allegedly charged $60,000 on eBay for two tickets (a round-trip transatlantic normally costs around $9,000).
As The Guardian reported in 2003, only on Concorde was Paul McCartney able to lead passengers in the impromptu singing of Beatles songs. It was only through Concorde that Phil Collins could have performed in London and Philadelphia on the same day as part of the Live Aid concert.
Rock stars, musicians, captains of industry and political leaders were the embodiment of Concorde. It was the transatlantic shuttle of the financial elite.
In the end, Concorde’s exclusive club of regular customers gathered in the Concorde Room at New York JFK for Concorde’s last regularly scheduled commercial flight. According history.comafter a farewell speech from Concorde Captain Mike Bannister, they board BA2, bound for LHR for the last time.
Huge crowds of onlookers awaited the plane’s arrival in London, which coincided with two other recent Concorde flights from Edinburgh and the Bay of Biscay.
The first lady of aviation
The Concorde has become a symbol of speed and luxury, although it hasn’t been without its problems. Some of those who lived in its flight path criticized the tremendous noise it made. And unfortunately, on July 25, 2000, the Air France (AF) plane crashed after taking off from Paris and 113 people died. All Concorde flights were grounded more than a year after the incident.
Citing rising operating costs and declining ticket sales, BA withdrew its Concorde fleet in October 2003 after 27 years with the carrier. In May of the same year, Air France, the only other Concorde airline, permanently grounded its planes.
However, the Concorde’s charm was so strong that when airlines auctioned off spare parts from their fleets shortly after their retirement, many parts sold for well over their suggested price. For example, a blanket worth $100 was sold for $2,000, a door was sold for $33,000, and a needle nose was sold for $550,000.
A Concorde is now stationary at LHR. Its delta wings and imposing pointed nose always turn heads. The other six BA Concorde aircraft are positioned around the world for visitors, including Aerospace Bristol, Manchester Airport, Intrepid Sea, New York Air & Space Museum, Museum Of Flight Seattle and the National Museum Of Flight Scotland, according to londonairtravel.com.
Feature image: British Airways Concorde G-BOAD. Photo: Rob Young from UK, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons