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Concorde Takes Flight for Final Time

October 24, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Concorde soared into the sky on its last passenger flight Friday, heading for London as the world bid adieu, cheerio and farewell to the era of supersonic travel.

The British Airways plane, the skinny, needle-nosed 20th-century icon of international jet-setters, departed from John F. Kennedy International Airport on its final flight home.

The plane, carrying about 100 passengers, was scheduled to land in London’s Heathrow Airport three hours and 20 minutes later. Thousands were expected to gather to watch the near-simultaneous landing of the flight from New York and two other Concordes _ one carrying competition winners from Edinburgh, Scotland, the other taking guests on a circular flight from Heathrow over the Bay of Biscay, west of France.

``It’s been a wonderful achievement,″ said Ross Stainton, the former chief of the predecessor to British Airways, before boarding the London flight.

Stainton, who was with the British Overseas Airways Corp. when the Concorde was developed and was aboard its debut flight, said he was ``very sad, but also very proud.″

The Concorde, a joint project of the British and French governments, began commercial service in January 1976. The technological marvel and the ultimate symbol of jet-set glamour flew 11 miles above the Earth at up to 1,350 mph, crossing the Atlantic in about 3 1/2 hours. With the five-hour time difference, passengers arrived in New York earlier than they had left London.

The British and French hoped to sell hundreds, but in the end only 16 were built. They were used by British Airways and Air France.

Last April, both airlines announced they would be retiring the Concorde. Air France had its last flight in May.

Despite the glamor and social cachet attributed to the plane, which resembles a giant eagle poised to pounce on prey, it was a financial dud. With fares of more than $9,000 for a trans-Atlantic round trip _ well above the first-class fare on a Boeing 747 _ it remained a luxury for a wealthy few.

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