The supersonic Concorde jet makes its last commercial passenger flight, traveling at twice the speed of sound from New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to London’s Heathrow Airport on this day in 2003. The British Airways jet carried 100 passengers, including actress Joan Collins, model Christie Brinkley, and an Ohio couple who reportedly paid $60,000 on eBay for two tickets (a roundtrip trans-Atlantic fare typically cost about $9,000).
A large crowd of
spectators greeted the plane’s arrival in London, which coincided with
two other final Concorde flights from Edinburgh and the Bay of Biscay.
Concorde, which was developed jointly by the British and French
governments, began commercial service in January 1976. A significant
achievement in aviation technology and design, the sleek, delta-winged
planes could make the trip from New York to London in around three and a
half hours, traveling at 1,350 miles per hour. The Concorde became a
symbol of speed and luxury, although it was not without its problems.
Some who lived under its flight path criticized the enormous noise it
produced. And, tragically, on July 25, 2000, an Air France jet crashed
after takeoff from Paris and 113 people died. All Concorde flights were
grounded for over a year after the incident.
operating costs and reduced ticket sales, British Airways retired its
Concorde fleet in October 2003. Air France, the only other Concorde
carrier, had permanently grounded its jets in May 2003. However, the
allure of the Concorde was so powerful that when the airlines auctioned
off spare parts from their fleets shortly after their retirement, many
items sold for significantly more than their suggested price. For
example, a blanket valued at $100 sold for $2,000, a door sold for
$33,000, and a needle nose sold for $550,000.