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Last Updated: Friday, 24 October, 2003, 05:06 GMT 06:06 UK
Aviation era comes to an end
Concorde
Concorde made its first commercial flight on 21 January 1976
When Concorde entered commercial service in 1976, it was the climax of years of research and development.

The sleek delta wing supersonic jet came to represent the ultimate in stylish travel.

It also created the ability to cross the Atlantic in a few hours.

But this era of supersonic travel is about to come to an end.

It's thought that around a hundred thousand people could make their way here to Heathrow to see the aircraft touch down for the last time, causing chaos around the airport.

  • Today, Breakfast had a special programme presented by Dermot Murnaghan live from Heathrow as preparations are made for the last Concorde flight to land there this afternoon.

  • There is also a comprehensive background section here on the website courtesy of BBC News Online - just click on the links to the right of the page.

  • And you can see those final moments of the plane in the air on Concorde's Final Flight, live on BBC TWO and News 24 this afternoon from 15.30 BST.

  • The BBC's Transport Correspondent Simon Montague has looked back at thirty years of service by Concorde and the reasons why the aircraft is being grounded, which BA say are commercial.

    Click on the link at the top of the page to see that report.

  • We heard from former Concorde pilot John Hutchinson who talked about his thousands of hours piloting Concorde.

  • And Dermot has been finding out just what makes Concorde so special - he made one of the last trips from London to JFK airport in New York

  • We also heard from Lord Heseltine. He was Government air industries minister from 1970.

    He inherited Concorde from the Labour government, it was his job to sell Concorde internationally, and eventually was the one who, handed the aircraft over to BA.

  • And BA's Chief Executive Rod Eddington joined Dermot at Heathrow to explain some of the reasons behind the aircraft's retirement

    Meanwhile Jon Kay has been to Filton - the birthplace of Concorde; he took a former engineer back to reflect on the building of the aircraft - click on the link above.

  • Judith Chalmers joined Dermot with her reflections on supersonic travel.

    Flight plan

    Three Concorde aircraft will land in quick succession at around 1600 BST; the first will have flown from Edinburgh with competition winners, the second will have flown around Heathrow with 100 guests.

    People are really inspired by it. It's like the Royal Family or the space programme
    Tony Benn
    Government minister during 1960s and 70s
    The third and final, Concorde to land will be the last ever passenger flight, this last flight will take off at 0700 local time from New York's JF Kennedy Airport, with show business, media and frequent Concorde flyers aboard.

    Among the passengers will be actress Joan Collins, TV personality Jeremy Clarkson and Sir David Frost who has been one of Concorde's most-frequent fliers.

    It is also thought that former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani will be taking the last flight.

    It's still not entirely clear what will happen to the aircraft although it's thought they could be destined for various museums including Duxford; and the Spitfire and Hurricane Memorial Museum in Manston, Kent.

    One might be presented to the Seattle Museum of Flight in Washington state.

    Another may end up at the USS Intrepid - an aircraft carried based on the Hudson River in New York.

    The July 2000 Paris crash, the subsequent 15 months of non-flying for the planes, the downturn in the American economy, the events of September 11 and the Iraqi war all conspired to make the plane an uneconomical proposition.

    Ironically, news of the plane's retirement has led to a huge demand for seats.

    "The plane has been absolutely chock-a-block for weeks. People who had planned a Concorde trip some time in the future realised that time was running out," said a BA spokesman.

    Veteran British politician Tony Benn, who held technology and industry posts in government in the 1960s and 1970s and who will be on the final flight, said the Concorde project was born out of political expediency.

    'Very symbolic'

    He said Harold Macmillan had agreed to the project in the early 1960s to ease entry into Europe and that subsequent politicians and civil servants had often wanted to cancel it because of the cost, something Mr Benn had fought against.

    He insisted: "It is very beautiful and when people look at it they are very proud. It's its beauty and the people who built it. The end of Concorde is very symbolic.

    "The Americans never produced one that worked. The Russian one crashed at the Paris air show

    "People are really inspired by it. It's like the Royal Family or the space programme. It is, once you had decided to start, to cancel would have been mad, a quarter of million jobs were at stake.

    Some will see the end of commercial supersonic travel as a backward step, but it is hoped that one aircraft will be kept flying for air shows.

  • WATCH AND LISTEN
    The BBC's Simon Montague
    "In the end only 20 were built"


    Jon Kay
    Visits the place where Concorde was born



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