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Last Updated: Friday, 24 October 2003, 22:36 GMT 23:36 UK
Witnessing history in the making
by Duncan Walker
BBC News Online, at Heathrow airport

As the last ever Concorde flight landed at Heathrow Airport on Friday afternoon, a wave of applause followed by a huge cheer went up from the thousands of people gathered there for the historical event.

Concorde crowds
Snap happy Concorde fans record history

The sight of the three supersonic jets landing one after another was itself an extraordinary event for the enthusiasts in the crowd - some of whom had travelled from as far away as South Africa.

Knowing that it was never to happen again sent many grown men scurrying for better vantage points.

And after the final jet touched down, having performed its last loop around the Bay of Biscay, more than a couple were close to tears.

Fanatic Ian Macmillan summed up the feelings of many fans when he said: "After all these years, it's still the most fantastic of all aviation experiences.

"Knowing it will never fly again gives a sense of sadness and pride at the same time."

And Hounslow resident Julie Davis said: "Even though I have lived under the flight path for years and have had to put up with its noise every day, I will definitely miss it."

French enthusiasts

There had been a similar reaction earlier in the day, when the assembled masses proudly watched as one of the planes took off from Heathrow for the last time - leaving a tail of yellow-brown smoke in its wake.

Former Air France Concorde captain Jacky Ramon
It was a sad day for former Concorde captain Jacky Ramon

Among those who showed up at the airport on a chilly afternoon, determined to give Concorde a proper send-off, was a group of 60 French enthusiasts who had travelled over from Paris for the occasion.

Former Air France Concorde pilot Jacky Ramon said: "This is a very sad day for me, but it's also a very happy day because I want to congratulate the British for celebrating this with some honour."

Mr Ramon, who last flew Concorde from New York to Paris on 30 May 2003 - the day before the French planes were taken out of service - said: "Our response was shameful."

'Amazing experience'

British fans were also well represented, and included Andrew Cole and his nine-year-old son Matthew, from Cornwall.

Jenny and Peter Cracknell
Jenny and Peter Cracknell travelled from Essex for a "historic day"

"I have always been interested in Concorde, and I went on it for my 30th birthday five years ago," Mr Cole said.

"It was an amazing experience, and I am very sad that Matthew will never have the chance that I had."

Also enjoying the day was 16-year-old Peter Cracknell and his 21-year-old sister, Jenny, from Harlow in Essex.

"I have seen it take off before, but nothing compares to today," Peter said. "I don't think they should have taken them out of service - I would love to have flown on one."

On this historic occasion, spectators had waited patiently all day with binoculars and cameras at the ready.

Many had come equipped with ladders to get a better view of the landings and continued to clamour for the best vantage points as the planes headed for the hangers.

Few were disappointed by the day and their chance to witness what is likely to be the end of supersonic passenger travel - for the foreseeable future at least.


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