Big Bird bids a final farewell to the Big Apple

FOR some it was their first time, for others it was the umpteenth time, but for all it would prove the very last time they would ever fly on Concorde.

On board, a mood of celebration, fuelled by champagne and caviar, was tinged with sadness as the last Concorde passenger flight from New York to London took off, sending the supersonic icon into aviation history.

On landing at Heathrow to a tumultuous welcome from thousands of spectators and airport staff, Concorde chief pilot Mike Bannister summed up everyone's thoughts by saying: "Concorde was born from dreams, built with vision, and operated with pride."

As the sun rose on a chilly New York October morning, the Big Bird bid goodbye to the Big Apple. Kennedy Airport staff lined up to wave farewell and Captain Bannister and his crew took off at 7.37 am local time (12.37pm GMT). With a great roar, Concorde hammered down the runway and was soon airborne leaving the giant towers of Manhattan glinting in the morning sunshine.

Those lucky enough to be on board, who flew at 56,000ft, at a speed faster than a rifle bullet, felt privileged to be present at the end of an adventure that began in 1962 when Britain and France agreed jointly to develop a supersonic passenger aircraft.

Celebrities on the flight included film star Joan Collins, models Jodie Kidd and Christie Brinkley, and motor racing chief Bernie Ecclestone.

Among the Concorde frequent fliers was TV presenter David Frost, who abandoned his normal seat in the back of the aircraft to sit in the first row with British Airways chairman Lord Marshall. Champagne was served by purser Julia Van Den Bosch, Concorde's longest serving cabin crew member, joining the fleet in 1976.

At 4.24pm (GMT), the engines were powered back for the last time on a passenger flight. The sun had risen on Concorde as she had taken off on her last journey from New York and it was dipping in the sky as she landed in London.

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