Concorde returns to passenger service tomorrow with both British Airways and Air France operating flights to New York.
And Tony Blair will demonstrate his backing for the supersonic aircraft by chartering a Concorde to fly on a whistle-stop trip from London to Washington after Prime Minister’s Question Time tomorrow.
Both BA and Air France have modified their Concordes to prevent any repetition of the tragic events that led to the July 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde near Paris, with the loss of 113 lives.
‘‘Concorde is back and its return comes at a symbolic time,’’ said BA chief executive Rod Eddington.
New York’s Mayor Rudolph Guiliani, who will welcome Concorde’s return to his home city, said: ‘‘New York has been home to Concorde for more than 20 years and it is with great pride that we welcome this symbol of European and American commerce back to New York.’’
The first Concorde to arrive tomorrow will be that of Air France, which is operating a paying-passenger service from Paris, with the plane leaving the French capital at 9.30am UK time.
The BA flight, leaving at 10.30am, will carry representatives of the Government, big business, the aviation industry and the media.
Fare-paying Concorde flights on BA will start on Friday and the airline will, initially, operate a six times a week London-New York service, with weekly Heathrow-Barbados flights beginning in December.
Mr Blair has chartered Concorde to fly to Washington for talks and dinner with President George Bush.
The Prime Minister will return to the UK subsonically to be back for talks in London on Thursday with King Abdullah of Jordan and Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf.
Mr Eddington said: ‘‘British business leaders have been invited on this first flight as a thank you for their support for Concorde over the years and to reaffirm our commitment to business travel between the UK and the US.
‘‘We look forward to carrying our customers supersonically on our flagship plane for many years to come.’’
Although they can expect the best possible service, BA’s Concorde passengers tomorrow will have to put up with plastic cutlery which has been introduced on all the airline’s planes in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
Air France’s Concordes, although having plastic knives, will be using metal forks.
BA’s chief Concorde pilot, Mike Bannister, will be the commander on tomorrow’s London-New York flight. He will take the aircraft to heights of almost 60,000ft and speeds of up to 1,350mph in a trip that is likely to take just three hours 20 minutes.