Concorde completes last trans-Atlantic flight

Concorde has completed its last passenger flight from New York to London.

Concorde has completed its last passenger flight from New York to London.

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 he powered back the Rolls-Royce engines for the last time, Captain Bannister signalled the end of nearly three decades of supersonic passenger flight.

The day had been awash with nostalgia as the New York to London Concorde joined with two sister aircraft to land one after the other at a welcoming Heathrow just after 4pm.

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

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, to meet media requirements, Captain Bannister and his crew took off at precisely 7.37 and 50 seconds am local time (12.37pm Irish time).

With a great roar, Concorde hammered down the runway and was soon airborne leaving the giant towers of Manhattan glinting in the morning sunshine.

Within 10 minutes of being airborne, the plane had already reached a speed of 700mph as it passed over the fashionable area of The Hamptons - home to some of America's rich and famous.

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

Among the Concorde frequent fliers was David Frost, who abandoned his normal seat to the back of the aircraft to sit in the first row with British Airways chairman Lord Marshall.

Within 15-minutes of take-off came the first of the champagne brought to passengers by purser Julia Van Den Bosch who is Concorde’s longest serving cabin crew member, joining the fleet in 1976.

By 8.28am American time captain Bannister cheerfully announced that the plane had reached its top speed of 1,350mph and that he would be taking her up to a height of around 57,000 to 58,000 feet.

Just as Concorde arrived at its top speed cabin services director Tracey Percy was arriving with the smoked salmon and caviar.

Amid the welter of macho statistics emanating from the cockpit the Concorde team showed a lighter, personal touch by placing a red rose on each passenger food tray.

According to the menu, one of the vegetables was wilted spinach, although judging by the posture of some of the guests it was a case of wilted passengers.

Supermodel Christie Brinkley, for example, had fallen asleep after the smoked salmon.

Also knocked out by the early start and slumbering peacefully was Jodie Kidd.

With just 25-minutes to go before touchdown Captain Bannister announced that the UK coast was in view. He said that air traffic controllers were allowing the plane to pass 2,500ft over London for the final flight.

The rendezvous with the other two Concordes, which had set off earlier from Heathrow, was over the English town of Weybridge.

As the final Concorde came into Heathrow thousands of people welcomed her in.

As the plane taxied around the airport, it seemed that the whole of Heathrow had come to a grinding halt, with staff clambering on the top of their vehicles for the best possible last look at the supersonic aircraft.

Finally at 4.24pm local time the engines were powered back for the last time on a passenger flight.

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