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January 2004
Concorde, the world’s only supersonic aircraft, recently took an emotional bow at Heathrow Airport, after completing its last passenger-carrying flight.   During the previous week it had made visits to several of Britain’s major airports to allow the public to bid farewell to it.   On the final Friday, three Concordes were choreographed to land in sequence at Heathrow – one from Edinburgh, one from an afternoon trip to the Bay of Biscay, and one on service from New York.
Planning was intense, as thousands of people were expected.   It had been agreed in advance that the north runway would be used.   Roads were cordoned off (left) and a small viewing platform was erected for the lucky few ticket holders and the press (right).
Crowds began to build early in the afternoon, and they were delighted to see the Bay of Biscay flight depart (right).   Patiently they waited, some perching precariously from lamp posts (left).   Security staff and police marshalled the camera-clad enthusiasts, preventing them from standing beside the perimeter fence.   Remarkably all three flights were on time, and the weather remained bright if somewhat cool.
As the New York flight approached the crowds dashed across the Northern Perimeter Rd to get a better view (right).   There was nothing security and police to prevent just one last photograph (top).   After all three had landed, the US Concorde headed for the hangar to clear customs, while the other two did a grand tour of the airport, visiting every far flung corner as if on a lap of honour (above middle).   Finally all three switched off their engines.   It was the end of an era.
Arrival Flight Route Concorde
1st BA 9021 Edinburgh - London LHR  G-BOAE 
2nd BA 9010

London LHR - London LHR via Bay of Biscay

3rd BA 002 New York JFK - London LHR  G-BOAG 
All photos taken on Friday 24th October 2003 at Heathrow Airport.
Click to enlarge.
Personal anecdotes
Stranraer: I lived in south-west Scotland while Concorde was being tested at Bristol in the early 1970's.   It would fly up and down the Irish Sea causing a sonic boom (or boom-boom to be precise) overhead.   The windows in the house shook fairly violently, the effect being similar to a test at the bomb range at nearby West Freugh.   As school children we were told that the reason for two booms was that it was flying two-times the speed of sound.   However this is not true - it's due to the leading and the trailing edge of the wing both passing through the sound barrier.

New York: Occasionally I travelled from Heathrow to Boston on business during the mid-1980's.   My favoured method of travel was Pan Am 103 (yes that 103) to New York and then a short haul flight up to Boston arriving at about 10pm EST (to cut down on jet lag).   One May evening when touching down at JFK, Concorde was taking off with the Manhattan skyline in the background bathed in golden sunshine.   Unfortunately my camera was buried deep in the overhead locker - this is what the photo might have looked like:

Antibes: When I lived in the south of France during the late 1980's, several Concordes would fly in to Nice for the Monaco Grand Prix at the end of May each year.   One year, I got up especially early on Sunday morning to photograph them passing over my apartment.   That day though there was a thick fog (never seen before or since on the Cote d'Azur) so all I heard was the noise - I couldn't see a thing.   The previous year, the air traffic controllers or the baggage handlers (or possibly both) went on strike during the Grand Prix which meant the Concordes could not leave till after midnight.   All the local residents heard each one depart in turn while tucked up in bed.

Reading: For over 20 years I have heard Concorde flying over Reading each day.   On Sundays it was a perfect alarm clock as it woke me at about 10h45 - it really was time to get up after that.   Even now, when it flew overhead, people would stop and look.   Perhaps it was the noise, or perhaps it was the shape.   It was just that sort of plane.
Concorde SST - definitive concorde website
British Airways celebrating concorde
Sky News concorde final New York take-off - spectacular video
A bientot
The very final Concorde flies over Bracknell for the very last time heading for retirement at Filton.
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