- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2003

PARIS — France bid an emotional farewell to the Concorde yesterday as the supersonic airliner touched down at Charles de Gaulle Airport at the end of its final scheduled flight for Air France.

About 15,000 people gathered at the airport’s perimeter to witness the close of a 27-year chapter in aviation history as the sleek delta-shape of flight AF001 from New York roared down to the tarmac for the last time at 5:45 p.m.

The aircraft was escorted down the runway by a convoy of police and fire vehicles with sirens blaring. As it passed the crowds massed behind wire fencing, the pilot dipped the plane’s characteristic nose cone in salute.

The airplane, which for many in France was an emblem of national prowess, is being withdrawn from service because of soaring costs and plummeting passenger numbers.

Earlier there were emotional scenes among Concorde’s so-called family — the tightly knit group of pilots, air crew and regular passengers — as the aircraft prepared to take off for its final three-hour-45-minute flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“Yesterday I had tears in my eyes seeing all the Air France personnel, and today it will be a real bubble of emotion when we arrive,” said France’s junior transport minister, Dominique Bussereau, who was also aboard for its outward leg Friday.

The company’s senior representative at JFK Airport, Jacques Malot, joked about a conversation he’d had with his wife yesterday: “My wife said to me this morning, ‘Concorde’s stopping. Your mistress is leaving you.’”

Conceived in the 1960s as a showcase for Franco-British technological cooperation, Concorde flew its first passenger service in 1976. But it was a commercial failure from the start.

The airliner, capable of carrying 92 passengers at a cruising speed of 1,430 mph, was taken out of service for more than a year starting in July 2000, when an Air France Concorde crashed just after takeoff from Paris, killing 113 persons.

The seven British Airways Concordes will continue operating out of London to New York and Barbados until the end of October.

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