Concorde's Last Flight

Speedbird 2 Heavy, be advised: I happen to have the good luck of being here and issuing the first landing clearance for the concorde here at JFK back in '77. Just want to say its been wonderful working with your aircraft and I wish good luck to all the crews and we're gonna miss you.

I will remember October 24, 2003  for a long time.

Back in early 2003 I caught the aviation "bug". After being amazed by the Travel Channel special on Learjets (the original business jets), I tried to learn as much about aviation as I could. Soon enough, I found, a message board for aviation enthusiasts run by an air traffic controller at JFK airport.

A Learjet that sparked my interest in aviation

I loved the discussions on the forums and the live air traffic control feeds I could listen to. Slowly, I started picking up the lingo and became even more fascinated with ATC.

That brings me back to October. By then, it was known that British Airways was close to ceasing operations of Concordes, a year and a half after Air France forever grounded their fleet. Unfortunately, the costs of operating the supersonic flights were getting out of hand and it did not make economic sense to keep them going.

After 27 years of  nearly flawless operations it was time to bid farewell to this marvel of engineering - the planes were designed and built without the use of computers, only the slide rules (kids - ask your parents grandparents). The only computers on board were mechanical i.e. not really computers in the sense that we know them. And 27 years later, at the beginning of the 21st century, it was still the only supersonic aircraft flying passengers, literally, at the edge of space.

Concorde's first flight (March 2, 1969)

There was so much discussion about this impeding retirement that I felt the sadness from the fact that I will never get to fly on one.

I got so much into it that I actually considered driving up to New York City to join up with a bunch of other aviation nuts to watch the last departure set for October 24th. Unfortunately, I had midterms that day so the common sense killed that idea.

Still, I was up at 6am, frantically switching between the clearance delivery, ground control, and JFK tower frequencies to listen to Speedbird (British Airways callsign) flight 002 - the last scheduled passenger flight from New York back to London. I followed her through all the way through New York Departure until it was switched to the Oceanic controllers.

Later when I got back home, Pesach (one of JFKtower members) posted this very emotional video he shot in the morning (make sure to watch in full screen mode):

I have watched this video dozens of times and still, every time my eyes get watery when the controller tells them to contact Departure and the crowd breaks out in cheers...

That last flight was operated on the Concorde registed as G-BOAD, affectionately called Alpha Delta by the enthusiasts (the last two letters of the registration). A few years later I got the chance to catch up with Alpha Delta and tour her at the Intrepid Aviation Museum in New York City:

Concorde Alpha Delta at Intrepid

A fun factoid - Alpha Delta holds the record for the fastest Atlantic crossing back in 1996. It was was accomplished in just 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds - compare that to 8-9 hours these days (using aircraft with "cutting edge" technology nonetheless)!

Farewell, Concorde! Blue skies forever!

I have decided to add an aviation angle to my blog. Being a pilot, aviation is one of my main passions (right up there with traveling) and I have had plenty of fun aviation experiences that I am looking forward to sharing here. I hope you will enjoy them!