On This Day: Why did Concorde stop flying in 2003?

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The final British Airways Concorde flight lifts off from John F. Kennedy Airport  in New York on its final voyage to London, 24 October 2003. The flight was Concorde's last ever passenger flight, sending the world's only supersonic airliner flying into the history books after 27 years of shuttling the rich and rushed across the Atlantic at twice the speed of sound.   AFP PHOTO/Timothy A. CLARY / AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY AND -        (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
The final British Airways Concorde flight lifts off from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

This article is part of Yahoo's 'On This Day' series.

The pilot said as the plane touched down, ‘Concorde has become a legend today. Thank you for joining us for a moment of history.’

The last flight of Concorde was packed with celebrities including Joan Collins, Piers Morgan and Sir David Frost, who had flown on the supersonic jet 300 times. 

Supermodel Christie Brinkley was on the flight, saying she couldn’t resist one last chance to, ‘Pop over to London.’

Before it took off, veteran Concorde pilot Mike Bannister, chief pilot of the craft said, ‘You will be flying at the edge of space. There the sky gets darker, you can see the curvature of the earth. 

‘You will fly faster than a rifle bullet, at 23 miles a minute, faster than the world rotates.’

Captain Mike Bannister (R) and Senior First Officer Jonathan Napier (L) wave from the cockpit as the British Airways Concorde lands at London's Heathrow Airport, on the day that the world's first supersonic airliner retired from commercial service. Thousands of people gathered at the airport to see three of the aircraft land one after the other.   (Photo by Sean Dempsey - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Captain Mike Bannister (R) and Senior First Officer Jonathan Napier (L) wave from the cockpit as the British Airways Concorde lands at London's Heathrow Airport (Photo by Sean Dempsey - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
A British Airways Concorde makes its way from a maintenance hangar to Terminal Four at London's Heathrow Airport, before the supersonic aircraft was due to make its first commercial crossing of the Atlantic since the crash in France July 2000.  (PA)
A British Airways Concorde makes its way from a maintenance hangar to Terminal Four at London's Heathrow Airport, before the supersonic aircraft was due to make its first commercial crossing of the Atlantic since the crash in France July 2000. (PA)

The last flight of Concorde on this day in November 2003 marked the end of the era of supersonic passenger flight. 

Concorde was born of Anglo-French collaboration in the 1960s and 1970s (the name means harmony or agreement, referring to the treaty between Britain and France that led to its creation).

Watch: Nasa builds new supersonic aircraft dubbed ‘son of Concorde’

Both countries had separately begun to develop supersonic planes in the 1950s, but opted to work together. 

The first Concorde flight took place in Toulouse in 1969, and commercial services began in 1976. 

The top speed of Concorde was twice the speed of sound, 1,350mph, and the aircraft had just 100 seats. 

A crash investigator looks amongst the wreckage of the remains of the Concorde aircraft which crashed in Gonesse, near Paris, killing more than 100 people (PA).
A crash investigator looks amongst the wreckage of the remains of the Concorde aircraft which crashed in Gonesse, near Paris, killing more than 100 people (PA).
Flag-waving crowds watch a British Airways Concorde land at London's Heathrow Airport, on the day that the world's first supersonic airliner retired from commercial service.   (Photo by John Stillwell - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Flag-waving crowds watch a British Airways Concorde land at London's Heathrow Airport, on the day that the world's first supersonic airliner retired from commercial service (Photo by John Stillwell - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

On February 7th 1996, Concorde went from London to New York in just under two hours and 53 minutes. 

But the plane was doomed to failure by a combination of technical problems and simple economics. 

In July 2000, 114 people died when a Concorde crashed after taking off from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. 

The crash prompted a £17 million upgrade to the fuel tanks. 

Actress Joan Collins and her husband Percy Gibson who are amongst a hundred invited guest for the farewell flight for Concorde departing from New York to Heathrow on the supersonic plane's final passenger journey.   (Photo by Stefan Rousseau - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Actress Joan Collins and her husband Percy Gibson on the supersonic plane's final passenger journey. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

In the wake of the crash, other technical problems followed: engine failure prompted one flight to turn back to London, and another had to cut speed when cracks appeared in a window.

One Air France Concorde had to return to Charles de Gaulle after it could not move its nose cone into position for supersonic speed. 

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But it was economics that put paid to Concorde; with tickets at around £8000 for a round trip, it was a machine built for the super-rich. 

At around the same time as Concorde rumbled onto the tarmac for the first time, Boeing unveiled its 747, capable of seating 400. 

Model Jodi Kidd embraces TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson who are amongst a hundred invited guest for the farewell flight for Concorde departing from New York to Heathrow on the supersonic plane's final passenger journey.   (Photo by Stefan Rousseau - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Model Jodie Kidd embraces TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson on the supersonic plane's final passenger journey. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

It was a machine built for the era of mass travel and mass tourism, and it arrived just as both started to boom in the 1970s. 

Boeing sold hundreds of jets, while Concorde remained for the privileged few, and it operated at a loss for years.

It was licensed to fly until 2009, but rising costs and falling ticket sales spelt the end.  

Jeremy Clarkson, who was on the final flight, wrote later, ‘With a crackling rumble, the last great reminder that Britain once was a force to be reckoned with, was gone.

‘Concorde doesn't understand profits or loss. It’s a machine. It knows only how to fly very, very fast across the Atlantic.

“But some machines become more than a collection of wires and glass and metal. They take on a personality and this is what makes their death hard to stomach.’

Watch: The rise and fall of supersonic air travel (but might it come back in 2029?)

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