RETURN TO FLIGHT

Air France Retirement

Air France's final scheduled Concorde journey to New York began in France on Friday May 30th as the national carrier took the supersonic airliner out of service after more than a quarter of a century in the skies.

Flight AF002 was waved off for the final passenger trip to New York from Terminal 2 at Paris CDG for the 3hr 45 minute flight to JFK. On arrival at the New York airport, fire trucks stood by to meet the final scheduled Air France Concorde arrival with their traditional water cannon salute.

Ahead of the flight, the Air France Concorde staff paid tribute to the aircraft: "We feel we have all be orphaned," said Sebastian Weder, the team's commander. "It was our life -- every day of it -- and from May 31 there will be a great void."

The wistful mood of Captain Chatelain, 57, who has the looks of a central-casting "Commandant de Bord", is matched throughout the close-knit Concorde family at Air France as the country salutes the passing of a symbol of Gallic glory.

"Every flight is a moment of delight. It is the Formula One of aviation -- with the perfomance of a jet fighter on a civil transport," said Jean-Louis Chatelain, who has flown Concordes since 2001.

In the narrow 100-seat cabin of one of the airlines Concordes, Joelle Cornet-Templet, the chief stewardess of the fleet, said that a dream was ending. "It is a magic aircraft. The pleasure of flying in it is almost a carnal one," she said.

The following day, when the aircraft returned to Paris Charles de Gaulle after its last commercial flight, it brought to a close 27 years of French aviation history.

Seventy-nine passengers, and one dog, arrived from New York on the three-hour trip on the graceful droop-nosed jet, while the final flight carried 100 passengers on a "supersonic enthusiast" charter around the Bay of Biscay.

"In France we don't know how to hold on to what is beautiful," said one passenger. Others descended from the aircraft with tears in their eyes.

"Concorde will never really stop flying because it will live on in people's imagination," Air France Chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta said.

In a repeat of the scene on arrival the previous day, three fire trucks sprayed red, white and blue water in an arc in front of the plane as it departed from New York for its final fare-paying passenger flight home.

At the same time that AF001 was in the air, a 1 hour 40 minute charter flight took enthusiasts around the Bay of Biscay, operated by ALS and Goodwood Travel. This was due to touch down minutes before the final passenger service from New York arrived at Paris. However, Concorde got the last laugh, because when the aircraft was pushed back, one of its 4 engines would not start.

After a frantic period of activity by ground staff, the engine on Concorde F-BVFB roared into life and the aircraft departed an hour late, giving the passengers the honour of being on the last ever supersonic passenger flight operated by Air France (for the next decade or three at least!)

The AF001 flight, operated by F-BTSD, touched down at Charles de Gaulle Airport at 5:44 p.m, after flying over many thousands of people gathered at the end of runway 09 at Paris CDG.

Several thousand more Concorde fans inside the airport greeted the "white bird", as Concorde is fondly known in France. As Sierra-Delta made its way along the taxiway followed by a convoy of airport well-wishers, some held banners reading, "Thank you Concorde, we love you."

" It's the end of an era in aviation," Dominique Bussereau, France's transport secretary, said before the aircraft took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport, for its 3 1/2 hour flight.

Christopher Mazel, chief financial officer of Michelin Tires in Thailand, who was on the flight, said of the aircraft: "You're eating the most beautiful food, drinking the most beautiful wine. You can't compare it even to first class."

Passenger Vincent Olivetto said he shed a few tears on arrival. "I kept my eyes wide open during the whole flight to look out the window," he said, adding, "It's an unforgettable memory."

First-time passenger Pamela Goldin, 33, of Paris, decided to splurge on a $6,000 one-way ticket for the Air France Concorde's swan song. "How can I give up the opportunity to try this amazing feat that will end today?" Goldin said. "It's a great way to go home."

The landing of the charter (AF 4332), shortly after 18:30, marked the official end of Air France supersonic passenger services. On-board the aircraft, the crew waved out of the cockpit windows, as Fox-Bravo taxied past the crowds and headed towards Air France's corporate headquarters at the airport, en-route to Terminal 2.


AF 002
30th May 2003

Route Paris CDG - New York JFK
Aircraft F-BTSD (213)
Cockpit Crew Jean-François MICHEL (Commander)
Patrick DELANGLE (First officer)
Bernard COLLETTE (Flight Engineer)
Departure Paris - Charles De Gaulle 10:40 Local
Arrival New York - John F. Kennedy 9:15 Local
Routing CDG - Caen - English Channel - South of Ireland - North Atlantic - Sabre Island - Nantucket - New York JFK
Max Speed Mach 2.02 (around 1,350 mph)
Max Height 60,000 ft (around 11 miles)
Milestones Final Air France AF002 flight to New York with fare-paying passengers.


AF 001
31st May 2003

Route New York JFK - Paris CDG
Aircraft F-BTSD (213)
Cockpit Crew Jean-François MICHEL (Commander)
Patrick DELANGLE (First officer)
Bernard COLLETTE (Flight Engineer)
Departure New York - John F. Kennedy 08:15 local
Arrival Paris - Charles De Gaulle 16:30 local
Routing CDG - Caen - English Channel - South of Ireland - North Atlantic - Sabre Island - Nantucket - New York JFK
Max Speed Mach 2.02 (around 1,350 mph)
Max Height 60,000 ft (around 11 miles)
Milestones Final Air France AF001 flight from New York to Paris with fare-paying passengers.

AF 4332
31st May 2003

Route Paris CDG - Bay of Biscay - Paris CDG
Aircraft F-BVFB (207)
Cockpit Crew Jean-Louis Châtelain (Commander)
Beatrice VIALLE (Co-Pilot)
M VASSEUR (Flight engineer)
Departure Paris - Charles De Gaulle 16:10 Local
Arrival Paris :Charles De Gaulle 17:35 Local
Routing CDG - Le Havre -TESGO - Bay of Biscay via the AKELO waypoint - West of Brest - Channels Islands - CDG
Max Speed Mach 2.02 (around 1,350 mph)
Max Height 55,000 ft (around 10 miles)
Milestones Final Air France Concorde passenger flight with fare-paying passengers on board.

Picture Gallery coming soon

Air France Museum Ferry Flights

June12th
2003

AF 4386

Retirement flight of F-BVFA to Smithsonian Museum's Steven F Udva Hazy Center at Dulles Airport, Washington

Click for full details and pictures of flight AF 4386

June 14th
2003

AF 4404

F-BTSD is retired to Le Bourget, on the first (non-public) day of the bi-annual Paris air show

Click for full details and picture of flight AF 4404

June 24th
2003

AF 4386

F-BVFB flies to the airport nearest to the Auto & Technik Museum, Sinsheim, Germany

Click for full details and picture of flight AF 4386

June 27th
2003

AF 6903

Last ever Air France Concorde flight, as F-BVFC is retired to the entrance of the new Airbus A380 factory at Toulouse.

Click for full details and pictures of flight AF 6903

 

AIR FRANCE PRESS RELEASES (Translation)

Announcement - April 10th 2003

Air France does not intend to continue operating its Concorde fleet after 31 October 2003, the last day of its summer schedule.

The poor economic performance of the transatlantic route operated with Concorde over the last few months and especially since the beginning of the year is behind this decision. This drop in demand comes at a time when the company has to bear maintenance costs which have substantially increased since Concorde returned to service on 7 November 2001.

The decision taken by Air France is therefore based on structural reasons related to a widening gap between costs and revenue. It was taken in close conjunction with the manufacturer Airbus: " The Airbus' predecessors Aerospatiale and British Aircraft Corporation have created the Concorde some 40 years ago and we are proud of this remarkable achievement. But its maintenance regime is increasing fast with age ," said Noël Forgeard, President and Chief Executive Officer of Airbus.

" Thus, as an aircraft manufacturer, we completely understand and respect the decision of Air France and British Airways, especially in the present economic climate. It goes without saying that, until the completion of the very last flight, we will continue to support the operators so that the highest standards of maintenance and safety are entirely fulfilled."

" Air France deeply regrets having to make the decision to stop its Concorde operations, but it has become a necessity," declared Air France Chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta.

" The worsening economic situation in the last few months has led to a decline in business traffic, which particularly weighs on Concorde's results. Maintenance costs have substantially increased since its return to service. Operating Concorde has become a severely and structurally loss-making operation. In these circumstances, it would be unreasonable to continue operating it any longer."

" In announcing this decision," he added "my first thoughts immediately go to the Air France crews and maintenance teams who spared no effort to get the Concorde back in the air after the accident on July 25, 2000. Its return to service was an exemplary technical feat, and I well imagine their sadness today. We shall never forget this aircraft, just as we will never forget those who, by contributing to the Concorde service for almost three decades, enabled Air France to write one of the finest pages in the history of aviation. Today, however, it is essential for any business to preserve a healthy financial situation."

As far as Air France is concerned, and in view of the current economic situation which is having a highly adverse effect on the demand for Concorde, the company will be suspending its supersonic flights as from May 31, 2003.


Museum Announcement - May 28th 2003

Air France donates four Concordes

For Air France, which will be ceasing commercial Concorde operations on 31 May 2003, this supersonic aircraft belongs to the world's aviation heritage and must therefore be seen – and admired – after its last passenger flight. This will be the case for Air France's entire Concorde fleet, as all the aircraft will be put on public display. Air France has therefore decided to donate four Concordes to the following major aviation institutions:

In doing this, Air France wishes to allow as many people as possible to see this legendary aircraft, which has made its mark not just on Air France, but on aviation history. Air France is therefore paying homage to Concorde, which, displayed on these sites, will live on forever.

The four Concordes will be ferried to their destinations in June.

The fifth Air France Concorde, which has just been overhauled, is scheduled to go on display at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport.


End of Services Announcement - May 31st 2003

Au revoir Concorde

Air France will be bidding an emotional farewell to Concorde, today, Saturday 31 May, as the last commercial flight touch down at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport. Concorde F- BTSD operating the last New York-Paris service has just landed carrying 68 passengers and 11 crew members.

This outstanding aircraft today enters its well-earned retirement after more than 27 years' service. It was on 21 January 1976 that an Air France Concorde flew its first commercial service between Paris, Dakar and Rio de Janeiro, while British Airways opened up the London-Bahrain route. Since then, Air France's Concorde's have carried over 1.3 million passengers, including 40,000 between Paris and New York since flights resumed on 7November 2001.

This marks the end of an era for Air France and for the aviation world as a whole. Yet for all that, "Concorde will never really stop flying, because it will always have a place in people's imaginations", said Air France Chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta.

To keep the dream alive and to ensure that as many people as possible can approach an aircraft that has left its mark not only on Air France but on aviation history, the company is donating its entire Concorde fleet.

Concorde has been accepted by and will subsequently be shown at the following aviation institutions:

The ferry flight will take place on Thursday 12 June 2003.

The ferry flight will take place on Saturday 14 June 2003, the day the Paris Air Show is inaugurated at Le Bourget by French President Jacques Chirac.

The ferry flight will take place on Tuesday 24 June 2003.

The ferry flight will take place on Friday 27 June 2003.

A special additional Paris-New York-Paris flight is scheduled for 2 and 3 June.