For a while it seemed Concorde would be with us forever – that iconic, sleek airliner reserved for the rich and famous which could whisk passengers great distances at twice the speed of sound.
Yet following a tragic crash of a Concorde in 2000, it heralded the end of the aircraft.
After a period of grounding to modify Concorde, it returned to the sky to once again carry people at speed in luxury.
But by 2003 it was realised that Concorde could no longer be maintained due to a lack of parts and support from the manufacturers.
Hailing from the 1960s, Concorde was increasingly becoming outdated despite being such a technological marvel.
Lessening demand also meant it was hard to make money with Concorde any more.
Who Flew Concorde?
Despite early interest from airlines around the world, including Pan Am, Iran Air, Qantas and TWA, only two airlines ended up buying Concorde aircraft.
They were Air France and British Airways.
These airlines used their Concordes mostly on transatlantic services, between their hubs at Paris Charles de Gaulle and London Heathrow airports, and destinations like New York JFK and Washington Dulles.
Other routes were served periodically, such as Bahrain and Barbados by British Airways, and Dakar and Rio de Janeiro by Air France.
Both airlines also regularly flew their Concordes on charter work, taking those who otherwise could not afford to travel on the supersonic jet on aerial jaunts, or one-off trips to short-haul destinations.
How Many Concordes Were Built?
Owing to the lack of orders, very few Concordes were actually built.
Air France and British Airways each agreed to order seven examples, making 14 that flew in service.
Prior to that, there were four prototypes built during the development and testing of Concorde – two each in Britain and France.
Furthermore, two pre-production aircraft were also built – one each in Britain and France.
This makes a total of 20 Concordes that were built.
What Happened to Concorde When it Retired?
Following the final flights in 2003, most of the Concorde aircraft were scattered to museums around the world where they were decommissioned.
The prototype aircraft had already been preserved at museums prior to this, and now most of the Air France and British Airways examples are on show.
Two Air France examples had already been destroyed – one in the July 2000 crash at Paris, and the other following a landing accident which left the aircraft unable to operate effectively. It was later scrapped.
For a full list of the final resting places of all Concordes, see our article Where to See Concorde.
When Was the Final Flight of Concorde?
The final flight of a Concorde aircraft was flown by British Airways example G-BOAF.
On 26 November 2003, this aircraft took off from London Heathrow airport and flew the short distance to Bristol.
After performing a fly-past of the area, it landed at Filton Airport – the place it was built – for preservation. Today it is part of the new Aerospace Bristol museum.
Here’s a video of the final landing:
The story of the Anglo-French Concorde supersonic airliner from its inception and early designs right through its full service history, the infamous crash, and where to find all the preserved and surviving examples today. This book uses archive photographs and uncovers the life of Concorde.