Last French Concorde leaves Paris


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PARIS, France -- Air France closed a chapter in aviation history Friday as its last Concorde commercial flight from Paris left for New York.

The supersonic jet took off from Charles de Gaulle airport at 10:38 a.m. (0838 GMT).

On Saturday, Concorde will return to Paris in what will be the carrier's last-ever commercial flight of the white, needle-nosed plane.

"It's very emotional. Concorde is a story of joy, of emotion, of technical prowess," Concorde staffer Jean-Pierre Lefebvre told The Associated Press before the flight departed with 58 passengers, three pilots and eight cabin crew.

"Concorde was an extraordinary technical and human adventure. That's why we grew so attached to the plane," Reuters quoted former Concorde test pilot Jean Pinet as telling LCI television.

British Airways, the only other carrier to fly Concorde, plans its last supersonic flight later this year.

Both carriers said earlier this year that Concorde flights would end because they were not making enough money.

The supersonic airliner has struggled to attract passengers following the Air France Concorde crash in Paris, which killed 113 people in July 2000. British Airways, Europe's biggest airline, has seven Concordes and Air France five.

Both airlines announced the decision in April after Airbus, whose predecessor made Concordes, said the planes would need an "enhanced maintenance programme in the coming years."

Passenger numbers have fallen on the three-hour trans-Atlantic routes, which could cost as much as $7,000 from Paris to New York.

Concorde, which entered service in 1976, has been plagued by technical problems recently.

In February, an Air France Concorde had to make an emergency landing in Halifax, Nova Scotia, after an engine malfunctioned.

And part of the rudder on the tail of a British Airways Concorde fell off as the supersonic jet approached New York.
I actually went to JFK on friday to watch its last landing there. It's a shame that next year were gonna be able to look back and say "Well now it takes us 6 hours to go JFK-CDG, but it used to only take us 3"