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Wed, Oct 15, 2003

Concorde's Farewell: Goodbye, Dulles

Concordes Finish a Week from Friday -- 2 Seats on e-Bay

Concorde, the aircraft that has defined an era of air travel, arrived at Dulles International Airport yesterday for a farewell visit. British Airways supersonic flagship, which retires from commercial service altogether on October 24, 2003, arrived in the late afternoon.

"We wanted to bring the aircraft here on a farewell flight to show our appreciation for Washington, one of our most important gateways in North America," said David Noyes, British Airways' executive vice-president, North America. "It's our way of expressing gratitude for a 33-year relationship with Dulles that continues to grow."

For the moment, British Airways operates three, year-round daily flights between Dulles and London-Heathrow, all with four classes of service, including completely flat beds in First Class and Club World. Back in 1970, British Airways -- then BOAC -- began serving Dulles with one flight a day with the British-built VC10 jetliner, stopping at Philadelphia on its way to Heathrow. Now, the three London departures represent more than 1,000 seats a day.

"British Airways has a long and successful relationship with Dulles and we are honored that Dulles International Airport was selected to be one of the three airports receiving a farewell visit from Concorde," said James E. Bennett, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. "The first commercial flight of Concorde to the USA occurred on May 24,1976 to Dulles Airport, and it seems only fitting that one of the final flights is back to Washington to honor that historic moment."

Popular, but not really profitable

More than 2.5 million passengers have flown Concorde since 1977 when daily New York-London flights were inaugurated. In the years since, the aircraft has built up a regular clientele of top corporate executives, the rich and famous and those who merely want to sample supersonic flight. The most frequent passenger, an oil company executive, has clocked almost 70 round-trip transatlantic flights a year.

The world's fastest commercial airliner, Concorde has always provided a breathtaking travel experience. It accelerates from a takeoff speed of 250 miles per hour to a cruising speed of 1,350 miles per hour and a cruising altitude of about 60,000 feet, almost 11 miles above the earth's surface. From that altitude, passengers get a breathtaking view of the curvature of the earth, a view usually reserved for astronauts.

Still setting records:

A typical westbound flight takes about three and a half hours, compared with more than seven hours for a subsonic flight. Last Wednesday, October 8, 2003, on Concorde's farewell visit to Boston, the aircraft broke the UK to USA speed record by making the trip in a mere three hours, five minutes and 24 seconds.

On February 7, 1996, a Concorde made a New York to London crossing in a record two hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds.

Two seats on the Concorde's final flight are for sale on e-bay.

FMI: www.britishairways.com

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