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Concorde supersonic jets were once the most elite means of flight: photos

For 30 years during the 20th century, supersonic commercial air travel was a reality. But on October 24, 2003, that era came to an abrupt end.

On this day, British Airways was operating its last commercial Concorde service between JFK International Airport and London Heathrow. Air France withdrew its Concordes from service a few months earlier. This would thus be Concorde’s last commercial flight in a career which began in January 1976.

The Anglo-French Concorde was co-developed by BAC, a precursor to BAE Systems, and Aerospatiale, now part of Airbus.

The supersonic jet has a rich history.

The Concorde never enjoyed the commercial success hoped for by its creators. Concorde’s environmental and operational limitations hampered its commercial appeal to airline customers. Only 20 planes were built, and only 14 of them were production planes. Concorde was served by just two airlines – Air France and British Airways – on just two routes.

However, its lack of commercial success does not diminish its role as a modern aviation icon and technological marvel, which aircraft manufacturers and aerospace startups are still talking about replicating.

More than 20 years after its last flight for British Airways, the world still lacks a viable form of supersonic passenger service.

A look back at the formidable history of the Aerospatiale-BAC Concorde supersonic airliner.

This article was originally published by Benjamin Zhang in October 2018. It was updated by David Slotnick in March 2020 and Talia Lakritz in May 2024.

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