15 Months after a fiery crash in a Paris suburb brought its flights to an abrupt halt, Concorde, the world’s only supersonic commercial aircraft, took to the skies again on two celebrity flights from London’s Heathrow and France’s Charles De Gaulle airports to New York’s JFK, where mayor Gliuliani welcomed its arrival.
The two neddle-nosed planes were parked facing one another on the tarmac at Kennedy in a symbolic gesture of their rebirth, and as a sign of New York’s recovery from the attacks of Sept. 11.
The planes have been refitted with Kevlar lined fuel tanks, stronger tires, which will shatter into small pieces, rather than shred into potentially lethal chunks, if they burst, and shielded wiring. Regular commercial service is scheduled to begin Friday.
While yesterday’s flights were largely ceremonial, French Transportation Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot and Air France CEO Jean-Cyril Spinetta were on the Paris flight, Sting and several other celebrities took off from Heathrow, both British Airways and Air France have expressed optimism that the flights will be adequately booked. At slightly under $10,000 one way the flights won’t be attracting a lot of economy class passengers, but the prestige and the symbolic presence of the Concorde is seen on both sides of the Atlantic as a reaffirmation of confidence in both the technology and in the eventual revival of the airline industry, which has been stricken by the world economic slowdown and the repercussions of the attacks on the U.S.
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