Concorde fever grips Paris

Concorde-mania swept Paris on Saturday as a selection of supersonic memorabilia went up for auction and prices rocketed out of the catalogue book and into the skies.

    Concorde's grounding ended the era of supersonic flight

    There were gasps as the centrepiece of the charity sale - a trademark 3.5-metre (11.5-ft) cone from the end of Concorde's nose sold for $564,835 dollars, more than a hundred times its highest valuation.

    The buyer requested anonymity.

    Signs that the sale was going to exceed expectations by a massive margin were apparent as the first of 180 lots went under the hammer. A speedometer valued at just $350 sold for $13,000.

    Around 1500 people - professional bidders, aircraft fanatics, collectors and the curious - crammed into three rooms at Christie's auction house near the Elysee palace, with many more spilling on to the road outside and angrily demanding admittance.

    More than 40 telephone lines allowed international bidders to take part in the sale, and more than 1200 pre-auction offers were registered.

    Air France, which along with British Airways was the only airline to fly the recently decommissioned jet, decided to sell off pieces of the aircaft as well as scale models, photographs and other memorabilia in order to raise money for a children's charity that it runs.

    After five hours, when the auction finally finished, nearly $3.8m had been raised - vastly beyond even the most optimistic expectations.

    A pilot's seat estimated at $1200 sold for $50,000; an Olympus 593 engine went for $178,500; and a speedometer bearing a read-out of Concorde's cruising speed of Mach 2.02 went for $111,000 euros.

    Air France and British Airways both stopped Concorde flights this year because of doubts about their economic feasibility as the aircraft got older. 

    In July 2000 an Air France Concorde crashed outside Paris killing 113 people, and a technical flaw in the wing-based fuel tanks was blamed.

    The last ever Concorde to take to the skies will take off from London's Heathrow airport on November 26, on a flight to Filton, near Bristol, western England, with a short supersonic burst over the Bay of Biscay, BA said this week.



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