Welcome Aboard, CONCORDE!

Tuesday, November 26th  2003, 9:54AM

A British Airways Concorde made its final journey yesterday - by water, not air.

The luxury jet was ferried yesterday by barge from Kennedy Airport to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, where it will become a permanent exhibit.

With the price of museum admission, average folks will be able to board the supersonic jet that once carried celebrities and dignitaries from New York to London.

"I always thought it was a great plane," said Lester Zaniewski, 30, a construction worker who watched the plane sail up the Hudson River.

The Concorde, which used to soar above the Atlantic Ocean, was moved through Gravesend Bay and under the Verrazano Bridge before it passed the Statue of Liberty, and was docked north of Pier 86, at W. 46th St.

"For us, this represents not only the sexiest plane I'd ever seen, but a new chapter in the museum," Col. Tom Tyrell, CEO for the museum, said of the plane that traveled twice the speed of sound. "We're happy to have the Concorde aboard."

For 27 years, the Concorde, with its ear-piercing, supersonic jet engines, was a loud nuisance for locals. British Airways last month retired its fleet, and Air France retired its Concordes in May because they were no longer economically feasible.

"It's so appropriate that this wonderful aircraft should find its final resting place at the Intrepid," said David Noyes, an executive vice president for British Airways. "We ask that you take great care of her for us."


For Concorde, a Far Slower Ride At a Much Lower Altitude


Published: November 26, 2003

A marvel of British and French aeronautical engineering was towed to Manhattan yesterday.

A Concorde jet, one of seven recently retired from flight by British Airways, sailed up the Hudson River aboard a rusty barge to its new home at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum at Pier 86, on 46th Street. The jet will be displayed there on a 260-foot barge.

As aviation passages go, the chilly late-morning ceremony was one filled with patriotism and a fair bit of supersonic lust by gray-haired male speakers. ''It certainly is the sexiest machine I've ever seen,'' said Tom Tyrrell, the museum's chief executive. She was ''a gorgeous bird,'' said James G. Kennedy, a construction magnate, who was not alone in assigning the supersonic jet gender.

For all the shared affections of the British and Americans, there was the prickly issue of nationalism. And everyone danced around it like religion in an interfaith marriage.

The Americans thanked the British for the plane but quickly lathered the ceremony with all things American. Miss U.S.O. sang ''The Star-Spangled Banner'' as helicopters buzzed overhead, and American speakers dominated the dais.

The British could enjoy that the plane was berthed east, with its needle nose pointed toward the queen and its aft section directed at New Jersey and the rest of the United States. Beyond that, the advantage was American. Duncan Taylor, a British deputy consul general, was the fifth speaker but only the first British one, as he feebly pointed out.

No speaker mentioned the French, who had, after all, engineered the supersonic jet with the British.

After the crowd had retreated inside the museum for the reception, two British tourists paid their entrance fee to the museum and walked past the aroma of a McDonald's out to the pier to inspect the plane. They found the jet alone, tied down to the barge and surrounded by a pier full of empty chairs.

''It is sad, isn't it? A bit degrading,'' Andy Thomson said to his friend Dave Clipstone.

''It's lost a bit of its dignity,'' Mr. Clipstone agreed.

''It does seem slightly ironic that the Yanks didn't want anything to do with it when it was flying,'' Mr. Thomson said.

''Trust no one,'' Mr. Clipstone replied. ''Especially the French.''