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Wednesday, 7 November, 2001, 20:51 GMT
Concorde gives confidence boost
British Airways Concorde and Air France Concorde at JFK airport
The Concordes were given a wam welcome in New York
Politicians and celebrities joined Concorde for the first passenger flights to the US in 16 months.

Tony Blair has arrived in Washington from London's Heathrow Airport on a chartered Concorde, only the second British Airways passenger flight since the tragedy.

The supersonic planes were grounded after the crash near the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris in July last year which claimed the lives of 113 people.

Earlier on Wednesday a BA and an Air France Concorde landed at New York's JFK Airport, where they were greeted by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.


It is with great pride that we welcome this symbol of European and American commerce back to New York

Rudolph Giuliani, New York Mayor
The Air France flight AF002, carrying 92 passengers, landed at 1320 GMT (0820 local time) after a nearly four-hour flight from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.

A BA Concorde flight carrying 90 passengers from Heathrow landed in New York less than an hour later, touching down at 1407 GMT (0907 local time).

Mr Blair flew to Washington on a diplomatic trip for a meeting with George Bush about the war on terrorism.

Industry experts say his decision to fly indicates a confidence in Concorde that will be a boost for BA and in air travel in general.

Both BA and Air France have described Concorde's comeback as a show of confidence in an industry which has been severely hit in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

Painstaking work

The supersonic aircraft has been through a 14m refit, with a further 17m spent on safety modifications to gain its certificate of airworthiness after being grounded for 15 months.

Transport Minister John Spellar, who was on the flight from London, described it as "the culmination of painstaking work over the past 15 months" by investigators, regulators, manufacturers and airlines on both sides of the channel.

On board BA Concorde
BA Captain Mike Bannister chats to Sting

French Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot and Air France chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta joined fare-paying passengers aboard the flight from Paris.

New York's Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said: "New York has been home to Concorde for more than 20 years and it is with great pride that we welcome this symbol of European and American commerce back to New York."

The three-and-a-half hour BA flight carried business leaders, the aviation industry and the media, although fare-paying passengers will have to wait until Friday.

Pop star Sting, who has flown Concorde for 20 years, said he was delighted to be on board.

Plastic cutlery

He said: "Concorde is a symbol of British Airways, of air travel and normal life. Some people are too afraid to leave their homes and need to be encouraged to travel.

"I'm still excited about going on Concorde even after all these years. Flying at twice the speed of sound gives you a buzz."

But despite the 14m upgrading of Concorde's interior, passengers will now have to eat their in-flight meals with plastic cutlery in the wake of 11 September attacks.

BA Concorde safety changes
Bullet-proof Kevlar rubber linings fitted to fuel tank
New Michelin tyres
Undercarriages strengthened
It is hoped the return of the plane will be a great boost for BA which on Tuesday announced that pre-tax profits had dipped from 200m in July-September 2000 to just 5 million in July-September 2001.

Head of BA North America, David Noyes, told BBC News 24 that there had been "incredible enthusiasm" for the resumed service, with 3,000 bookings from Americans already received.

BA will initially operate a six-times-a-week London to New York service, with weekly Heathrow to Barbados flights beginning in December.

BA Chairman Lord Marshall, speaking at Heathrow on Wednesday said: "This is a great boost for British Airways and great news for our frequent Concorde customers."

He went on: "New York is thrilled about Concorde's return."

Asked about the company's position following its disappointing financial results, Lord Marshall said: "The future of the company is extremely good and we have a lot of initiatives in the market place."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Fergus Walsh on board Concorde
"This was a sign of confidence in the future"
Martin George from British Airways
"We've made the appropriate modifications"

Return to the skies?

The investigation

The crash

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See also:

07 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Blair prepares for Bush talks
06 Nov 01 | Business
BA facing 'massive losses'
15 Oct 01 | Business
Demand for Concorde uncertain
08 Nov 01 | Business
Concorde: True champagne class
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