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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 13:37 GMT
Concorde hit by engine drama
An Air France Concorde
The plane was in mid-Atlantic when the engine failed
Panic reportedly broke out among passengers on board an Air France Concorde flight when engine trouble forced the pilot to descend thousands of metres.

The plane, which was flying from New York to Paris, dropped to subsonic speed and reduced altitude by 7,000 metres (22,000 feet).

All the crockery in the plane crashed in the aisle... There was a lot of shaking for about a quarter of an hour. Women were crying, children were screaming, it was total panic

Amar Belgacem
Passenger
One passenger on the plane said the speed of the descent sent crockery smashing in the aisles.

The incident came nearly two and a half years after the crash of an Air France Concorde as it took off in Paris. All 109 people on board and four people on the ground died.

The French and UK fleets were grounded for months while safety improvements were carried out.

Air France confirmed that Monday's incident happened as the plane, AF001, flew at 17,000 metres (56,000 feet). It ended at an altitude of 10,000 (33,000 feet).

The engine failure, which happened two hours into the flight, was due to an engine fault that is not specific to Concorde, an Air France spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

A fin that limited air flow into the turbine had broken, she said, causing vibrations which prompted the pilot to shut down the engine and complete the flight at subsonic speed.

The pilot continued his journey on the plane's three remaining engines, arriving in Paris about an hour after its scheduled arrival at 1845 (1745 GMT).

The pilot followed the procedure for this kind of incident and all 67 passengers and six crew onboard arrived in Paris "safe and sound", the spokeswoman added.

The spokeswoman was unable to say how long the drop in altitude took to complete.

'Scenes of panic'

A passenger described scenes of panic aboard the aircraft as the pilot handled the emergency, dropping his speed from 2,000 km/h (1,200mph) to 900 km/h (550mph).

"I had the fright of my life," said Belgian Amar Belgacem told France-2 television.

He described "a big bump" before the plane began losing altitude.

"All the crockery in the plane crashed in the aisle... There was a lot of shaking for about a quarter of an hour," he said.

"Women were crying, children were screaming, it was total panic.

"Then the pilot spoke to tell us that an engine had failed."

An inquiry is under way in France into what caused the engine failure, says Air France.

Concorde normally flies at roughly 17,000 metres at supersonic speed, and at 10,000 metres at subsonic speed - the two heights used by the pilot in Monday's incident.


Graphic showing what happened

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Passenger onboard the flight Amar Belga-Sem
"We were all terrified"
Captain John Cook
"It is a controllable situation"
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