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The BBC's George Eykyn
"It is far from certain Concorde will ever fly from Heathrow again"
 real 56k

The BBC's Greg Wood
"Supersonic travel added a touch of class that would be hard to replace"
 real 56k

Ken Smart, Air Accident Investigation Branch
"The CAA's first concern... has at all times been the safety of the UK travelling public"
 real 56k

Captain Brian Walpole, former Concorde pilot
"I believe this suspension to be temporary"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 16 August, 2000, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
Concorde grounded 'for months'
Concorde tyres
Tyre safety is a key focus of safety investigation
Concorde faces being grounded "for months" as British Airways and Air France investigate whether it is possible to modify the supersonic jet.

BA has suspended flights until September at the earliest, and both the UK and French civil aviation authorities have withdrawn Concorde's airworthiness certificates.

This follows air crash investigators' initial findings that a burst tyre was the "primary cause of the accident", with no guarantee this would not occur again.


Tyre debris alone is thought to have led to this catastrophic accident

Sir Malcolm Field, CAA

The fatal crash took place on 25 July, when an Air France Concorde crashed into a hotel north of Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport, killing all 109 passengers and crew and four people on the ground.

But British pilots' union Balpa questioned BA's decision, saying pilots and engineers have "total confidence" in its Concordes, which have been modified since previous tyre-burst incidents.

The DGAC, which issues similar certificates for aircraft within France, has suspended the certificates of Air France's Concordes until new measures are introduced giving an "acceptable level of security".

BA has said its planes could return to normal operations at 24 hours' notice.

Crash site
113 people died in the crash

Balpa general secretary Christopher Drake said pilots still believe BA's Concordes are safe to fly.

"No-one seems to be addressing one of the central issues," he said. "BA made a number of modifications to its Concordes as a result of the experiences of its pilots and engineers.

"Is this being taken into account in assessing the airworthiness of the BA fleet as compared with that of Air France?"

Mike Street, BA's director of customer services and operations, said safety is BA's first concern.

"We will only resume Concorde operations when we and the airworthiness authorities are completely satisfied that all necessary safety measures have been taken in the light of all the latest information."

'Appropriate measures'

CAA chairman Sir Malcolm Field said a tyre blow-out on its own should never cause the loss of a passenger plane.

Accident investigators recommended that Concorde's airworthiness certificate "should be suspended until appropriate measures have been taken to ensure a satisfactory level of safety in so far as tyre safety is concerned".

It could be "months rather than weeks" before Concorde flies again, said Mike Bell, head of the CAA's design and production standards division.

Air France Concorde
Concorde is staying put for the moment
The CAA is meeting with the British manufacturers of Concorde - BAE Systems - to discuss modifications.

It will have to decide whether the seven BA jets can regain its operating certificate.

Sir Malcolm Field said: "Evidence [is] now emerging that the tyre burst was the primary cause of this accident.

"What is uniquely different in this case is that tyre debris alone is thought to have led to this catastrophic accident, which has persuaded us to accept the recommendation from the investigation team."

Action plan

Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) chief inspector Ken Smart said the destruction of a tyre - which could not be guaranteed not to recur - had "catastrophic consequences in a very short timescale without the crew being able to recover from this situation".

It is believed the tyre burst when the Concorde ran over a piece of metal on the runway during take-off.

Sir Malcolm said the plane's Anglo-French manufacturers, together with the French civil aviation authority, would be asked to put together an action plan.

He said it was impossible to say how long this would take, adding to speculation that Concorde may never fly again.

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See also:

25 Jul 00 | Europe
Crash hits Germans at home
16 Aug 00 | Business
Concorde blow to BA
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