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The BBC's Rob Broomby
"Negotiations have begun to establish a $270m compensation fund"
 real 28k

Thursday, 17 August, 2000, 20:32 GMT 21:32 UK
France and UK pledge Concorde return
Grounded BA Concorde
Britain and France say Concorde's withdrawal is temporary
France and Britain say Concorde flights will be resumed as soon as possible.

French Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot said the withdrawal of Concorde's airworthiness certificate following a preliminary accident report is a temporary measure.

"This is not the death of the Concorde, nor the death of supersonic flight, he told a French radio station.

Lawyers for relatives of the 113 victims of last month's crash say they are preparing the ground for a multi-million dollar damages claim against Air France.

A BBC correspondent says that lawyers acting for the families of victims have begun negotiations to set up a $270m fund, which will be distributed among relatives.

Design flaw

Air accident investigators
Officials give their reasons for suspending Concorde flights
However, lawyers believe the case will hinge on the results of the full accident investigation which, they say, will reveal if Air France knew about inherent design weaknesses in the plane before the crash.

The moves follow a preliminary accident report pointing to a possible inherent design flaw in Concorde's undercarriage.

Investigators said they could not guarantee that the burst tyre incident, which is thought to have been the primary cause of the accident, would not happen again.

A Berlin lawyer, Elmar Giemulla told the BBC that if the investigation proves negligence on the part of Air France, there could be no limit to the amount of compensation relatives could claim.

Concorde crash site
The crash killed 109 passengers and four people on the ground
The fatal crash took place on 25 July, when the 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.

In the wake of the disaster, Air France immediately stopped Concorde flights, but British Airways resumed its services shortly afterwards.

However all of the remaining Concordes were grounded indefinitely on Wednesday, when the preliminary report was announced and Concorde's airworthiness certificate withdrawn.

Anglo-French pledge

Despite this, Britain and France have now issued strong pledges to return the supersonic airliner to the skies.

Concorde undercarriage
The plane's undercarriage is under investigation
"Both sides share the same determination to work together to find a solution to put Concorde safely back into service," said a spokesman for Britain's Department of the Environment.

Concorde's future now depends on whether flight experts can suggest feasible modifications to strengthen the plane's superstructure, or undercarriage to reduce the risks of tyre failure.

The two governments, who developed the pioneering plane during the 1960s and 70s, will issue a joint declaration of their proposals on Friday, the spokesman revealed.

Reputation tarnished

The report and the compensation plans have nevertheless dealt a severe blow to Concorde.

The plane's reputation has also been undermined by a recent series of minor safety incidents on the British jets.

It has also emerged that two of the British jets suffered wing damage following tyre burst incidents, during the late 1970s.

Civil airliners are supposed to be able to cope safely with tyre blow outs, which are a fairly regular occurrence.

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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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