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Friday, 1 September, 2000, 09:22 GMT 10:22 UK
Analysis: Will Concorde ever fly again?
Investigators at the crash site in Gonesse
Investigators still have a lot of work to do
By transport correspondent Tom Symonds

The interim report into July's Concorde crash is the most detailed analysis yet of the events leading up to the disaster that grounded the world's most famous aircraft.

The investigators have confirmed their earlier verdict that a burst tyre was the "primary cause" of the crash.

But it could be months before they reveal exactly how they think it happened.

Air France Concorde
The plane was on fire during take-off
That will require an in-depth investigation of the design, operating procedures and maintenance of Concorde.

With the aircraft grounded on both sides of the Channel, two questions remain. Can Concorde be made safe again, safe enough for its airworthiness certificate to be reinstated? And will the measures that need to be taken prove so costly, that Concorde never flies again?

The report describes how one of the aircraft's tyres catastrophically burst - hurling more than four kilogrammes of debris at the engines and fuel tanks located in the wings. Two of the engines lost power, and fuel started to spray from a tear in the wings, within seconds catching light.

Weighing the cost

Tyre bursts at take off have happened before but they did not cause such massive damage to Concorde. So how can engineers stop it happening again?

It might be enough to redesign the tyres to make them less likely to fail at the high speeds Concorde reaches at take-off. Or the investigators may demand the undercarriage be strengthened as well.

But they may want major changes to the fuel tanks, adding armour plating that would protect them from damage in the event of an emergency.

That would be a serious headache for the plane's operators. It would mean major work to the two fleets, reduced fuel capacity, and probably, a lengthy process of testing before safety clearance is given to fly again.

Concorde is not an economic aircraft to operate. Quite simply it only makes money if it flies - with a good compliment of passengers paying thousands of pounds to travel supersonically.

In the end, making Concorde safe might mean throwing good money after bad, and the retirement of an aircraft once celebrated across Europe.

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See also:

01 Sep 00 | Europe
Concorde crash inquiry resumes
01 Sep 00 | Europe
Countdown to catastrophe
18 Aug 00 | Europe
Group tries to save Concorde
16 Aug 00 | Business
Concorde blow to BA
25 Jul 00 | UK
Ageing luxury jet
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