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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST HOSTED BY PETER SISSONS INTERVIEW
JOHN HUTCHINSON JULY 30TH, 2000

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

PETER SISSONS
In just over an hour Concorde will be taking off from Heathrow on its regular flight to New York, there'll be another flight, as usual, this evening. While Air France have grounded their Concorde fleet British Airways have continued their twice daily schedule without pause - or hardly without pause. So what's the future for the world's only supersonic airliner and are today's newspaper pieces, such as the Telegraph asking has Concorde flown too far, are they justified. John Hutchinson who flew Concordes for nearly 20 years is with me. Good morning John.

JOHN HUTCHINSON
Good morning Peter.

PETER SISSONS
It's been a nightmare week for the aircraft that was everyone's dream machine, a lot of bleak words in the Sunday papers as well, how do they strike you?

JOHN HUTCHINSON
I think in terms of a lot of the technical content, you know, I wouldn't argue with much of that. I think the sort of gloom and doom apocalyptic spin that's been put on it has been grossly over-hyped. I mean Concorde is an aeroplane and sadly aeroplanes do crash from time to time. I particularly took exception at something in the Mail on Sunday where it says essentially it is a controlled fire - this is talking about the reheats, of the afterburners - but one that risks becoming uncontrolled, as happened in the crash. There's no evidence at all to suggest that the reheats have led to an uncontrolled fire - nothing at all. I've seen no evidence to support that theory at all - and it then goes on to say two engine failures on the same side will inevitably lead to disaster, that is not true either. But aside from that, by and large, the technical content has been reasonably accurate, it's just the spin that's been put on it.

PETER SISSONS Is the aircraft designed to take off if two engines fail on take off?

JOHN HUTCHINSON
I've practised it in the simulator, many times. I mean it's - I'm not going to pretend it's an easy situation to be in, particularly if the aeroplane's at a full load, but it is a containable situation. And the thing I would emphasis is that there is no aeroplane - Concorde's no exception here - there is no aeroplane that is certificated with the requirement that it can fly at max take off weight with two engines out on the same side, whether we're talking about a Boeing 747, an Airbus A340 or Concorde.

PETER SISSONS
But having seen all these theories unfold during the week - you've looked at all the pictures and some of them are quite startling, I mean that must give you a head start in investigating the thing, is the search for the cause narrowing down in your mind?

JOHN HUTCHINSON
Yes I think it is narrowing down and I have to say I take my hat off to the French authorities. I think they've been very good about releasing hard facts and information as it has become available to them. And I think this actually contributes towards the cause of aviation safety and I think it also cuts down the scope for speculation. I mean it seems to be becoming clear, from the evidence that we've had so far, that obviously a tyre, or maybe two tyres, actually blew during the take off run. What caused those tyres to blow up, we have yet to find out - it could have been debris on the runway. What seems to have then happened is that the debris of some sort, whether it was directly from the tyres or whether something went into the engine from the tyres and then tore a blade off from the engine which then went off into the fuel tank, we've yet to find out the answers to those sort of questions. But something punctured a fuel tank forward of the number two engine and that fuel poured out it would seem and something ignited that fuel and that led to this uncontainable fire in the wing, rather than, rather than, than an engine fire.

PETER SISSONS
The problem now is restoring confidence in the aeroplane, isn't it? Do you think that passengers will desert? Will the, will the operators be looking hard at the bookings now and could bookings alone, if they fell away, hasten the day when it's taken out of service?

JOHN HUTCHINSON
I think that's obviously true, I mean Concorde keeps flying because passengers want to use it, if passengers say they don't want to use the aeroplane any longer than Concorde will certainly come to an end. I can only say that I spent 15 years flying that aeroplane, I regard it, even now, as the safest aeroplane flying in the skies. I do not view this accident as some sort of virus infection that's about to run through the entire Concorde fleet. It's a one off, catastrophic tragedy but it shouldn't, you know, we should keep it in perspective. And I believe that Concorde has another ten or maybe 15 years of life in it and I hope that public confidence will be restored in the aeroplane, in spite of that ghastly tragedy.

PETER SISSONS
When its life does come to an end, and that will be in the hands of presumably the aviation authorities - they'll say that's it, regardless of the fact that it, it may be able to do a few air shows and things like that - is there going to be a son of Concorde or is that the end of supersonic flight?

JOHN HUTCHINSON
Well -

PETER SISSONS
Passenger flight.

JOHN HUTCHINSON
Well I, I tell a story often about an elderlyAmerican lady I flew in about 1979 from Heathrow to Washington. I and got her up on the flight deck and I'm chatting away to her - she was aged about 85 - and she's, I said, you've obviously been very interested in airlines and the aviation industry - I said when did you first see an aeroplane? And she said I first saw an aeroplane in 1908 when one of the Wright brothers landed at Savannah, Georgia. I said when did you first fly? And she said I first flew with Louis in 1911. And that really says it all. So in one lifetime we've gone from the Wright brothers to flying at twice the speed of sound in Concorde. And I cannot believe that in another sort of two or three generations from now people will be saying to their children "Well yes darling, we did fly supersonic at the tail end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, but it's all too difficult now." Concorde has demonstrated triumphantly that cutting down travel time takes away the wear and tear on the human body.

PETER SISSONS
John Hutchinson, thank you very much.

ENDS

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