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Tuesday, 17 July, 2001, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Concorde takes supersonic test
Concorde
Safety modifications will be checked during the flight
Concorde has taken to the skies for its first supersonic test since it was grounded a year ago following a Paris crash in which 113 people died.

The aircraft took off from Heathrow airport, London, at about 1420 BST, and was flown by BA's Concorde chief pilot Captain Mike Bannister.

The plane will fly over the Atlantic for approximately three hours and 20 minutes before returning to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Air France Concorde AP
The Paris crash claimed 113 lives
During the flight, it is expected to reach its top speed of 1,350mph - around twice the speed of sound.

The Concorde fleet was grounded after the Air France tragedy near Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris in July last year, which killed 109 passengers and crew, and four people on the ground.

Safety measures

British Airways and Civil Aviation Authority staff on board the test flight will carry out a number of tests following modifications to Concorde's fuel tanks and undercarriage.

The supersonic plane's fuel tanks have been lined with Kevlar to prevent a repeat of last year's crash in France.

The liner is made of a rubber compound successfully used in military helicopters and Formula One cars.

A burst tyre caused last year's crash, flinging debris at a fuel tank and starting a catastrophic fire.

The result of any test flight will be submitted to the Civil Aviation Authority and its French equivalent, with the aim of winning back certificates of air-worthiness suspended in the wake of the Paris crash.

Compensation

The BA fleet has undergone a 17m safety overhaul since the crash and the airline hopes to resume Concorde's passenger service in September.

Test flight details
Expected duration 3 hours 40 minutes
Flies from Heathrow over Bristol, continues west of Ireland and south west of Iceland, returning to RAF Brize Norton
Top speed 1,300mph - twice speed of sound
Altitude up to 60,000 feet
Air France, which has conducted Concorde test flights at subsonic speeds, hopes to fly again by autumn, but said the timing is up to civil aviation authorities.

The French airline is paying compensation to relatives of the German victims of the Paris Concorde crash.

About 40% of the payments have already been made, the rest should come through in the next few days.

Lawyers have refused to release details of the settlement, but news reports in France and Germany have said the total compensation amounted to roughly $100m.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tom Heap
"Without a hitch, Concorde lifted off and turned west for the Atlantic Ocean"
The BBC's John Andrew
"This flight will be the most critical test yet"
Former Concorde pilot David Leney
"So much work has been done, everybody's helped enormously to get her into the air"
The Concorde Crash

Return to the skies?

The investigation

The crash

INTERACTIVE GUIDE

TALKING POINT

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FROM THE ARCHIVE

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

17 Jul 01 | Business
13 May 01 | Europe
17 Jul 01 | Talking Point
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