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Tuesday, 28 August, 2001, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Concorde faces flight delay
Concorde
Two successful test flights have already gone ahead
British and French aviation authorities say they need more time to analyse information from the manufacturers of Concorde before allowing it to fly again.

They had been expected to make an announcement this week which would clear the way for passenger flights on the supersonic jet to resume.

Both British Airways and Air France's Concorde fleets have been grounded since one of the planes caught fire and crashed in Paris just over a year ago, killing 113 people.

The delay means BA is unlikely to resume services in September, as had been hoped, with an October date now looking more likely.


We are seeking more information from the manufacturers

CAA spokesman
Air France is expected to start services shortly afterwards.

A report detailing proposed modifications to prevent a repeat of the July 2000 crash was submitted to French and UK aviation authorities two weeks ago.

But the final details of that report were not received until early last week, and a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spokesman said more time was needed to consider them.

"We are not going to announce a decision today and do not expect to issue it this week," he told BBC News Online on Tuesday.

"We are seeking more information from the manufacturers, regarding the modifications, which we need to analyse."

If the regulators are satisfied, they will issue a directive formally telling the airlines what modifications are needed before the planes will be allowed to fly again.

The proposed modifications have already been made to one BA plane and one Air France plane.

This means that they should be allowed to immediately regain certificates giving those aircraft permission to fly.

The rest of their fleets will not be allowed to fly again until they have also been fitted with the safety improvements.

Test flights

Two verification flights have already been completed by one of BA's seven Concordes.

The company has spent 17m strengthening tyres, fuel tanks and wiring.

Aviation expert David Learmount told BBC News: "A lining has been devised for the tanks.

"And if a hole is made, it immediately seals itself.

"So if any fuel gets out at all, it is such a miniscule amount that it really does not matter."


Concorde is much better protected when encountering runway debris

BA spokeswoman

The Paris crash was caused after a metal object on the runway at Charles de Gaulle airport shattered a tyre, fragments of which pierced the fuel tank, sparking the fatal fire.

All 109 passengers and crew on board the plane were killed as well as four people on the ground.

After the crash BA introduced extra runway inspections immediately before each take-off, during the three weeks before its Concordes were grounded.

Concorde
Concorde has been grounded since last year's fatal crash
But the company now says the safety improvements make such precautions unnecessary.

A company spokeswoman told BBC News Online: "We have no plans to ask the BAA [British Airports Authority] to carry out additional runway searches."

She said the strengthened tyres and fuel tank lining mean "Concorde is much better protected when encountering runway debris".

But she added: "Safety is our absolute priority."

Meanwhile, BA staff who have worked on the plane modifications are being offered the chance to fly on test flights.

Other BA workers can enter a ballot to win tickets on five "operational assessment" flights, designed to check routine flight procedures.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tom Symonds reports
"The work on the Concorde fleet represents a considerable investment"
The BBC's Jon Sopel reports from Paris
"They will certificate individual aircraft"
Pierre Condom, 'Air & Cosmos'
"I do not think Concorde is a risky plane"

Return to the skies?

The investigation

The crash

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TALKING POINT

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FROM THE ARCHIVE

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See also:

25 Jul 01 | Europe
Relatives remember Concorde crash
23 Jul 01 | UK
Autumn return for Concorde
23 Jul 01 | Talking Point
Can Concorde regain its status?
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