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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 February, 2003, 17:07 GMT
Concorde future 'under review'
Concorde has been ravaged by safety problems
Concorde could be taken out of service following a drop in demand, British Airways has announced.

The carrier said its premium service between London and New York was being reviewed but insisted such a process was "ongoing".

Concorde has been blighted by a rash of problems including the Paris crash in July 2000 in which 113 people were killed.

At the end of last year it also emerged engine failure forced one New York-bound plane to turn back to London and another flight was forced to cut its speed when cracks appeared in a window.

BBC transport correspondent Tom Symonds said the plane's flagship status had so far helped to keep it in service.

He said: "Some flights to New York have been half full and that is not good for this plane.

We are looking at when Concorde should retire although no decisions have been taken
BA spokesman

"It doesn't make much of a profit and BA is certainly reviewing its future."

A spokesman for British Airways said the long term future of Concorde was kept under constant review.

He said: "We are looking at when Concorde should retire although no decisions have been taken.

"We will continue to fly it so long as it is safe, reliable and commercially viable.

"This is a prudent business planning process when one bears in mind the amount of work behind such a decision."

The airline, however, denied newspaper reports that half of Concorde's pilots and engineers have been reassigned to other flights or that publication of Concorde's own in-flight magazine will cease in April.

Air France, the only other carrier to fly Concordes, declined to comment on BA's move.

Runway debris

Currently, BA's Concordes are certified to fly until 2009 but a decision on its future is expected in the next few months.

The plane, born out a joint Anglo-French project, and developed by engineers at Filton, near Bristol, operates daily out of London Heathrow and Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport to North America.

It cruises at around 1350 mph at an altitude of up to 60,000ft (11 miles) meaning a crossing from Europe to New York takes less than three and a half hours.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) and the Civil Aviation Authority both say Concorde remains safe to fly.

The Paris crash was blamed on debris on the runway which punctured a tyre.

Tyre fragments penetrated the fuel tank, leading to a catastrophic fire which caused the aircraft to crash.

Following the crash, the plane underwent an extensive refit including the fitting of bullet-proof Kevlar rubber linings to the fuel tank, tougher tyres and a strengthening of the wiring in the undercarriage bay.

The BBC's Simon Montague
"Nearly half the pilots and engineers who used to operate Concorde are now flying on other planes"

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