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Friday, 2 November, 2001, 11:43 GMT
Blair boosts Concorde's return
Concorde takes off
Concorde is restarting commercial flights
Tony Blair's likely use of Concorde for his next diplomatic mission has been welcomed by British Airways.

The prime minister is set to charter one of the supersonic jets on the first day of commercial services since flights were halted in the aftermath of last year's crash.

British Airways, which operates London flights of the world-famous plane, said the move was a "terrific endorsement".


It is a tremendous endorsement of the aircraft

British Airways
Downing Street has said it is "very likely" Mr Blair will travel on a privately chartered Concorde when he heads for America for talks with President Bush next week.

The trip is a follow-up to his intensive round of Middle East diplomacy that took him to Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

He is expected to leave next Wednesday, hours after the first commercial Concorde flight since the break in service enforced after the fatal Paris crash last July.

A Downing Street spokesman declined to give more details or say whether the move was intended to boost Concorde as it returned to service.

Airline advertising

Earlier this year, Easyjet unveiled a national advertising campaign on the back of speculation that Mr Blair would use the airline for his summer holiday.

But the campaign hit trouble when Mr Blair eventually used rival airline Ryanair.

Tony Blair flying back from the Middle East on Thursday
Blair is continue his shuttle diplomacy
A British Airways spokesman told BBC News Online: "We are obviously pleased and delighted that Mr Blair has chosen to charter Concorde.

"It shows that the plane is an important business link between London and the east coast of the United States."

All Concorde flights were halted soon after last year's crash, which happened when an Air France Concorde hit a metal object on the runway at the Charles de Gaulle airport, bursting a tyre.

Tyre fragments penetrated the fuel tank, leading to a catastrophic fire that caused the aircraft to crash on a hotel about 10 miles from Paris.

Safety changes

The past year has seen both British Airways and Air France run a number of test flights to check safety modifications on the jet, which can cross the Atlantic in less than half the time taken by a subsonic jet.

Among the safety changes are new bullet-proof Kevlar rubber linings on fuel tanks, tougher tyres and stronger wiring in the undercarriage bay.

Mr Blair's expected flight on 7 November comes two days before flights for fare-paying customers resume.

The inaugural flight on Wednesday is for corporate passengers and the media.


Return to the skies?

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The crash

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See also:

02 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Blair optimistic for Mid-East peace
02 Nov 01 | Business
UK landing charges might increase
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