BA set to resume Concorde flights in September

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British Airways plans to resume Concorde passenger flights in September and Air France aims to resume supersonic services a month later.

The plane's manufacturers are to apply on 15 August for permission to resume commercial services, it was revealed by an Anglo-French working group yesterday.

Meanwhile, French air accident investigators confirmed that the piece of metal which caused the Concorde crash a year ago tomorrow was most probably left on the runway by a DC-10 belonging to American airline Continental Airlines.

As the Air France Concorde took off from Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, the metal fragment, thought to be piece of an engine cowling missing from the DC-10, caused the supersonic plane's tyres to burst.

The second interim report into the disaster, in which 113 people died, said the initial loss of thrust on Concorde's engine one appeared to be because of the ingestion of tyre debris.

The second loss of power, also during take-off, was because of ingestion of aviation fuel and hot gases from a fire. When the engine had practically recovered normal thrust, a further ingestion of hard objects and a mixture of hot gases and aviation fuel led to its final loss of power, the report said. The plane crashed on a hotel near the airport killing all 109 passengers and crew and four people on the ground.

Tests of the metallic strip, which was found on the runway in Paris and blamed for the tyre burst, have shown it bore "a close relation" with a fragment missing from the DC-10.

The report added that tests involving Concorde running over a similar metallic strip have produced comparable damage to the tyres.

Investigators said that trials to reproduce the fuel tank rupture that occurred in the crash had "not managed to reproduce the phenomenon".

The French report revealed that the doomed Concorde was also slightly overweight when it took off, but said the discrepancy had nothing to do with the subsequent crash.

British Airways yesterday said that test flights on Concorde "Alpha Foxtrot" last week had gone well and that the data had been passed to officials who will decide on the airworthiness of the plane. The jet had flown from Heathrow Airport to Iceland and back, with no known problems.

Engineers were now modifying a second model of the plane and the airline would soon begin refresher training for flight crew, which would involve take-offs and landings, at Shannon Airport in Ireland

British Airways operates seven Concordes but may start skeleton services between London and New York before all aircraft have been modified. Each of the aircraft have been fitted with new bullet-proof fuel tank linings and strengthened wiring in the undercarriage

The working group said everything was being done as quickly as possible to complete all the tests needed to ensure Concorde can return to commercial service.

A statement from the group said: "Both regulatory [aviation] authorities are working closely together to define the conditions under which certificates could be restored and are aiming to achieve a simultaneous issue of the requisite airworthiness directives."