BA suspends Concorde flights

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The Independent Online

British Airways tonight cancelled two Concorde flights between London and New York in the wake of the Air France disaster.

British Airways tonight cancelled two Concorde flights between London and New York in the wake of the Air France disaster.

The airline said it had "complete confidence" in its Concorde aircraft and engineering.

But while information was still coming in from the Paris accident, BA said it had taken the "unprecedented step" of cancelling tonight's flights.

Passengers booked on the two flights between New York and Heathrow were being offered transfers to other aircraft.

"We will be holding discussions with our technical counterparts at Air France and reviewing tomorrow's operations overnight," said BA in a statement.

"British Airways' first concern always is safety. All our aircraft are subject to continuing and exhaustive safety checks."

Capt John Hutchinson, who flew Concorde for British Airways for 15 years, told BBC Radio 4's PM programme that he continued to have faith in the Concorde's safety despite today's tragedy.

"It is in my view, and remains so in my view, the safest airplane that is flying in the skies today," said Capt Hutchinson. "For two reasons. One, is that it's a very tough aeroplane plane, it's built in a very robust manner, and secondly it's got tremendous reserve capacity, by that I mean it's got a huge excess in capacity and power on the engines, all that sort of thing.

"So it's a very very safe aeroplane. And in my view, in spite of this accident, it remains so.

"It's a beautiful aeroplane to fly, it's a responsive, thoroughbred of an aircraft.

"It is the most beautiful aeroplane out of all the 70 aeroplanes I've flown in my life, far and away the most beautiful aeroplane I've ever flown."

Gwyneth Dunwoody, the Labour MP for Crewe and Nantwich who chairs the House of Commons transport sub-committee, sent her sympathies to the families of the victims.

But she said she did not see an immediate need for BA to ground its Concordes.

"This is the most tragic accident, and our sympathies go to the families and friends of everyone involved," said Mrs Dunwoody.

"It is, however, important to remember that Concorde has an extremely high safety record.

"Both BA and Air France will want to take a little time to consider their responses to the accident, and to see the results of consultations with the air accident branches.

"But at this point I don't think it's necessary to ground Concorde."

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