Concorde 'will be allowed to fly again next month'

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The Independent Online

Concorde will win back its licence to fly next week, after an Anglo-French group of aviation experts reviewed the latest safety data yesterday from the modified supersonic aircraft.

The restoration of the plane's airworthiness certificate, withdrawn last August, will mean that British Airways can resume flights to New York next month. Air France is expected to follow soon afterwards.

The licence was withdrawn by Britain and France after an Air France Concorde crashed just after take-off from Paris last July, killing 113 people. Shrapnel from a burst tyre punctured a fuel tank in the left wing, igniting the fuel and making the aircraft uncontrollable.

The dozen technical experts from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and its French equivalent, the DGAC, met in Paris yesterday and are expected to approve the relicensing next Tuesday. It will mark the first time in aviation history that an aircraft has won back its airworthiness certificate after a hiatus of more than a year.

British Airways said yesterday it would be able to run a single daily service between London and New York once it has made safety modifications to three of its seven Concordes. So far, just one has been altered. Converting all will cost £17m.

"We are encouraged by the timing of this announcement," a BA spokesman said. "We have said for some time that we hope to be operational again by late summer."

Yesterday's announcement was made after data from the modified BA Concorde, which made a test flight to Greenland last month, was examined to ensure that the changes would guarantee that the chain of events that led to last year's crash could not recur.

A CAA spokesman said the technical teams examining Concorde's revival were satisfied that the modifications did not affect the plane's ability to fly, and also with the technical solutions used. "I don't think they would have allowed British Airways and Air France to continue down the wrong route over this period of time," he said.

BAe Systems and Aerospatiale, which make equipment for Concordes, have put "armour" over the tyres and inside the fuel tanks near the wheels. This should stop shrapnel off burst tyres from penetrating the wing catastrophically.

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