Air France grounds Concorde until cause of crash is known

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The Independent Online

British Airways was under pressure last night to ground Concorde after Air France suspended all its supersonic flights until further notice.

British Airways was under pressure last night to ground Concorde after Air France suspended all its supersonic flights until further notice.

The French decision follows the provisional finding that Tuesday's Concorde disaster was caused by a structural failure in the aircraft - two tyres burst on take-off, causing rubber and metal fragments to sever fuel lines in the wings - rather than by an individual, human error.

The state-owned airline had hoped to resume its supersonic flights this weekend but the French government has ordered its five surviving Concordes to remain on the ground until the precise chain of events that led to the crash is known.

British Airways said it had received no official notification from the French company of the decision and there had been no contact from safety authorities on either side of the Channel.

A spokeswoman said: "We wouldn't operate the aircraft if we thought it was unsafe. We made the decision to resume flying following the disaster and we believe nothing has changed." BA operates two supersonic services a day from both New York and Heathrow.

It was also announced yesterday that a 114th victim of the crash had been found in the wreckage of the hotel in Gonesse where the Concorde fell to earth on Tuesday. The victim has not been identified.

Some French unions said their members would refuse to serve on Concorde until the accident was explained. Etienne Lichtenburger, of the SPAC pilots' union, said: "No pilot will take up a Concorde until we have a clear account of what happened and what will be done about it."

The French Transport Minister, Jean-Claude Gayssot, called on the British and French authorities to work with British Airways and Air France on "new safety measures and new safety checks". He said the government wanted to allow Concorde to resume flights as soon as possible but the French planes would remain grounded until the precise cause of the accident was known and the new safety measures were in place.

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