Air France prepares to resume Concorde flights

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The Independent Online

Air France was considering last night whether to follow the example of British Airways and resume Concorde flights.

Air France was considering last night whether to follow the example of British Airways and resume Concorde flights.

Aviation experts met in Paris to discuss what safety measures were needed to get French Concordes back into service as investigators refined their theories on the precise causes of last Tuesday's disaster in 113 people died.

The government grounded Air France's five remaining supersonic airliners immediately after the crash just north of Paris. But with British Airways, the only other Concorde operator, resuming flights within 24 hours, the pressure is on the state-controlled French airline to follow suit.

The meeting in Paris included British and French aviation officials, industry experts and aeronautical manufacturers who were expected to draw up plans to prevent a similar accident happening again.

The French Accident Investigation Bureau said on Sunday that flames shooting from the wing of the Concorde before it crashed were probably due to a fuel leak rather than a problem with an engine, as previously thought. Officials believe the fuel tanks may have been torn open by wreckage from a burst wheel, with the subsequent fire knocking out one engine and crippling another.

Meanwhile, passengers told yesterday of how their Concorde flight was diverted on Sunday evening after a "fuel-like" smell was detected. Jostein Svenson, a London businessman, said a number of people were "quite upset" as the London-New York service diverted to Newfoundland. His wife, Carol, added: "We are just all absolutely relieved that we survived the flight."

Yesterday BA flew the 57 passengers to New York on a specially chartered Boeing 737. Among those diverted were the singer Tony Bennett and the musician George Benson.

It was the third safety-related incident affecting the aircraft since last week's crash. The first came on Saturday when passengers heard a "loud bang" just before landing at Heathrow. It was later discovered that the engines had been affected by a mixture of fuel and air that led to a sound like a car back-firing. In the second incident, on Sunday morning, a refuelling problem prevented take-off of a New York-bound service.

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