BA resumes regular supersonic service to US

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"My major concern was that they would cancel the flight," said Jim Wadia after arriving at JF Kennedy airport in New York on the first Concorde flight since the crash in Paris.

"My major concern was that they would cancel the flight," said Jim Wadia after arriving at JF Kennedy airport in New York on the first Concorde flight since the crash in Paris.

Mr Wadia - worldwide managing partner for the Arthur Andersen business consultancy and a regular Concorde flyer - normally sleeps during take-off, and he was indeed snoozing as the plane lifted off from Heathrow at 10.47am yesterday.

John Tonkelsen, a venture capitalist from New Jersey, also said he had had no fear for his safety. "What happened was tragic, but British Airways has a fabulous maintenance operation," he said, noting that when other types of planes crash nobody thinks of grounding every aircraft of that type.

Steven Bacher, a South African businessman, wastaking his first flight on Concorde. He said that while it was obvious everyone was aware of what happened in Paris, many passengers had settled in their seats with newspapers and there was no conversation about it.

The flight was about half full. At least one passenger chose to take a subsonic flight, but many others turned down offers of a refund or alternative flights. BA said of the 78 people due to fly, 29 did not board.

Passengers arriving from New York on the return flight to Heathrow yesterday afternoon were equally unconcerned. The film director Mel Brooks said: "We had no trepidation or worries. It was BA and we knew they would be all over it with a fine toothcomb. It was comfortable; it was a good flight; they gave us extra drinks."

His wife, the actress Anne Bancroft, said she had no worries about taking the flight. "We can always trust the British apart from during the Revolutionary War," she said. "Every time we come to Europe we fly on Concorde; it's as safe as houses. We have had no flying anxiety, only weather anxieties. We always fly on Concorde and we will certainly be flying back on Concorde."

British Airways said it had resumed the service after making exhaustive checks on the entire Concorde fleet overnight. Mike Street, customer services and operations director said: "We have complete confidence in our aircraft and we believe there is no technical, safety or operational evidence to suggest that Concorde should not operate safely into the future.

"BA's first concern is always safety. All our aircraft aresubject to continuing and exhaustive safety checks. We have carried out extensive checks overnight to our Concordes operating today - to engines, airframes, hydraulic and other systems."

He added that there was "no information from Air France or the French or British airworthiness authorities which leads us to believe we should ground BA's Concorde fleet".

But while the passengers may have been happy to fly on Concorde, people living under the plane's flight path were dismayed that BA had allowed the aircraft to fly so soon after the tragedy.

John Stewart, the chairman of Hacan Clearskies, a campaign for the control of aircraft noise over Heathrow, said scores of members had telephoned him to express horror about the resumption of Concorde services.

"We would like Concorde to be grounded until first of all the investigators have more of an idea of what caused the crash in Paris and also until they have carried out a comprehensive safety check on the entire fleet," he said.

"For British Airways to say they have done thorough checks in less than 24 hours is not at all reassuring for the passengers or for the residents living under the flight path."

At the airport chapel in Heathrow yesterday a brief but poignant message had been dedicated to those lost in the crash. It read: "In sympathy for the passengers and crew in the Air France plane which we lost yesterday."

The message written in the visitors' book at St George's Chapel was left by Mark Holder, an Air France operator.

The chaplain, Father Brian Laycock, held a service for victims of the crash. He said: "We have held a special mass in the airport to pray for those mourning and all those who have died ... It's been a tragic incident, but Concorde is still one of the safest planes you could have."

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