France's 'modified' Concorde ready to fly by April

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The Independent Online

A modified Concorde, incorporating a kind of mudguard to protect vital parts from a burst tyre, could return to service as soon as April, according to French air industry officials.

A modified Concorde, incorporating a kind of mudguard to protect vital parts from a burst tyre, could return to service as soon as April, according to French air industry officials.

British and French officials are to meet on 8 December to review progress made on a number of safety measures including stronger protection for the fuel tanks in the supersonic airliner's wings.

Industry officials told the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche yesterday that the two governments and safety officials from the two countries were working towards a resumption of Concorde flights in April, or September at the latest. The French Transport Minister, Jean-Claude Gayssot, told the newspaper he was "optimistic" and "almost ready" to say the aircraft would fly again before next summer.

The airliner has been grounded since an Air France Concorde crashed on take-off from Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris, in July. Investigators believe that the aircraft hit a piece of debris on the runway, bursting a tyre. Fragments of the iron-reinforced tyre penetrated the plane's fuel tanks, causing a catastrophic fire.

According to the French newspaper, teams of British and French engineers have concluded that the Concorde design is not "genetically flawed" and that a series of relatively inexpensive modifications could prevent such an accident happening again.

From the outset, British authorities have been more optimistic than their French counterparts that the Anglo-French airliner would be able to fly again. The fact that French officials are now predicting solutions to the problems raised by the July crash will be welcomed in Britain.

Aviation engineers have suggested two modifications - the fitting of a device, like a mudguard, to the undercarriage of the aircraft to deflect debris in the event of a shattered tyre; and strengthening of the fuel tanks to stop them rupturing.

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