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Concorde flies again

Concorde moved a step closer to commercial flights  

PARIS, France -- An Air France Concorde takes to the skies again for the first time since one of the aircraft crashed in flames last July, killing 113 people.

The Air France plane flew with only crew on board from Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport to a military aviation base at Istres, near Marseille in southern France, for ground checks.

Engineers from the European aerospace group EADS will spend two weeks simulating fuel leaks on the underside of one of the wings of the supersonic aircraft as part of the work needed to get the plane back into passenger service.

Investigators have said a burst tyre, torn by a strip of metal left on the runway by a previous flight, is believed to have triggered a fatal fire in the fuel tanks on board the flight last July.

The 109 passengers, mainly from Germany, were en route to a luxury holiday when the plane crashed into a hotel on the outskirts of Paris, killing four people on the ground.

No Air France Concorde has flown since the accident and British Airways' seven-strong Concorde fleet has been grounded since mid-August.

France's national civil aviation body (DGAC) gave the green light to Air France Concorde's flight on Tuesday, and said the permit was valid for one month from Thursday.

French Transportation Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot said on Sunday that the luxury jets could return to service sometime this year, if tests proved the chain of events leading to the crash could not be repeated.

The work at Istres complements $25 million worth of tests being carried out on BA Concordes at Heathrow airport in west London.

BA started fitting Kevlar-rubber bullet-proof liners to the fuel tanks of its Concordes this week in an effort to strengthen the underside of the aircraft and prevent a similar accident happening again.

Within eight to 10 weeks it is hoped that a BA Concorde will be able to be flown on a test flight with the aim of returning both BA's and Air France's fleet to passenger service by the spring.

A British Airways spokesman said the company expected aviation authorities to reinstate Concorde's overall airworthiness certificate and hoped service would gradually be resumed with one daily London to New York flight in the spring.

Concorde flight gets green light
January 16, 2001
Concorde prepares for test flight
January 15, 2001
France set to test fly Concorde
January 12, 2001
Crash inquiry team hopeful for Concorde
January 8, 2001
Concorde fuel tanks burst 'six times'
January 5, 2001

European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company EADS N.V.
British Airways
Air France

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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