Concorde trial ‘goes well’

A British Airways’ Concorde tonight underwent a 40-minute ‘‘taxi-ing’’ trial’’ at Heathrow Airport and ‘‘responded very well,’’ her chief pilot, Mike Bannister, said.

A British Airways’ Concorde tonight underwent a 40-minute ‘‘taxi-ing’’ trial’’ at Heathrow Airport and ‘‘responded very well,’’ her chief pilot, Mike Bannister, said.

He was at the controls as Concorde travelled at up to 30mph at Heathrow in the continuing work to get the supersonic aircraft back in the skies after last year’s horrific crash in France.

Accompanied by flight crew and engineers, Capt Bannister tested steering, braking and navigational computers on Concorde.

‘‘The aircraft is in extremely good shape and responded very well to the tests,’’ said Capt Bannister.

He also paid tribute to the efforts of engineering staff for their work to get the aircraft into its present position.

The plane involved Alpha Foxtrot is the first of BA’s seven Concordes to be fitted with new fuel tank liners.

BA said there would be detailed analysis of tonight’s trial with the hope that a full verification flight of the plane would be able to take place very soon.

All Concordes have been grounded since last summer following the July 2000 Air France Concorde crash which claimed 113 lives.

The liner fitting, with the use of tougher new tyres, is to avoid any possible repetition of the events which saw the Air France Concorde crash in flames near Paris on July 25 last year.

All 109 passengers and crew perished and four people on the ground were also killed in the crash which happened after a metal object left on the runway at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris burst a tyre on the supersonic aircraft.

This led to a rupturing of the fuel tank which, in turn, triggered a catastrophic fire and the crash of the plane.

A verification flight could be made as early as the beginning of next week, although BA has not given a date as yet.

Alpha foxtrot would be used for this flight which would have Capt Bannister at the controls.

Concorde would fly out on its normal London to New York route but turn back towards the UK after a little more than an hour and a hal so that the total time for the journey - at around three hours 20 minutes - was the same as for the London-New York run.

The plane would then landnot at Heathrow, but RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, where engineers would assess it.

It is possible that a second verification flight would then be made, with this time the supersonic plane returning to Heathrow.

Both BA and Air France , which has five remaining Concordes, hope to resume customer-paying supersonic services by late summer or early autumn.

Manufacturers, governments and regulatory bodies are working closely to bring about a return to the skies for Concorde. The UK and French civil aviation authorities will have to be satisfied that everything possible has been done before granting the plane an airworthiness certificate.

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