RETURN TO FLIGHT

Archive Story : Fed 2001

Air France as keen as BA for Concorde return - Company President Spinetta -

Air France is as keen as British Airways to see Concorde fly again, the French airline's president Jean-Cyril Spinetta said Monday, denying suggestions that the French are dragging their feet over the grounded supersonic airliner's re-certification.

"There is no difference between Air France and British Airways on Concorde. It will fly at roughly the same time (for both companies)," Spinetta told a meeting of specialist journalists.

All 12 existing Concordes -- five belonging to Air France, seven to BA -- were confined to the tarmac after the crash outside Paris's Charles De Gaulle airport last July which killed 113 people.

Both companies are conducting tests on re-fitted fuel tanks, but British officials have sounded much more impatient for a resumption of flights, and the British press has even speculated BA might be willing to buy up Air France's fleet to hasten their return to the skies.

However Spinetta said, "the idea that BA really wants (flights to resume) and Air France doesn't is totally false."

Once the needle-nosed supersonic jet is re-awarded its certificate of air-worthiness, Air France will re-start its scheduled service to New York, Spinetta said. But special charter flights -- such as the one that crashed in July -- will be abandoned.

BA and Air France plan to line Concorde's fuel tanks with kevlar material to make them safer.

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