RETURN TO FLIGHT

Archive Story : Feb 2001

Working group "Optimistic" of early Concorde return

The experts of the Franco-British working group have fact shows optimism on a return of Concorde into service, even if many tests and analysis remain to be carried before re-certification will be given. " The Work achieved up to now makes it possible to be optimistic on the re-establishment of the flight certification of Concorde ", is the view the general Management of the civil aviation (DGAC) in an official statement issued Friday at the end of the fifth meeting of the working group which was held in Paris.

These experts, who employed the word " optimism " for the first time since they regularly meet in alternation between London and Paris, expressed the wish that " Efforts continue with same strength in order to restore the flight certifcation of Concorde as soon as possible ". These declarations seem to be good forecasts for a resumption of the flights of the Concorde in late sprin of early summer

The working group however noted the need to have the time to go over the results and analysis of the tests used validate the modifications that are being considered and after this to allow installation of the modifications on each Concorde individually ", according to the official statement, which draws up a catalogue of tests to come. Tests on the ground and in flight with a Concorde of British Airways equipped with tanks reinforced by a flexible internal protection in kevlar-rubber will take place " in the next weeks ". the main function of these tests will be checking the correct operation of the system of calibration in the tanks that have been modified.

Other tests intended to show the effectiveness of protection in kevlar to reduce the fuel leakages in the event of damage caused to the tanks are programmed for March. Some will consist in projecting large pieces of tires on these tanks modified to evaluate the damage, others will be used to determine the residual leak-flow. At the time of the Concorde accident , projection at very high speed of tire debris, of which a piece was more than 4 kilos, against the walls of a tank had caused the opening of a breach. An abundant kerosene leakage had escaped then ignited, leading the plane to its loss, according to last data's of the Office investigation-accidents (BEA), responsible for the technical investigations.

Other wind tunnel tests, scheduled for April-May, will be carried out to be sure of the absence of fire hazard in the event of residual leaks. Rolling tests carried out to Istres (South of France) in January aimed as for locating them the advance of the kerosene and the consequences on the engines in the event of weak escapes. " the interpretation of these results is related to the realisation of other tests and analyses, which in their turn conditions the test program planned to determine the limits of fuel ingestion by the engines ", says the DGAC.

The air companies Air France and British Airways, represented during the meeting, have set of a timetable to modify their planes and collaborate with each other with a view to a resumption of the commercial flights at comparable dates, states the DGAC. " In spite of their wish of a fast resumption of services, they insist on the extreme importance which they attach to the safety of the aircraft ", it adds.

The next meeting of the working group, composed of high-ranking civil servants of the ministry for Transport and the aeronautical authorities of Britain and France, will take place on March 30 in London.

British Airways will propose a service more limited than before when they restart thier flights, in the late spring or early summer summer. " There will be a flight per day to New York, and not two untill a time that all the fleet is equipped with a new coating of its tanks ", said a BA spokesman. " It will not be a complete service for at least several months because we will not have enough planes cater for it ", BA added, specifying that no charter flights would probably take place before the end of the year.

The resumption of their flights is conditional on the modifications being carried out and, initially, only three planes will be able to fly, specified BA. But in the long term, the whole of the fleet should again be operational, added the company, which has seven supersonic aircraft.

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