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BA Concorde takes off on first full trans-Atlantic test flight

Monday, October 22, 2001

LONDON (AP) -- A British Airways Concorde took off Monday morning for New York on the supersonic jet's first trans-Atlantic flight since service was suspended last year after a crash killed 113 people near Paris.

The flight left Heathrow Airport Monday morning after a short delay caused by fog. One hundred passengers were aboard, all of them BA employees, for a flight expected to take three hours and 20 minutes.

The airline has conducted two other test flights over the Atlantic Ocean, but Monday's was the first to include a full crossing. Regular flights on the London-New York route will resume Nov. 9. Two days earlier, BA will run a preview flight for corporate customers and reporters.

Air France is scheduled to resume Concorde service between Paris and New York on Nov. 7.

Both airlines have revamped their Concordes to address safety concerns following a July 25, 2000, Air France crash near Paris that killed 113 people and grounded both fleets.

Monday's test was partly designed to check ground services including check-in, boarding and catering, BA said.

The passengers included engineers involved in overhauling the jet and other BA employees who won seats in a competition. The Concorde was scheduled to return to Heathrow later Monday.

The crash last year was the supersonic plane's first in 31 years of service. Investigators say a stray strip of metal on the runway punctured a tire, propelling bits of rubber into the fuel tank and starting a fire.

Aviation experts have designed durable new radial tires that would burst into lighter, more flexible fragments if a blowout occurs. Engineers have also installed fuel tank liners, designed to prevent leaks if the plane's wing is ruptured. The liners are made in part with Kevlar -- a fiber used in bulletproof vests.


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