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Regulators Delay Concorde Decision

07 September 2001

French and British air regulators said Tuesday they need more time to analyze information from the manufacturers of Concorde before allowing the supersonic airliner to resume commercial flights.

A decision to declare the plane airworthy is now expected later this week or early next week, rather than Tuesday or Wednesday as previously forecast by officials in Paris. ``We needed supplementary information from the manufacturers as not all the possible scenarios have been considered,'' said Gerard Le Houx, a spokesman for France's DGAC air regulator. ``We wouldn't rule out a decision this week, but we may have to wait until Monday,'' a spokesman for the U.K.'s Civil Aviation Authority told Reuters. ``There's no reason to suspect at the moment that (the airworthiness certificate) won't be awarded.''

The CAA spokesman added that the British regulator was likely to demand further alterations to the planes before they can return to commercial service. It is over a year since an Air France Concorde burst into flames after take-off and then crashed near Paris, killing 113 people. The manufacturers have hardened the fuel tanks, added stronger tires and modified undercarriage wiring.

Hopes grew that Concorde would take to the air as early as next month after a series of successful test flights by its owners Air France SA and British Airways Plc using the modified planes. The airlines are losing an estimated $4.07 million and $9.64 million a month respectively to keep the planes grounded. BA expects the modifications, which involve lining fuel tanks with Kevlar, fitting tougher tires and modifying undercarriage wiring, will cost it an additional 30 million pounds. The British carrier said it was unconcerned at the delay and expressed confidence that Concorde would get the go-ahead to resume commercial service.

Concorde was designed and manufactured by a group of French and British companies that have since become the European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co and BAE Systems Plc.