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Concorde Tests Could Begin January

December 17, 2000

PARIS (AP) _ Flight and ground tests on grounded Concorde jets could begin as early as January, French Transportation Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot said Sunday.

In an interview on LCI television, Gayssot said the decision about tests will be made this week and that the ``formidable plane″ will fly again.

``In 2001, I will be among the passengers who fly in the Concorde,″ he said.

British and French authorities withdrew the airworthiness certification of the supersonic jets after one of the planes crashed outside Paris in July, killing all 109 passengers on board and four people on the ground.

The world’s 12 Concordes, operated by British Airways and Air France, have been grounded as French and British investigators study debris from the plane’s wreckage, hoping it will provide an explanation into the crash.

Gayssot did not specify if the tests would be on French or British-owned Concordes. The tests would take place at a military aviation base in Istres, near the port city of Marseille, he said.

He did not give a projected date for an eventual reinstatement of the planes’ airworthiness.

Authorities in London had said Friday that tests on fuel tank liners were expected to begin early next year on British Airways’ Concorde planes. It wasn’t clear if those were the same tests Gayssot were talking about.

New fuel tank liners, expected to greatly reduce the chance of fire, will be tested on the British Airways jets around February, said the Anglo-French working group studying the crash from London. The group includes the plane’s manufacturers, aviation regulators, crash investigators and the two airlines.

Investigators have said they believe a stray metal strip lying on the runway gashed one of the jet’s tires, sending rubber debris hurtling toward fuel tanks in the jet’s left wing, prompting a fuel leak and fire.

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