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Concorde Engine Trouble Stirs Panic

November 6, 2002

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PARIS (AP) _ The pilot of an Air France Concorde en route from New York to Paris rapidly descended 27,000 feet after one of the plane’s engines malfunctioned as passengers clutched each other in fear, the airline and passengers said Tuesday.

None of the 67 passengers was injured and the flight arrived safely at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport Monday night, the official said. The cause of the engine trouble was not immediately known.

Air France said that one of the supersonic jet’s four engines malfunctioned during the Atlantic crossing. The pilot shut down that engine and flew the plane from 60,000 feet to 33,000 feet. The aircraft also slowed to below supersonic speed because it’s unable to maintain higher speeds unless all four engines are operating.

A passenger on the flight, Amar Belgacem, said the plane descended fast and passengers panicked.

``All the plates, glasses, all the food crashed to the ground,″ Belgacem told France-2 television. ``We grabbed onto our neighbors ... everyone was saying prayers. I had the fright of my life.″

The incident came nearly two and a half years after an Air France Concorde crashed shortly after takeoff from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport. All 109 people on board were killed, along with four on the ground.

An investigation concluded that the Concorde crashed after a tire was punctured by a stray metal strip on the runway, propelling pieces of rubber into the fuel tank and igniting a fire.

Air France and British Airways, the only airlines that operate the jet, grounded their fleets and revamped the planes to address safety concerns. The luxury aircraft was returned to service in November 2001.

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