AIR France Concorde makes test flight over Atlantic

Friday, August 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PARIS (AP) _ An Air France Concorde made a test flight over the Atlantic Friday, just days before the supersonic jet is expected to get approval to return to the skies.

The needle-nosed planes were grounded after 113 people were killed when an Air France Concorde crashed north of Paris last year.

British and French officials said last week that the jets would probably get their airworthiness certificate, or the authorization to fly, before the end of August.

Air France and British Airways _ the only other carrier to fly Concordes _ have made numerous changes to the planes since the accident, including reinforcing the fuel tanks with Kevlar and adding puncture-resistant tires.

Air France said in a statement that Friday's test flight lasted 2 1/2 hours. The plane took off from Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris, flew out over the Atlantic and then returned to the airport.

The plane reached supersonic speed for a few minutes, but was not flown at its usual cruising velocity _ twice the speed of sound.

The seven-person crew tested hydraulic and electrical systems, radios and alarms, and simulated an engine failure, Air France said.

The jet would undergo another test flight in a few days to check systems at supersonic speed, carry out an emergency descent and land using three, instead of four, engines, the airline said.

Other Air France Concordes would undergo similar test flights.

On July 25, 2000, an Air France jet, spewing flames, crashed into a hotel near the town of Gonesse minutes after takeoff from Charles de Gaulle. All 100 passengers were killed along with the nine crew members and four people on the ground.

Authorities believe a stray metal strip on the runway ripped one of the jet's tires, sending rubber debris into the fuel tanks and causing a leak and fire that brought the plane down.