CONCORDE jet tests out new tires

Saturday, May 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PARIS (AP) _ An Air France Concorde touched down in Paris Saturday on a new type of tire designed to resist ruptures like one that may have contributed to last year's crash.

Flying at subsonic speed, the needle-nosed jet flew without passengers from a military air base in Istres, near Marseille, and landed at Paris' Orly Airport.

Investigators hope tests that began on Jan. 18 will help determine the precise cause of the July 25 crash of an Air France Concorde. The aircraft, with flames spewing from the wings, slammed into the ground minutes after taking off from Charles de Gaulle airport, killing 113 people.

Authorities believe the crash was caused when a metal strip gashed one of the Concorde's tires, sending rubber debris hurtling toward fuel tanks and triggering a fuel leak and fire that brought the plane down.

A British-French working group reported encouraging results last month on tests of the new radial tire, which was developed by Michelin. Engineers are also working on new methods to protect the fuel tank from punctures.

After the crash, certification allowing the 12 existing Concordes to fly was withdrawn, and the jets, operated by Air France and British Airways, were grounded until safety could be assured.

The Concorde was developed in the 1960s by France's Sud-Aviation and British Aircraft Corp. The July crash was the Concorde's first in 31 years of service.

The supersonic jet flies faster than any other commercial aircraft, zipping between Europe and New York in under four hours.

French Transportation Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot said in March that he was ``optimistic about the Concorde's capacity to fly again this year.''