Straight & Level 29 April

Concorde prang still state secret
If you’re curious to know more about the hard landing in Senegal by an Air France Concorde nearly four decades ago, you’ll need to be patient.
Foxtrot Delta, aircraft 211, suffered a heavy touchdown in Dakar on 28 November 1977, about eight months after being delivered to the French carrier.
But the file detailing the investigation was subsequently locked in the UK’s National Archives under a 100-year closure order.
Since the age of supersonic travel has faded and Concorde has been retired for more than a decade, we felt this was a little extreme, and sought to have the file opened through a Freedom of Information request.
Six months of occasional correspondence followed as the government politely mentioned that, while it was reviewing the request, the content might be exempt from disclosure.
Which, it seems, it is. “The file contains sensitive information provided to the UK by France relating to the investigation of accidents involving Concorde,” we were told. “It is understood that releasing the information provided would be likely to damage the foundations of trust on which UK relations with France are based.”
Public interest in disclosing the investigation file, it adds, could be “detrimental” to UK-French ties and is “outweighed” by a “real and significant risk of prejudice” to this relationship.
Coincidentally, the reply came through in the week of the Entente Cordiale’s centenary – and the government may have had plans to mark the anniversary which did not involve handing secret French documents to nosey hacks.
The upshot is that if you’re hoping for a fuller picture of the “Dakar incident”, you’ll have to wait until 2079. Sacre bleu!

Crafty craft
Newport News, Aircraft Carrier Alliance, DCNS: watch your backs. You’ve got a new – and by the looks of it highly price-competitive – rival in the ­flat-top ship-building sector.
According to Rex Features (which supplied the image, above), this is 80-year-old Wen Yuzhu’s cut-price homage to China’s lone aircraft carrier, the Liaoning; it even has the angled-deck and ski-jump layout, as well as carrying the fleet number 16. That’s where the similarities end though, as this Qingdao-based vessel is only 30m (99ft) long, and has a claimed maximum complement of 20.
Top marks to the gentlemen involved for the effort taken in producing the mini-carrier’s lone visible strike asset, which bears more than a passing resemblance to China’s fearsome J-20 stealth fighter. Not sure about the low-observable qualities of the chosen canopy structure though…

lianoing alarmingly-c-rex features

F.A.B. day out
Forget the Space Shuttle, Soyuz or SpaceX’s Dragon. The original and best single-stage-to-orbit spacecraft was Thunderbird 3.
The UK’s five decades of success in creating model aircraft for sci-fi TV programmes and films – including Gerry Anderson’s iconic 1960s series Thunderbirds – is celebrated in a one-day event at London’s RAF Museum on 11 May.
Speakers include model-makers who worked on Thunderbirds, as well as Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Joe 90 and Doctor Who.
Details at

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