David Learmount/LONDON

UK AND FRENCH authorities will decide in 1996 on the modifications required to keep the Concorde flying beyond 2000.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority, has been conducting research in association with its French counterpart, the DGAC, the manufacturers and British Airways on the modifications and inspections, required to enable the aircraft to fly on past its planned 6,700 reference flights, (supersonic transatlantic trips with a take-off weight more than 170t).

Later this month, the Concorde Re-life Group based at British Aerospace's Bristol, UK plant, will present the results of an extensive structural review of one of BA's seven-strong Concorde fleet (G-BOAF) to the CAA and DGAC.

BA says that the airframe is "in extremely good shape". The CAA confirms that the Concorde does not suffer from the worst enemy of aging aircraft - corrosion - because it is flown in the dry stratosphere with its hull heated by the friction of supersonic flight.

Because supersonic commercial air transport was an unknown quantity at the time the Concorde went into service, says BA, the initial airframe-life estimates were "extremely conservative", and tests have shown that modifications and increased inspection requirements to extend the life to a provisional 8,500 reference flights are likely to be minor.

BA's 20 year-old lead-time aircraft, G-BOAA is expected to reach the 6,700-flight point in mid-1997, says BAe, which estimates that 8,500 trips will allow the aircraft to be flown until at least 2005.

BAe's Concorde project manager Ellis Johns confirms that "...only five small areas of the airframe - three the responsibility of BAe and two of its Concorde partner Aerospatiale - have been identified as needing some further investigation work". Any work package will first be tested on the Concorde 202 airframe stored at Filton.

Source: Flight International