Andrew Doyle/MUNICH

Concorde manufacturers BAE Systems and EADS are expected, as early as this week, to propose to regulators potential modifications to the aircraft's fuel tanks that they believe could clear the way for the reinstatement of the supersonic airliner's certificate of airworthiness (C of A).


The UK Civil Aviation Authority and British Airways confirm that agreement was reached at a 2 November meeting in London to focus on modifications to eliminate the possibility of a catastrophic fuel leak occurring after a tyre burst, and its subsequent ignition.

The meeting, held at Gatwick Airport in the UK, was attended by representatives of the Civil Aviation Authority, its French equivalent, the DGAC, the respective air accident investigation branches the AAIB and BEA, airframe and engine manufacturers BAE, EADS, Rolls-Royce and Snecma, and BA and Air France.

"Agreement was reached on the scope of the work that needs to be undertaken to get the aircraft flying again," says BA. The airline adds that the manufacturers are expecting to present outline modification proposals to the CAA and DGAC "within the next few days" for approval, in a move it describes as "very significant". The UK flag-carrier remains hopeful of being able to restart supersonic flights "early next year".

The CAA confirms it was agreed at the meeting that solving the fuel leak problem could be key to the restoration the C of A, and that this will become the immediate focus of the modification work, though the "engines, tyres and hydraulic systems are still on the agenda".

The UK agency says that a modification eliminating the possibility of fire erupting from a fuel leak could be deemed adequate to limit the consequences of a tyre burst to a "manageable incident".

BAE and EADS are looking at incorporating a floating Kevlar/rubber lining in the wing tanks which they believe could prevent a significant amount of fuel escaping in the event of the skin being punctured.

The various parties hope that more detailed plans for the modification and its subsequent certification can be presented at the next Concorde inter-governmental meeting which is due to take place in Paris on 13 November.

Meanwhile, BA has written to its Concorde pilots instructing them to bid for conversion courses on to other aircraft types. The lack of a zero flight-time-approved simulator for Concorde means that flight crew have been unable to maintain "currency" as required by Joint Aviation Authorities regulations.

Source: Flight International