Extra capacity will allow rest of fleet to have regular service inspections, but no commitment made for final aircraft

British Airways has approved the modifications of a sixth Aerospatiale/BAe Concorde, allowing its return to service - but the airline has not committed to upgrading the seventh and final aircraft in the fleet. The sixth aircraft will also be the first with a new cabin upgrade.

Four BA Concordes have returned to service and work is under way on the fifth aircraft (G-BOAC). The work involves installing fuel-tank liners and other modifications required for the return of the aircraft's certificate of airworthiness after the July 2000 crash in Paris. This aircraft should be back in service by "early summer", says BA. No decision has been made on when the sixth aircraft will be modified, although BA says it will be back in service within a year.

BA denies suggestions by sources close to the airline that it will use the seventh aircraft for spares and that it will never fly again.

The cabin upgrade includes lightweight toilets and galleys. As well as bringing technology such as vacuum toilets to Concorde's cabin, the new interior provides a 360kg (790lb) weight saving that helps negate the 400kg weight penalty of the fuel tank liners.

The process requires around three weeks of downtime and will be undertaken on the rest of the fleet during major maintenance checks which will begin once the fifth aircraft is re-introduced.

The imminent introduction into service of the fifth aircraft will provide capacity for the other operational Concordes to be progressively grounded for "inter-check" maintenance and service inspections. The fleet is operating a single daily service between London Heathrow and New York Kennedy. Plans to add a second daily service remain on ice until at least late this year. The seasonal Heathrow-Barbados weekly Concorde service ended last month.

Source: Flight International