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France, Japan eye 'new Concorde'


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(CNN) -- Japanese and French companies have signed an agreement to develop a supersonic aircraft to succeed the disused Concorde jetliner, according to Japanese media reports.

The three-year agreement to study a next-generation supersonic jet was signed at the Paris Air Show, Kyodo news agency reported, citing a statement released by Japan's trade ministry.

The Society of Japanese Aerospace Companies and the French Aerospace Industries Association will lead the initiative, it said.

Under the deal, the various parties will conduct research into composite materials, technology for reducing engine noise and other difficulties unique to supersonic flight.

According to the Nihon Keizai newspaper, a number of companies and agencies will work with the two industry bodies.

They include the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the Engineering Research Association for Supersonic Transport Propulsion System -- consisting of Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, -- the French Aeronautics and Space Research Center, and French aircraft engine manufacturer Snecma.

The Concorde, the world's first supersonic passenger jet, entered service in 1976. It went through a 16-month hiatus after a crash in July 2000, and finally stopped operating in October 2003 due to heavy maintenance costs.

Two airlines, British Airways and Air France, used the aircraft on trans-Atlantic services.

With a cruising speed of 1350 miles an hour it was able to transport passengers from London to New York in less than three hours, compared to an eight-hour flight for subsonic airliners.

But the Concorde suffered a setback when an Air France plane caught fire in July 2000 shortly after takeoff over France. It crashed, killing 113 people, including four on the ground. The aircraft was taken out of service until November 2001.


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