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CNN Today

British Airways Grounds Concorde Fleet

Aired August 15, 2000 - 1:05 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now to London, where British Airways today abruptly grounded its fleet of Concorde supersonic aircraft. The airline may not have had much choice.

And joining us now with more about that, CNN's Amanda Kibel in London -- Amanda.

AMANDA KIBEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, yes, French air safety officials tell us that information already gleaned from the ongoing investigation, into the Air France Concorde crash just outside Paris three weeks ago, was directly involved in the decision today to revoke the airworthiness certificate of the Concordes here in Britain.

Apparently it is understood that a piece of metal on the runway in Paris may have pierced a wing of the Air France Concorde causing it -- pierced a tire of the Air France Concorde in Paris, causing the tire to explode, debris from this tire apparently pierced the left- wing of the aircraft, and lodged itself in the fuel cells in the wing. The fuel was then allowed to escape and we understand that it then caught fire. The fuel cells are very close to the engine. The engine was obviously very hot. And the fuel then caught fire causing a catastrophic failure of the aircraft.

Now air safety officials say that until they can figure out how to prevent this catastrophic chain of events in the future, no Concorde should fly. British Airways immediately canceled its scheduled flight to New York early Tuesday morning. It diverted the 34 passengers on board to regular scheduled British Airways flights.

The British Airways spokesman who spoke today said British Airways was disappointed at the decision to revoke the airworthiness certificate of the Concorde.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROD EDDINGTON, BRITISH AIRWAYS CHIEF EXECUTIVE: It's a very sad day because for British aviation and for British Airways because Concorde is really the queen of our fleet. And everyone in British Airways is really committed to the aircraft. It is a sad day, but it's too early to reflect on the future of Concorde.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KIBEL: British Airways flies a fleet of seven Concordes. They were only grounded for 24 hours after the crash in Paris. Air France Concordes have remained on the ground for the duration of the investigation. British Airways say that following the crash in Paris, they implemented what they call extensive safety checks and they were confident that their Concordes were fit to fly. British Airways says it hopes that its fleet will be back in the sky very soon.

Reporting live from London, I'm Amanda Kibel for CNN.

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