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Remodeled Concorde Takes Off on First Test Flight

Aired July 17, 2001 - 09:14   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: As promised, we're going to take you back now live to London's Heathrow Airport where you see there the Concorde -- the newly fixed Concorde there with its Kevlar-coated gas tanks is now on the runway and preparing for takeoff. We've been following this story. And we saw it taxi out earlier this morning. The Concorde, as you may know, has been grounded since a crash in Paris at the airport there happened...

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Almost exactly a year ago.

HARRIS: ... almost exactly a year ago, July 25 of last year. That's correct, Daryn.

And that -- in that case, it was -- they believed it was because of a piece of stray metal that was on the runway on takeoff and the plane actually hit it with one of its tires which had -- and the tire exploded and then the tire shrapnel penetrated the gas -- one of the fuel tanks in the -- in the plane which were -- the plane at the -- at that particular time that -- under that kind of construction, the plane's fuel tanks were in the wings and that -- those wings were penetrated, as we said, by some tire shrapnel that caused the tanks to catch fire and the plane ended up crashing and coming down in a hotel...

KAGAN: Yes.

HARRIS: ... just off the airport. And...

KAGAN: One hundred and thirteen people lost their lives in that. Most of them were German tourists.

HARRIS: Most were German tourists, that's right.

KAGAN: Of course that involved Air France and this is British Airways. But from the time of that accident, both Air France and British Airways grounded their Concorde flights.

HARRIS: It was the same exact plane mechanically. And in this case now, as we've said, they have reconstructed this plane. And what they're going to be doing here is they're going to be taking it on a test flight and they're going to actually simulate a flight to New York from this Heathrow Airport.

They won't actually be coming to New York. It's going to actually go out some three-and-a-half hours or so out over the Atlantic and turn around and come back and land at Oxfordshire, another spot there in the U.K. And they will essentially run through everything they can see whether or not the -- a lot of the mechanical adjustments that have been made to this aircraft will actually hold.

Now, it's been sitting here for some time. The plane that -- there was a plane that took off just ahead of this one and usually at airports you see there's maybe a two-minute spacing in between takeoffs.

KAGAN: Right.

HARRIS: And this one has been sitting here now for about three- and-a-half minutes, almost four minutes and it's -- no reason nor -- we have no way to find out right now why.

Do we have Richard Quest available still down there at the airport at Heathrow?

OK, we have a reporter there who's aside -- who's next to the runway or at the end of it. In fact, he's supposed to have a view where he sees the plane coming toward him...

KAGAN: Really. That would be something.

HARRIS: ... when it takes off.

KAGAN: Even the view that we have right now perhaps -- this is what I'd like to see. This is the map.

(CROSSTALK)

KAGAN: This is the route that it's going to take. It's going to fly towards Iceland and then kind of do a loop-da-loop and come around and come back. And as you were saying, it's going to be out there flying for about as long as it would take to fly to New York City, just not flying to New York. And they're looking for the length and the conditions to match what a flight would look like from England to New York City.

HARRIS: Now I see a vehicle on the runway coming toward the Concorde. That does not look good.

KAGAN: No that does not.

HARRIS: I would assume that would mean this plane is not going to be taking off right now and we need to get Richard to go find out exactly what's going on there. We know the engineers had planned on doing some testing and maybe a little bit of tinkering with the plane after it returned from the flight, but they may have to do some tinkering now before this plane actually takes off.

KAGAN: As we mentioned, this is British -- this is British Airways that is sending this Concorde for the test flight. Air France, which was involved in the crash last summer, does also intend to get its Concordes up in the air as well. It's conducted some test flights at subsonic speed.

HARRIS: Yes.

KAGAN: What's special about today, it's going to be at supersonic speed.

HARRIS: As if it was actually going...

KAGAN: Right.

HARRIS: ... to take a real flight. And even still, it's going to still take a number of weeks before that actually...

KAGAN: Right.

HARRIS: ... --before the planes are cleared, assuming the test and everything does run perfectly well and they do figure out there are no problems.

KAGAN: Oh, it looks like...

HARRIS: And now we see the engines being fired up.

KAGAN: Here it goes.

HARRIS: Now when this plane is in the process of taking off, it goes from 0 to 260 miles per hour in the span of about -- I think it's about a mile-long runway or a mile-and-a-half long runways that these planes actually use.

KAGAN: I would imagine this is something like going to a car race that you can't completely appreciate it unless you see it in person...

HARRIS: Unless you can...

KAGAN: ... how fast it's going.

HARRIS: Unless you can hear it and feel it.

KAGAN: Right.

HARRIS: Well, those guys -- those vehicles down there certainly heard it and felt it.

KAGAN: They got to feel it, yes.

HARRIS: That's very interesting because we saw that one vehicle actually driving toward it and then veered off at -- perhaps they were down there to observe it from underneath or whatever and get a vantage point from down there on the runway to check the plane out overhead as it -- as it passed them overhead. Who knows? We'll find out.

KAGAN: The wheels up and the Concorde is on its way for...

HARRIS: There it goes. KAGAN: ... its test flight heading towards Iceland and then it's going to turn around and come back and simulating how a flight would take place if indeed it was flying at supersonic speeds from England to New York City.

HARRIS: And, of course, we'll be tracking it all the way so stay tuned right here on CNN.

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