Concorde hit by engine drama

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Concorde hit by engine drama

Tuesday, 5 November, 2002, 18:29 GMT

Panic broke out among passengers on board an Air France Concorde flight when engine trouble caused the plane to drop thousands of metres.

Air France told BBC News Online the plane, which was flying from New York to Paris, dropped to subsonic speed and reduced altitude by 7,000 metres (22,000 feet).

Passengers on the plane said the speed of the descent sent crockery smashing in the aisles.

The incident came nearly two-and-a-half years after the crash of an Air France Concorde as it took off in Paris. All 109 people on board and four people on the ground died.

The French and UK fleets were grounded for months while safety improvements were carried out.

Air France confirmed that Monday's incident happened as the plane, AF001, flew at 17,000 metres (56,000 feet). It ended at an altitude of 10,000 (33,000 feet).

The pilot continued his journey on the plane's three remaining engines, arriving in Paris an hour after its scheduled arrival at 1845 (1745GMT).

Air France was unable to confirm exactly where the incident took place, but the plane is believed to have been in mid-Atlantic as the drama unfolded.

The spokeswoman was also unable to say how long the drop in altitude took to complete.

But a passenger told the French news agency AFP there were scenes of panic as the pilot handled the emergency, dropping his speed from 2,000 km/h (1,200mph) to 900 km/h (550mph).

"I had the fright of my life," said Belgian Amar Belgacem.

He described "a big bump" before the plane began losing altitude.

"All the crockery in the plane crashed in the aisle... There was a lot of shaking for about a quarter of an hour," he said.

"Women were crying, children were screaming, it was total panic.

"Then the pilot spoke to tell us that an engine had failed."

An inquiry is under way in France into what caused the engine failure, says Air France.

Spokeswoman Veronique Brachet said the aircraft's unique shape made it more vulnerable to turbulence.

A spokesman for British Airways in London said he was unaware of the incident, and the airline's Concorde fleet was flying as normal.

Concorde normally flies at roughly 17,000 metres at supersonic speed, and at 10,000 metres at subsonic speed - the two heights used by the pilot in Monday's incident.


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