Crash of the Air France Concorde

 In 1996, a ValuJet MD-80 went down in the Florida Everglades, killing all 110 on board.  The cause of the crash was ultimately traced to oxygen generators, which had been removed from service and improperly secured and loaded into the plane’s cargo hold. 

The FBI became involved early on. Various players were charged with, among other

Ten years ago, an Air France Concorde SST departing from Charles de Gaulle Airport ran over a strip of metal on the runway.  One of the Concorde’s tires exploded.  A chunk of the debris from the tire punctured the Concorde’s fuel tank. Fuel leaked from the tank, and into an engine. The ensuing fire and engine failure brought down the aircraft. 113 people were killed.

The Crash Was Avoidable

The metal strip fell onto the runway from a Continental Airlines DC-10.  Had Continental’s mechanics attached it properly, it wouldn’t have fallen off.  Continental’s maintenance practices were sloppy.

It is not unusual for airplane tires to rupture during takeoff for one reason or another.  On most airliners, tire blow-outs pose no serious safety threat.  That’s not the case with the Concorde. Unlike other aircraft, the Concorde’s fuel tanks are positioned directly over the tires.  The tanks are therefore at risk of being ruptured if a tire explodes.  Furthermore, the aircraft’s engines are positioned so thHenri Perrier (Third from Left)at any fuel from a rupture could easily start a fire.  That makes the Concorde design suspect.

This wasn’t the first time a blown tire ruptured a Concorde’s fuel tank. In fact, there was a string of previous incidents. So the potential for disaster was obvious. Nonetheless, Air France, as well as the Concorde’s manufacturer, chose to simply ignore the problem and hope for the best. 

It was a bad decision.

The Criminal Trial

A criminal trial began in France in February. Yesterday, French prosecutors asked that Henri Perrier, the engineer who most refer to as the “father” of the Concorde, be sentenced to jail, but that the sentence be suspended.  (Perrier is third from left in this 1969 photo.)  Prosecutors asked for the same for the two Continental Airlines mechanics whose sloppy maintenance allowed the metal strip to end up on the runway.

Some suggest the trial is a colossal waste of time and effort. What, after all, is the point? How will the trial enhance aviation safety?  Certainly, it won’t help the families at all, will it?

No, it will not.  In fact, such criminal prosecutions actually impede safety. If the mechanics and engineers who are involved in an aircraft accident investigation need to be concernedContinue Reading Concorde Trial: Criminal Prosecution of Chief Engineer Not in Best Interests of Safety