UPDATE 2-Continental, design fault blamed for Concorde crash
Tue Dec 14, 2004 12:01 PM ET
(Adds details, Continental executives to be questioned)
By Gerard Bon
CERGY-PONTOISE, France, Dec 14 (Reuters) - A metal strip that fell off a Continental Airlines jet and a fuel tank design fault led to the deaths of 113 people in the Concorde air disaster near Paris in 2000, an official report said on Tuesday.
Public prosecutor Xavier Salvat said there was "a direct causal link" between the Air France Concorde hitting a titanium alloy strip that had fallen off a Continental Airlines DC-10 a few minutes earlier and the bursting of one of the supersonic jet's tyres.
The metal strip played a "major role" in shredding the tyre, fragments of which punctured the Concorde's fuel tanks, Salvat told reporters outside a courthouse in Cergy-Pontoise, just outside Paris.
He also confirmed senior Continental (CAL.N: Quote, Profile, Research) executives have been summoned for questioning by judge Christophe Renard, who is conducting a separate manslaughter probe into the disaster.
Officials at Continental were not immediately available for comment on the accident investigation or the report its executives faced questioning.
Salvat said the 237-page final report into the crash also had highlighted a "serious fault" in the design of the droop-nose jetliner, whose fuel tanks did not have sufficient protection from debris in the event of a burst tyre.
The plane crashed in a ball of flames soon after take-off from Charles de Gaulle airport, north of Paris, on July 25, 2000, killing all 109 people aboard and four people at a hotel in the outer suburbs of Paris.
Air France and British Airways took Concorde out of service after civil aviation authorities banned the world's only civilian supersonic airliner from the skies because of mounting evidence of profound structural errors in the original design.
Tuesday's report said the fuel tank protection design fault had "not been sufficiently taken into account".
SUSPECT SPARE PARTS
The report was handed to families of those killed in the disaster, mostly German tourists on the first leg of a planned Caribbean cruise vacation.
Salvat cited a U.S. probe into the disaster which showed that the replacement titanium alloy strip fitted to the DC-10 had not been authorised by the U.S. Civil Aviation authorities.
He said Continental had failed to respect the rules governing metal fixtures used in building aircraft, and that the characteristics of the titanium alloy strip "played a major role in the process of cutting the Concorde's tyre."
Normally, a softer alloy which would not have lacerated the rubber of the Concorde's tyres is used, the daily newspaper Le Parisien reported last week.
Separately, some Concorde families have decided to seek compensation in the United States and are to drop out of further legal action in France, Roland Rapapport, a lawyer involved in the case, told reporters.
Air France, which operated the ill-fated Concorde, in 2001 agreed a $120 million compensation package with relatives of those killed in the catastrophe.
Geoffm From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2004, 2111 posts, RR: 7 Reply 3, posted (8 years 5 months 1 week 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 4908 times:
I don't see why the blame should be laid solely on the metal strip (admittedly haven't read the full report, only the Reuters version). After all, *had* the runway been cleared of debris, *had* the fuel tanks been reinforced after all the previous tyre burst incidents, *had* the wheelgear been fitted with the bar thing like the BA ones had, *had* this, *had* that... in other words, a long line of errors which, singly, would not have caused the crash.
Anyway, I bet there are dozens of threads similar to the above so I won't go on.
One question: am I right in thinking US courts can effectively award unlimited fines (later reduced by appeals)? European courts have guidelines, I think even limits, on the awards.
Leskova From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 6075 posts, RR: 72 Reply 6, posted (8 years 5 months 1 week 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 4721 times:
So we're back to the old "what if" game... with sidetracks into "whodunnit"...
From what I've read here, CO can neither be fully blamed nor fully absolved: yes, the runway should have been cleaned - but had they not used, and I quote, a "replacement titanium alloy strip [...] not [...] authorised by the U.S. Civil Aviation authorities", then the not cleaning of the runway could have had a less devestating effect.
Neither can ADP be absolved, or fully blamed, for the accident - had they cleaned the runway, the metal the strip was made of would have been irrelevant.
And, of course, the design of the fuel tanks - had they been protected enough, neither the not-cleaning of the runway nor the not-authorised metal strip would have had the same effect as it, tragically, did.
So - there are three contributing parties, perhaps more: all of them played a role, and each one of them could have, by following proper procedure, prevented the accident.
ContinentalFan From United States of America, joined Oct 2000, 355 posts, RR: 0 Reply 10, posted (8 years 5 months 1 week 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 4654 times:
In the US at least, even if Continental was found to be the cause, they can claim a defense that the airport authorities and the makers of Concorde, etc. were contributorily negligent. In most jurisdictions, juries can then assign a percentage of fault, and then Continental would only have to pay their "share" of fault.
Relatedly, in tort suits in the US, you have to generally prove two different types of causation. "But-for" causation, where "but for" Continental's negligence the accident wouldn't happen, and "proximate" causation, which says it must be foreseeable that CO's negligence would lead to this. It limits "but for" causation, which can be a very long chain of events back. So to prove proximate causation it must have been foreseeable that the DC-10 losing the strip would = crash. CO would argue that it wasn't, since the airport authorities are supposed to sweep the runways before Concorde takes off, and had done so in the past, so that even if the DC-10 dropped an entire engine on the runway it would not have been foreseeable that a piece would remain to cause damage.
What is foreseeable is generally a matter of law, for judges and not juries (who decide matters of fact) to decide, so even if there was a large award, there would be a good chance it would be reduced or reversed on appeal.
So the families suing CO in the US would have a good chance of getting a favorable verdict, since it is an emotional case, and a good trial lawyer will be able to convince a jury, but they also have a good chance of getting that verdict reduced.
Ken777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 7458 posts, RR: 5 Reply 11, posted (8 years 5 months 1 week 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 4601 times:
There is another review at:
In this one they note that the problem of exposed fuel tanks was known since 1979 and the problem was not corrected. There were 67 tire blow outs during this period and the fuel tanks were punctured on SEVEN of these events.
I'm not a lawyer, but I think a defense attorney would push that 1979 year in front of a US jury very aggressively and the seven fuel tank punctures even more. Throw in the failure to clear the runway before the Concord take off and it is going to be hard to get a US jury to find for the relatives - especially since a lot of evidence will be based on a French investigation.
I think the relatives are better off taking the Air France compensation and getting on with their lives - far better than the risk of a loss in the US courts.
FraT From Germany, joined Sep 2003, 1101 posts, RR: 1 Reply 12, posted (8 years 5 months 1 week 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 4570 times:
"Do you really expect them to check the runway before EVERY takeoff at a busy airport like CDG?? C'mon now! Is this done at JFK, EWR, ATL, ORD, LAX, LHR, NRT...?"
Not before every take off but before every Concorde take off. The Concorde was not a normal aircraft.
To me it looks as if the French authorities are doing everything to blame the crash on CO. What about the missing spacer which caused the plane to become off-center. What about the weight of the plane and the wind conditions.
I totally agree that parts of an aircraft should never fall of, but who knows if a aluminum part would have had the same effect. If a plane hits a metal strip at high speed, the results may be the same if it's either titanium or aluminum.
Phollingsworth From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 825 posts, RR: 6 Reply 14, posted (8 years 5 months 1 week 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 4505 times:
A point to ponder though - a piece of metal falling from a plane might not be an act of negligence, while failing to clear the runway IS an act of negligence.
And from what I've seen, CO didn't install this metal piece - a subcontractor doing routine maintenance on their aircraft did.
So here's yet another question - is CO responsible for the illegal part, or the subcontractor?
I am not sure on what the news reports mean by saying the titanium wear strip was not approved by the FAA. Was the paperwork not filled out properly, is it not in the maintenance or structural repair manuals and if so was no other authorization given. CO has a lot of authority to approve repairs and parts replacements in place of the administrator, be it a minor repair or through a DER.
As for who is responsible for an illegal part. The answer is whomever has an FAA certification, the subcontractor for placing it there and CO for operating a non-airworthy aircraft.
GDB From United Kingdom, joined exactly 12 years ago today! , 12713 posts, RR: 80 Reply 15, posted (8 years 5 months 1 week 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 4459 times:
You have to look at the satistics more clearly, when most of them happened, the gaps between them, the severity of them.
That builds a more distinct picture, for instance, the bad 1979-81 incidents were prevented after rectification work, to a point, never fully solved (that would have to wait for the new technology NZG tyres, originally developed for A340-600/A380), but lessened to a large degree.
That report at the top, punctured fuel tanks, for heavens sake, we've only known for 4 years that the failure was NOT a puncture of the tank, rather a failure of the tank due to an unprecedented 10 foot long lump of tyre carcass hitting the wing at high speed causing an internal shockwave in the stored fuel.
No doubt lazy writers just copying out of date stuff, but the distiction is important, because that is where the significance of the titanium material of the object comes in.
It's much tougher structure scalping the tyre, not bursting it.
If it had been alumium, likely 'just' a normal burst, maybe some damage, but no massive 10 foot tyre carcass, no shockwave, no massive fuel loss (which was a factor in it's ignition), no No.1 engine running up and down due to fuel ingestion, no massive fire causing an incorrect No.2 engine shutdown.
Probably in fact, an RTO.
However, for all this, many involved with the aircraft (including some UK investigators making off the record comments), still think that crew actions should have been taken into account, while strictly speaking this is outside of the remit, which looks at the physical aspects of the FOD, tyre, tanks, the fact remains that aircraft weight issues, missing undercarriage components, but worst of all, the shutting down of No.2 engine, well below the minimum altitude allowed in the pilots manual (400 ft), not I.A.W. the check list, not with the required crew command to do so, may have been a major factor in the loss of the aircraft, remember, it crashed because it could 'neither climb nor accelerate'.
Another thing to get out of the way, as it's been mentioned in this thread, the water deflector had nothing to do with it, AF did not have the retainting strap fitted (to prevent a double burst causing it to come off as happened to G-BOAB in 1993), but AF did not fit it as doing so was not made mandatory, BA did due the the G-BOAB incident, another example of rectification work being done after an incident, just as in 1981.
TBCITDG From Australia, joined Jan 2004, 921 posts, RR: 3 Reply 18, posted (8 years 5 months 1 week 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 4334 times:
Maybe it is time that both sides of the Atlantic stop the blame game of even the what if's. We must learn from what took place in Paris so that it never happens again irrespective of aircraft type and so forth.
Eg777er From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2000, 1829 posts, RR: 13 Reply 19, posted (8 years 5 months 1 week 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 4320 times:
I've heard that even if the No.2 engine had not been shut down when it had, that it would have failed about a minute later anyway (when No.1 started stalling) and that the aircraft was still way below minimum safety speed for its configuration (i.e. gear down).
N685FE From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 450 posts, RR: 13 Reply 20, posted (8 years 5 months 1 week 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 4262 times:
Does anyone know exactly what the part was that fall off? Not a guess or a broad description that it was a "metal strip." Also something to note, if this was in fact a replacement part that was not exactly identical to the original, CO or Boeing engineering would have had to sign off on it and issued an Engineering Order with detailed information for the replacement part and installation.
BENNETT123 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2004, 6359 posts, RR: 1 Reply 22, posted (8 years 5 months 1 week 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 4215 times:
The fact is that a whole succession of failures caused this crash.
Clearly, there were weaknesses in the Concorde design, clearly there are regulatory issues, clearly there were weaknesses in the Air France maintenance and in the FOD clearance at CDG.
Equally, the DC10 should not be shedding lumps of metal, which is down to Bedak and Continental, and also clearly, a Titanium strip will do more damage than an Alloy one. This would apply both to tyres and if ingested.
IMO, all of the parties involved have a share of the responsibility, and if any had acted differently then the chain of events would have been broken.
Continental can no more be exonerated than any of the others. The fact is that if they had been no FOD on the runway then the aircraft probably would not have crashed.
I think that if Continental start suggesting that their aircraft drop lumps of metal on runways on a regular basis and that anyone taking off after one of their flights should expect FOD then that is not going to inspire customer confidence.
GDB From United Kingdom, joined exactly 12 years ago today! , 12713 posts, RR: 80 Reply 23, posted (8 years 5 months 1 week 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 4126 times:
AF4590 may have been more than a few hundred pounds overweight, however, on Concorde, C of G was vital, if that was out (and plenty think it was) that alone could threaten the aircraft, which is why Concorde had a triplicated computer system for setting up the C of G.
Hard material was found ingested into No.1 engine, nothing was found in No.2, fuel vapour ingestion would cause them to run up and down, but still run.
We were shocked when it became clear the only reason No.2 had stopped was because it had been shut down, when just a few feet off the ground.