We always had real problems with the BEA, the initial report in August 2000 had glaring omissions and looked like a rush job.
There was so little knowledge about Concorde that BA
personnel had to assist in reconstructing the wreckage, (AF
could not for legal reasons), Marc, one of our guys out there in December 2000, found that a spacer was missing.
I agree that the spacer was probably a marginal factor, that the shockwave in the No.5 tank
theory makes sense, however EADS, despite months of testing with a mock up, could not replicate it, in the end, computer modeling was used.
But, last year we heard from a source in the investigative area, that no fragments of rubber were found on the 5 tank panel that was found on the runway.
If this is true, that changes everything, we asked the question, 'can you confirm this?'
'No' we were told, 'the BEA won't let us see it', (a clear contravention of agreements with the two national investigative agencies).
As to the undercarriage water deflector, after a chunk of one hit the lower wing after a multi tyre burst on OAB in 1993, BA
fitted a metal retaining strap to it, the fibreglass deflector were supposed to shatter on impact with the wing should they be badly damaged by a burst, but the mod was not made mandatory, so AF
did not do it.
This was ruled out, but if it is true that rubber from the burst tyre was not present of the piece of 5 tank, (was any other non rubber material found? If so, what was it?) this should be revisited.
The AAIB, while agreeing with the main thrust of the report, publicly complained about lack of full access to the investigation and the slowness of the investigation in the first few weeks.
For us, the revelation that the crew ignored a runway change request, were overweight, seemed not to have accounted for this, is very concerning.
did Concorde charters like AF4590, I can personally remember pax/baggage being taken off if we were not happy with the weight and C.G.
We'd loved to have seen AF4590's loadsheet, despite the cockpit not burning, despite the several copies of each loadsheet, AF
As for tyres, well from 1993 to 2000, hardly any significant incidents, a gap from the mid 80s to 1993 too, these were the result of work to rectify issues from the 1979-81 incidents.
And we operated Concorde, up to 2000, at nearly twice the flying rate of AF
, (at the end, the hours/cycles on our 'youngest' OAG, was around the same as AF
's 'oldest' VFA).
But for us, the worst was the shutting off of 2 engine just after rotation, it had a fire warning but the flying manual states that in this instance that such an operation cannot be done under 400 feet, and then it is a series of checklist items.
With no,1 engine running up and down as fuel vapors were ingested, you needed all the power you could get, quite apart from the fire.
No.2 engine was found to be OK
, some hard material (runway light?) had been ingested but it was not on fire.
That move, sealed F-BTSCs fate.
Explanations as to how SC
got to be on the runway edge (causing a rotation 25 kts below minimum), just do not ring true with ALL
of the Concorde engineers and flight crew we know.
In 2002, when BA
were still hopeful of an upturn allowing increased services, looked at returning a 6th aircraft to flight, (OAB).
We were informally told by the CAA that additional information since 2000 led them to consider if a tank mod would be needed now, the NZG tyres were considered enough.
Though the tank mod was a success and a real tribute to EADS, in late 2000 it was the only game in town.
Back to late July 2000, we were very aware that the UK was coming under great pressure from France to ground Concorde, after the accident BA
carried out extensive extra checks and changes to operational procedures, which the UK authorities were happy with, that's how BA
flew for 3 weeks after the accident, which AF
were not happy with, (so when AF
lose an aircraft of any type, does the rest of the world have to stop flying it? Of course not, impractical, only grounding the tiny Concorde fleet WAS practical).
Some of you may have seen ex BA
Concorde Capt John Hutchinson, who flew Concorde for 15 years until 1992, make a lot of noise about the accident, AF
called him 'irrational'.
Really? Well John had some extra first hand experience, in 1968 he was one of the crew of a BOAC 707 that had an incident with stark parallels to AF4590, both involved a fuel fed fire on a wing at around the same phase of flight, the 707 got back to LHR
, LeBourget from CDG
was probably easier to get to for AF4590.
The 707 made it, was a write off, but most survived, Concorde, with way more power than a 707-436 did not.
Now of course big differences too, but this informed Hutchinson's concerns in 2000.
Deep down, I think that another factor was involved, 'go' fever.
AF4590 had been much delayed, including an aircraft change, it had to get pax to meet with a liner in NY, so they were racing the clock.
Could it be that the frankly rather sloppy attitude to procedures, with regards to weight, balance and not changing the runway used after the tower informed them of a change of wind direction, clouded the judgment of an experienced crew? It's happened before.
Changing runways would have prevented the accident, the fuel used during taxi and the different take off direction would have avoided the metal fragment.