This is the memo that NTSB sent French authorities back in 1981 after 4 Concorde tire failures between Jul 1979 and February 1981. Particularly noteworthy is their account of the June 4, 1979 incident where major damage occurred, including a fuel leak. The FAA link to this incident is in the link I forgot add added later in the thread above.
>>>My contention is based only on the probability that an exploding engine, in my opinion, can do more damage than an exploding tire.
It depends. Most engine failures are contained ones. Some are not, but only eject parts in small numbers and/or size. The even more rare ones eject entire fan sections (United 232 and that National DC-10 over ABQ; the Delta MD-88 at PNS) that really do some damage. I have yet to see any media mention of Concorde *engine* parts found on the runway, and since tire fragments were, that leads me to believe the tire was the the source of the initial failure. (Hey, I could be wrong too...)
>>>It seems more plausible that an exploding engine would be the culprit. I would also expect that a tire would blow at the later stages of take-off when it gets the hottest..
When tires fail due to heat, it's most often immediately after a vigorous application upon landing (or the more rare aborted takeoff) where the brakes have just been exposed to a few million-pounds of energy. True, the inbound flight had experienced inop thrust reversers arriving at Paris, and that crew presumably could have used the brakes more than a routine reverser-assisted landing, thus more energy and heat than usual, but certainly not more than an aborted takeoff. That built-up energy/heat translates to the tires, and depending upon several variables, the fuse plugs in the wheels could melt (and deflate the tires) anywhere from immediately or gradually over :45 or so, maybe longer. I'm supposing the Concorde's ground time was a couple of hours, thus any such problem would have been noticed before they pushed the gate.
>>>Conversly, I expect an engine failure at the beginning of the take-off roll as it is brought to full power.
Again, some do, some don't.
>>>Eyewitness reports seem to indicate that the debris and flames started early on in the take-off.
I think the key question are *how* early, and the *specific* debris. Brake release? Prior to V-1 and V-rotate? Afterwards? Was the debris tire-related or engine-related?
If the engine failed at the start of the takeoff role (your full-power scenario) that point would have been far below V-1, and the takeoff could have been aborted. If a tire (or tires) started to fail on the takeoff roll (which can be somewhat more insidous than an engine failure with its associated warning systems), irrespective of having reached V-1 or not, the tires could have come part and damaged the wing, or maybe even the wheels themselves doing likewise. Maybe the IAD tire fragment was smaller than the Paris tire (or wheel) fragments. Maybe the IAD flight was just luckier that an ignition source didn't set it off.
These are the kinds of answers that take investigators time to figure out, much to the disappointment of the media, who proceed to fill otherwise dead-airtime with usually uninformed speculations. Given the incredble photos of this accident, and the past experiences of Concorde susceptibility to secondary damage from blown tires (and the failure sequence seen in the NASA Convair 990 report, I still think the tire was the initial failure with fire and engine failure(s) as some very unfortunate dual consequences.
Not saying this to start a whizzing match by any means, but just to convey my opinion of what I see, and in the context of my personal operational experience (20+ years) on other types of airline aircraft. The Concorde is unique in many respects, but it also shares great commonalites with conventional aircraft.
ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co.