Remembering Air France Flight 4590 Concorde Crash
In 1993, in a span of five months, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch concluded two reports on two separate Concorde incidents that resulted in damage to fuel tanks.
The first incident occurred in July 1993 at London Heathrow Airport (LHR), when a British Airways Concorde, registered as G-BOAF, landed from New York (JFK). After landing smoothly and applying reverse thrust, the pilot applied wheel brakes. The flight crew instantly felt a bang and a warning light lit up in the cockpit, warning the crew about issues with the wheel brake system. After coming to a stop by using reverse thrust, the aircraft safely returned to the gate.
Nevertheless, investigators discovered that in addition to the damage to the No. 3 engine, the debris also punctured the No. 8 fuel tank. Luckily, it was empty, thus a potentially fatal disaster was avoided.
Under very similar circumstances, the second incident happened in October 1993. Unlike the previously mentioned fuel tank puncture, this time the supersonic jet was taxiing to the runway when the captain of the Concorde applied the brakes. Firstly, the aircraft moved in an unusual way. As the captain re-applied the brakes, the flight crew heard a loud bang.
Subsequently, the captain applied the emergency brakes and the Concorde came to a halt. As the flight systems showcased multiple warning lights, including issues with tires and wheel brakes, the PIC opened his window and conducted a visual inspection of the aircraft. He noticed that fuel leaking from the left side of the aircraft.
The pilots shut off the No. 1 and No. 2 engines. Later inspections revealed that 50% of a water deflector from the No. 2 tire was missing, which punctured the No.1 fuel tank, located on the left side of the aircraft.
Changes to the design and Air France negligence
Following the events in 1993, British Airways ordered a change to the wheel structure. To stop a water deflector from puncturing a tank in an event of a tire blowout, new water deflectors would be held by a cable attached to the body of Concorde.
While British Airways did implement this change in 1995, Air France did not. Separate articles, released by CNN and The Independent on August 3, 2000, and August 4, 2000, respectively, report this.
At that time, the airline stated that “under French civil aviation rules it had not been obliged to introduce the modification, which it said would not stop the deflectors coming away from the undercarriage”.
However, a British Airways spokeswoman told The Independent that “the cable holds the deflector together”.
But the two dailies published their articles a week after Air France Flight 4590 took off with flames emitting from its engines.
So, what happened on July 25, 2000, at Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG)?
Air France Flight 4590 crashes
The flight started out as normal, according to the BEA report. 30 minutes before the flight was supposed to take off, the flight crew came in contact with the control tower to request for the whole of Runway 26R for a scheduled take off at 14:30.
At 14:07, ATC gave the green light for the supersonic airliner to begin take-off procedures, including taxiing to the holding point. ATC cleared the Concorde to line up at 14:40 and cleared the flight to take off at 14:42. Shortly after, the captain of the flight began taking off and called V1. A few seconds later, the Concorde ran over a titanium metal strip, which destroyed the No. 2 tire and, subsequently, the debris of the tire punctured the No 5. fuel tank. The fuel ignited instantly and engines No. 1 and No. 2 lost thrust.
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