Accident trial judgement announced in Paris - Dec 2010
After more than 10 years a French court has produced a 22 page judgement that finds Continental Airlines and a mechanic working for the airline guilty of involuntary manslaughter for their part in the crashcrash of F-BTSD in July 2000.
The court said the airline and a fitter were to blame for a the metal ware strip that fell off a Continental DC10 onto the runway and ruptured a tyre on Cononcorde that eventually lead to a significant fuel leak and fire.
The airline, now United Continental Holdings following a merger, and aerospace group EADS (EAD.PA) must split 70-30 any damages payable to families of victims, claims that could run to tens of millions of euros if insurance companies seek reimbursement for sums already paid to relatives.
Continental was fined 200,000 euros and ordered to pay Concorde's operator Air France a million euros in damages. Fitter John Taylor was given a 15-month suspended prison sentence for not having followed industry standard procedures and used titanium to badly construct the piece that fell from the DC10
Continental Airlines said it would appeal what it called an "absurd" verdict. Taylor's lawyer said he would also appeal.
"I do not understand how my client could be considered to have sole responsibility for the Concorde crash," lawyer Francois Esclatine told French iTele television.
The court said EADS, which now owns the French factories that partly built the Concorde airliners, had some civil liability in the crash.
EADS lawyer Simon Ndiaye said the company was still deciding whether to appeal.
Three French aviation engineers including the former head of the Concorde programme, Henri Perrier, were acquitted by the court, as was Taylor's supervisor at Continental.
The French Engineers had been criticised for failing to act on long-running concerns about the risk that exploding tyres could hit fuel tanks under the wings of Concorde, but stopped far short of proposing a serious misconduct verdict, but saying they and the manufacturer was negligent in not handling the fire risk that came to light after several incidents in 1993.
Download the full text of the judgement (French and English)
French investigators have issued their final report into the causes of the July 2000 Concorde air disaster, reaffirming their previous conclusions that the crash was triggered by a burst tyre.
The full text of the findings by the BEA aviation security body also noted various failings by Concorde operator Air France, while stressing these were not related to the crash.
The BEA noted "several dysfunctions" in Air France's operation of the aircraft, "for example the use of certain outdated data in the initial phase of flight preparation and incomplete baggage handling".
After a meticulous investigation, BEA said it had identified shortcomings in baggage handling, a failure to archive certain documents and a conflict between take-off emergency procedures as outlined in Concorde's flight manual and Air France's own operations guide.
It noted that in some of Concorde's systems and equipment ''the rate of malfunction was greater than current rates on other aircraft.''
A component in the doomed plane's landing gear had not been replaced after a check carried out between July 17-21, 2000, revealing ``a failure to respect established procedures and the non-use of appropriate tools.''
As a result, BEA recommended regulations should be reviewed and, if necessary, tightened and that France's air industry regulator DGAC should carry out an audit of the state of flight and maintenance operations at Air France.
It said anomalies in safety procedure should be ironed out and that Air France's Concordes, which automatically monitor their engines every four seconds, should be upgraded to make the checks every second, as British Airways' Concordes do
An Air France spokesman said there was nothing new in the final version of the report, but that authorities had made various recommendations which had mostly been implemented.
The BEA, in a statement summarizing the report, said it had concluded that a stray ``part lost by an aircraft that had taken off five minutes earlier'' sparked the events that caused the Air France supersonic jet to crash on July 25, 2000.
The statement said investigators have concluded that a Concorde tire burst after running over the debris on the runway. The explosion sent rubber pieces hurtling toward fuel tanks, causing a fuel leak and fire that brought the plane down.
The loss of the metallic piece by the DC-10 of Continental Airlines had been identified as resulting from maintenance operations that did not conform to the regulations,'' the report said.
Houston-based Continental rejected the allegation, saying it has not been able to confirm that the piece of metal, known as a wear strip, came from its airliner. It said the strip on its aircraft was installed according to regulations.
``We disagree strongly with the findings in their report. We deny responsibility for the accident,'' said spokesman Nick Britton in Continental's London office.
``Even if it did come from our aircraft, the wear strip is not the root cause of the accident. That was the inherently unsafe design of the Concorde, which is vulnerable to catastrophic damage in tire bursts,'' Britton said.
He said the wear strip on the Continental plane that took off before the Concorde was installed by a subcontractor, Israel Aircraft Industries, under the supervision of Continental employees.
The report marks an end to the technical investigation into what caused the Concorde to crash minutes after takeoff from Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris. A legal investigation aimed at determining responsibility is still under way.
The full report is available to download from the relevant pages at the BEA's website.
There is an English and French version.
.....Or from the Reports section of this website
The French final report on the causes of the Concorde crash in July 2000 is due to be presented in early next week to the French transport minister, Jean-Claude Gayssot. It is expected to call for a probe into the maintenance departments of Air France and Continental Airlines.
Its final version recommends that two separate audits be carried out on the "condition of running and maintenance of the Concorde by Air France," and on Continental Airlines' maintenance departments "in the United States as well as on its sub-contractors abroad."
Qualifying the Concorde's maintenance department at Air France as "a state within the state," the BEA urges the French Civil Aviation Authority to investigate the department, which appears to have enjoyed a "special status."
In the final report, the BEA confirms a chronology of the tragic event it had already included in its mid-investigation report in July.
BEA investigators say the explosion of the Concorde's tire due to a piece of metal from the Continental Airlines flight caused the perforation of the fuel reservoir, which in turn caused the fuel to catch fire.
Earlier this year, BEA investigators publicly denied press reports that the crash of the Air France Concorde jet which killed 113 people had been caused by a missing part from the plane's undercarriage.
At the time, a former Concorde flight crew member said that the failure to replace a vital piece of undercarriage equipment, called a spacer, raised questions over the maintenance operations of Air France.
In the past, former Concorde captain Jean-Marie Chauve and flight engineer Michel Suaud gave expert evidence to a judicial inquiry, which is separate from the BEA crash investigation, alleging that the absence of the part probably caused the crash.
Chauve and Suaud believe the failure to replace the spacer during routine maintenance of the undercarriage caused an unintended braking effect on the left landing gear, pulling the plane to the left on take-off, overheating the undercarriage and weakening the tires.
They argue that the tires had already punctured before they hit a metal strip from the Continental's flight, tearing large chunks off the Concorde's tires, which then pierced the fuel tanks.
But the BEA said it had been able to exclude the missing part's role in the crash by a series of tests, including examining traces on the runway at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport and the state of the aircraft's tires.
In its final report, the BEA also urges the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) -- the US counterpart to the French civil aviation authority -- to audit Continental Airlines, warning that the trend to farm out aircraft maintainance as a money-saving measure could be damaging to overall security.
The Continental Airlines flight that took off before the Concorde had undergone irregular maintenance in Israel and in Houston, Texas, the investigators say in the report.
The report also issues a series of recommendations for airlines across the world, calling for a better runway surveillance, an improved follow-up on air-worthiness "to quickly define corrective actions," as well as the strengthening of regulations concerning tires, fuel reservoirs and fuel inflammability.
Investigators also urge aviation authorities to equip planes with a video-surveillance system to allow the pilot and the crew to see parts of the plane normally hidden from their view.
ConcordeSST.com will have full details of the report when it is released.
A new enhanced version of th 3rd Picture taken by a Japanese businessman onboard a 747 on an adjacent taxiway as Concorde took off fromk Paris has been uncovered on the internet.
The original version of the picture was cropped in the development process, so did not show the part of the frame where the underside of the wing hade been hit by the tyre debris causing it to rupture.
In the new version of the picture, which had been re-printed from the negative thus showing the full amount of the image exposed to the film, it can clearly be seen that the No2 main gear wheel tyre is missing after the explosive burst and that un-burnt fuel is flowing from the ruptured tank.
A few feet from the tank around the engine area the fuel appears to be being ignited from the fuel that is already burning. The initial cause of the ignition is believed to be from sparks derived from shorted wiring in the landing gear bay area.
The extent of damage in the gear bay is still is not clear in this picture, although there does appear to be some discolouration on the landing gear telescopic retraction strut.
Relatives mourn Concorde crash victims
France has marked the first anniversary of the Concorde crash, looking back in sadness on those who died in the disaster and looking forward with hope to the time when the "big white bird" flies again. Relatives of some of the victims visited the site just outside Paris where the Air France Concorde, trailing fuel and fire, smashed into a hotel seconds after its take-off, killing all 109 aboard and four people on the ground. Some relatives wiped away tears as they stood in the hot summer sunshine, others stood alone staring in silence at the drab flatlands that still bear scorch marks from the inferno.
Earlier, people from the nearby town of Gonesse laid bunches of flowers at the charred impact zone, which is normally sealed off to the public.
"I was at my window and I remember hearing a huge noise, much louder even than usual. Then there was smoke, so much smoke that I closed the window and ran inside thinking it was the end of the world," said 80-year-old Micheline Debreuil.
"But Concorde has got to fly again, it is a question of prestige for France," she added.
Many thought it would never fly again, but after months of work to correct the problems, Concorde's only two operators, British Airways and Air France, announced this week that they hope to resume service in September and October respectively.
MEMORIAL FOR THE DEAD UNVEILED
Air France organised numerous events to mark the blackest day in its history.
Stewardesses handed out red and yellow roses to the families of the dead as they arrived for a small service in the gardens of the Air France headquarters to inaugurate a marble and bronze memorial commemorating all the dead. Another plaque was unveiled inside head office, paying homage to the nine crew members of the supersonic flight who died.
Air France staff around the world held a minute's silence and in the evening, many employees took part in a sombre memorial service in central Paris followed by a performance of Mozart's Requiem.
Although Concorde is noisy and polluting, and perceived as a plaything for the super rich, very few people oppose its return. One recent opinion poll in France showed 95 percent of those questioned wanted to see it fly again.
"Concorde is unique and for that reason it should continue to flirt with the stratosphere," Le Figaro said in an editorial on Wednesday. "For the sake of glory and the force of the myth.
Source - Reuters
An interim report published Monday by the French Bureau of Accident Investigation (BEA) confirmed that the Concorde crash on July 25, 2000, was caused by an exploding tyre on the runway.
The following is the text of the latest findings:
New Report contradicts BEA on Air France negligence - 14/5/01
Negligence by Air France maintenance staff did contributed to the Concorde crash near Paris last July which left 114 people dead, the Observer newspaper has claimed, citing senior pilots.
The Observer said that the missing spacer part on the left main undercarriage made the supersonic jet to veer to one side during takeoff, which forced pilot Christian Marty to take off before he had gained enough speed to stay airborne.
It also claimed that Marty made a crucial error by taking off with the wind behind him, putting the aircraft six tonnes over the weight at which, according to operating procedures, it could safely take off.
These factors mean that the problem was peculiar to Air France and British Airways has needlessly grounded its seven Concordes for the past 10 months, claimed the Observer.
According to the official version, as presented by the French accident investigation bureau the BEA, the crash was caused when a tyre hit debris on the runway and burst. Chunks of tyre rubber punctured the underwing fuel tanks, leading to a loss of thrust from an engine on the left-hand wing which in turn sent the Concorde veering to the edge of the runway.
Marty had to take off because he was going too fast to abort, but with his engines not functioning properly, the plane went out of control and crashed into the Paris suburb of Gonesse. However, the Observer, citing John Hutchinson, a British Concorde pilot for 15 years, said the lack of a component called "spacer" in the undercarriage was a contributing factor.
When Air France mechanics had taken the undercarriage apart for a service, they reassembled it without the part, which keeps the wheels in the correct alignment. The missing spacer was found on the original part in the workshop. Without the spacer, the aircraft veered on takeoff "like a supermarket trolley with a jammed wheel," claimed the Observer. It was this, not the loss of power, which sent the jet heading to the edge of the runway, and neary into collition with an Air France 747, the same one that the picture of Concorde trailing flames on the runway was taken from
The Observer quoted Hutchinson as saying that the loss of power from an engine was "not a big deal" and that under normal circumstances any yaw to one side on takeoff should be "easily containable." He added: "In simple terms, if all the procedures and drills had been followed, if there had not been shortcuts and blind eyes, the crash might not have happened." It also goes on to say that engine no1 failed due to injestion of debris from a runway light that the aircraft vered into.
The theory that a missing spacer on the undercarriage had contributed to the crash has been raised before now, but the BEA has ruled it out as stated in the article below.
Read the full report from the Observer's website (this will open in a new window)
Relatives of 75 German passengers who died in last year's crash of a supersonic Concorde jet outside Paris have accepted a hefty compensation offer, a lawyer for the families said Sunday.
"The settlement has been approved both by Air France and the relatives in recent days," lawyer Gerhart Baum said in a written statement. Baum is part of a team representing about 400 relatives of the victims. In all, 99 of the 113 people killed in the July crash were German tourists.
It was unclear whether the settlement included Continental Airlines, which had also been involved in negotiations. Investigators believe a Continental jet may have been the source of a metal strip on the runway that could have contributed to the accident. "Right now, we're declining to comment," said Continental spokeswoman Erica Roy.
All involved have agreed to stay silent on the total sum. But Baum said that "in terms of the level, (the settlement) is oriented toward U.S. ideas of compensation." "That means compensation payments on a scale that haven't been seen before will be made to the German relatives," Baum added. The offer involves compensation for emotional damage, which isn't normally covered under German law. Payments should be made in June, he said.
A deal will avoid a nasty court battle in the United States, where lawyers had pledged to seek damages in the absence of a suitable offer. They claimed the case could be filed in the United States because the Concorde was bound from Paris to New York.
Attorney Ronald Schmid, another representative of the relatives, said the final settlement document should be finished in late May or early June. "Our clients have accepted the offers," he said. "We're on the right track."
As well as Air France and Continental, the negotiations involved more than a dozen other companies "that may be implicated in the cause," Baum said.
Text from AP
The BEA has states that a spacer part was missing on the left gear, but its absence did not contribute to the accident of supersonic aircraft is confirmed on Tuesday 10th April in an official statement). The BEA refutes certain recently published reports in the press which said that this missing piece had a role in causing this accident.
The BEA had noted in it's last report in January that the spacer located on the vertical axis of connection of the left main gear of the Concorde had not been positioned back at the end of maintenance check. "This part is a kind of pin being used to maintain in position the two thrust bushings of the gear."
The work undertaken within the framework of the technical investigation makes it possible, today, to conclude that the absence of this part did not contribute to the accident ", stresses the BEA.
The investigators had wondered whether, taking into account this anomaly, the left gear of the Concorde could have been offset, thus causing a dissymmetrical trajectory, a heating of the wheels and an acceleration lower than normal expected. This assumption was dismissed and it's dismissal is supported by three former flying personnel of Concorde who have made a point of bringing their conclusions on the accident in a report which has submitted to the examining magistrate of the County Court of Pontoise, responsible for the judicial enquiry.
A new report, seperate from the officed BEA enquiry, claims that during a July 21, 2000, overhaul of the supersonic jetliner, mechanics failed to replace a crucial part in the plane's landing gear.
As a result, the left front part of the landing gear overheated as the Concorde sped down a runway at Charles de Gaulle airport four days later, causing it to break apart and provoking a chain reaction that resulted in the fatal accident.
A spokesperson for the French carrier Air France said Friday that the company would not comment on a new report blaming last July's fatal crash of one of its Concordes on a faulty repair job.
Jean-Claude Couturier told Deutsche Presse-Agentur that the company had learned of the report from journalists and had known about it "for several weeks".
"We will not comment on the report," he said, adding that opinions differed on the competence of the three aviation experts who had drawn it up.
On Thursday, France 2 television reported that the study has been presented to the magistrate investigating the crash, which killed 113 people.
According to France 2, the plane had completed three flights with the defective landing gear before the accident occurred.
Prior reports by the French Office of Accident Investigation (BEA), which is leading the crash investigation, said that the Concorde rolled over a metal strip that fell onto the runway from another plane, causing a tyre to burst.
Fragments of the tyre then struck the fuel tank, causing a substantial fuel leak and fire. The Concorde crashed into a hotel and exploded less than two minutes after take-off, killing all 109 people aboard and four people on the ground.
The BEA noted that this part was missing in their intermim report that was published in Jan 2001, but says it was not a factor in the accident whcih was due to desintegration of the tyre after running over a piece of titanium.
|This picture shows the loation of the spacer in the centre of the bogie between the 4 wheels and directly under the main support strut.|
The "Bureau Enquete-Accidents" (BEA) estimates to have understood the process of the destruction of the Air France Concorde, which happened in July 2000, passing a an important step for the future of the supersonic airliner.
The director the BEA, Paul-Louis Arslanian, who made comments to the press about the second interim report on Monday. He will need "several months of work" before he can arrive at the final report about the accident, which caused the death of 113 people on 25 July 2000.
This date will however not influence a possible re-launch of the commercial flights, which will be decided the aircraft manufacturers and civil aviation authorities insited Mr. Arslanian.
"The worst situation is the uncertainty. The fact we have now understood the process which led to the accident eases the task of the industrialists", estimated the BEA's representative.
"I think the progresses of the investigation drives us to direction of a decision" as far as the future of Concorde is concerned, according to Mr. Arslanian. He didn't give any personal thought about the probabilities to save the supersonic airliner. "It isn't a question of an accident easy to avoid, there much work to do", he however added.
The BEA is now almost sure that a piece of metal, fallen from a DC-10 of
Continental Airlines on the runway, caused the perforation of the fuel tank.
He proposes that the most probable scanerio at present is that a piece of the tyre, cut by the piece of metal, was launched on the fuel tank with a great speed. And this caused to fuel tank to crack under the pressure.
Up until now, it was believed that the piece of tyre had itself perforated the fuel tank, while the aircraft was at 320 km per hour.
The aircraft manufacturers (Aerospatial, now part of the European EADS and
British Aeropsace, now BAE Systems) are currently work on modifications
aiming to strengthen the fuel tanks thanks to an internal material.
Alain Bouillard, responsible for the investigation at the BEA, said that British Airways had received the first "kits" to modify the fuel tanks of its Concorde fleet. The flight tests could begin in the UK by late February, he estimated.
In France, tests are set to be only on the ground, notably to check the engines said Mr. Bouillard. The French tests will require that a Concorde be flown from Paris-CDG to the airfield of Istres (Southern France). No date has as yet been determined, but this will require a special authorization, according to what an Air France spokesman told the French news agency, AFP .
The publication of the last of the two interim reports on Friday, to give details about the progress of the investigation was mainly for the public opinion and the victims' families, said Mr. Arslanian.
In Germany, the lawyer in charge of a dozen of victims, Mr. Bernd
Koethe, said he would sue Air France in the United States, as the
negociations between the two have "failed".
Other German lawyers are however still negociating with Air France. Apart from the negociations with the families, Air France has sued Continental Airlines and its insurances for its assumed responsability in the accident.
Thanks to Alain Mengus for help in the translation.
NEW INTERIM REPORT PUBLISHED
The French Accident investigators, the BEA, have published an interim report to the accident, bringing up to date the findings in their preliminarly report releast last August with the infomation they know now.
They have published this paragraph, within the report, stating what they feel is the probable scenario at this stage in the investigation.
The Concorde taking off from runway 26R at a speed of 175 kt ran over a strip of metal from a DC 10 which had taken off a few minutes before. This strip cut the tyre on wheel Ní 2 of the left main landing gear, as part of a process that remains to be determined. One or more pieces of the tyre were thrown against the underside of the wing at the level of tank Ní 5. This led to the rupture of the tank as part of a process, currently under study, which appears to associate the deformation of the tank wall and the propagation of the shock wave through the kerosene. A significant leak resulted from this. The escaping kerosene was whisked around in the turbulence around the landing gear and caught fire. The causes of the combustion are still being researched. Engines 1 and 2 then encountered severe problems, either through ingesting pieces of tyre or other pieces of the plane, or more likely through the kerosene leak itself and/or through the hot gases caused by the combustion of the kerosene. The aircraft took off with a very large stabilised flame that caused structural damage throughout the flight. The engine 2 fire alarm came on, and the crew announced shut down of this engine a few seconds later. The aircraft was flying at low speed and remained at a low altitude. The crew noticed that the landing gear would not retract, this non-retraction being explicable either by damage to circuits or systems following shocks resulting from the destruction of the tyre, or by exposure to flames. The crew mentioned a possible landing at Le Bourget aerodrome. The loss of power on engine 1 that occurred a few seconds later probably resulted from the ingestion of a mixture of hot gases/kerosene and internal damage caused by the previous ingestion. Aircraft angle of attack and bank then increased sharply, control of the aircraft was lost as a result of a combination of thrust asymmetry, due to profound thrust-drag imbalance and, perhaps to structural damage caused by fire. The thrust of engines 3 and 4 fell suddenly due to slipstream distortion. The aircraft crashed.
French crash investigators on Friday said for the first time that a piece of metal believed to have played a role in last July's Concorde disaster came from a Continental Airlines jet, and it criticised maintenance on the U.S. plane.
In its latest report on the July 25 disaster which killed
113 people, France's Air Accident Investigation Bureau (BEA)
corroborated an original theory that a tyre burst on the Air
France Concorde had triggered the fiery crash.
The BEA said the tyre in question had been cut as it rolled over a small piece of metal found lying on the runway. For the first time investigators confirmed reports that the strip had dropped off a Continental Airlines DC-10 that had taken off from Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport minutes earlier.
The finding could prove important, with Air France and its insurers already pursuing Continental in the French courts for its alleged role in the accident. A spokesman for Continental Airlines in London said his company had not been given access to the missing metal strip so could not confirm that it did indeed come from its DC-10. The BEA said its experts had examined the cowling of the fan reverser on the Continental DC-10 involved. Their report pointed to errors in repair work on the plane.
"The level of wear on the strip adjacent to the missing
strip was greatly in excess of the tolerance permitted by the
manufacturer," the BEA said.
Comparing a similar strip to the one that dropped off, it wrote: "a rivet was missing...the strip was twisted...in comparison with an original part, this strip was too long". Talking about the fan door it said: "The presence of deep wear marks was noted". It added that "various questions" about maintenance on the plane had not yet been answered. It said the strip found on the Paris runway appeared to have been attached to the DC-10 during repairs in Houston, 16 days before the Concorde disaster.