Manslaughter charges overturned by French Court - November 2012
A French appellate court has overturned involuntary manslaughter convictions issued in 2010 by a French trial court against Continental and one of its mechanics for their role in the July 2000 crash of Air France Concorde Flight 4590, that killed 113 people.
The trial court had found that a metal strip, which had fallen off of a Continental DC-10 prior to the Concorde's takeoff run, was later struck by one of the Concorde's tires. The tire burst and threw fragments up towards a wing fuel tank causing a massive structure failure and subsequent fuel leak, which ignited eventually bringing the aircraft down.
The appellate court ruled that mistakes made by Continental or its employees did not make them guilty of criminal wrong doing, but did not challenge the sequence of events of that caused the accident.
Combined with the result of earlier cases, the new ruling means that the French courts have assigned Continental with civil, but not criminal, responsibility in the crash of the Air France Concorde.
Continental mechanic John Taylor was singled out in the earlier convictions for fitting the titanium wear strip that fell off the DC-10. The trial court had decided that the strip should have been made from softer metal and was improperly attached.
The new ruling finds that a charge of criminal manslaughter is unjustified because even if Taylor had imagined that the metal strip could fall off, "he could never have imagined a scenario where this simple titanium blade could cause such a disaster," said Judge Michele Luga, the appellate court judge.
Concorde Model unveiled at Brooklands Museum entrance - November 2012
The 80ft long 40% scale model of Concorde has finally been installed as a gate guardian at Brooklands Museum, where it will serve not only as an ongoing advertisement for Brooklands, but as a tribute to the thousands of local people who worked in the BAC factories at Weybridge.
On Saturday September 29th 2012 the model, which is 24m long and 9m wide, was loaded at the museum, then overnight, moved from the main museum site and installed on newly manufactured supports at the main public entrance to the Museum and Mercedes Benz World by Finch of Bookham, supported the museum’s Concorde team.
The model was removed from the Heathrow Airport tunnel roundabout in 2007, when the lease costs for the prime advertising space rocketed to £1.5M per year. The model was donated by the airline where it was full restored and painted into the livery that closely matches that on the museum's full size Concorde, G-BBDG.
Allan Winn, Director of Brookland Museum said: " We are thrilled to have the model Concorde now installed as the gate guardian to the whole Brooklands site. "We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Mercedes-Benz on whose land the model now stands, and Elmbridge Borough Council, and especially Councillor Jan Fuller, for their generous support in getting it on display here, and to the team of volunteers who have worked so hard both to restore the model and plan its repositioning."
The Mayor said : As Mayor of Elmbridge, I feel truly honoured to be part of the unveiling of Concorde. "A huge amount of time and effort has gone into both acquiring this wonderful model and installing it at its present site. "We should all be grateful to those people that have made this possible."
Airbus Pledge €1,000,000 to Concorde Trust - May 2011
The announcement was made to the city of Bristol's media in the office where most of the design of Concorde took place.
It comes after months of speculation over the future of the aircraft, since the visitor centre closed in October 2010 after falling visitor numbers meant it was no longer economical to keep it open.
The Concorde Trust, the group focussed on trying to build a permanent home for the plane, already have outline planning permission to build the Bristol Concorde Aviation Museum at Cribbs Causeway. They hope to open it by 2014 but they need to raise £9m so it can be built. The pledge of nearly £850,000 is partnership funding towards the total cost of the project, which is hoped will be funded by an additional £2.9M from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The outcome of the stage 1 decision from the the Heritage Lottery Fund should known by the end of the month, which would allow the project to move to stage 2 where they can bid for the specific funding.
The Concorde Trust visited Airbus Heritage in Toulouse to present their case and ask for funding and support for the project, and now that the partnership funding has been approved, Andy O'Brien - Airbus' Head of Customer Services at Filton, told the local media: "We take our heritage very seriously. This is an iconic aircraft and is very much in the hearts of the people of Bristol so we decided to make this step. It's important that we value our heritage."
It's hoped the museum will attract 40,000 visitors a year.
An Uncertain Future for Concorde G-BOAD?- April 2011
A cloud hangs over the future of Concorde Alpha Delta at the Intrepid sea, air and space museum after it was announced that space shutter test orbiter Enterprise will be relocated from the Smithsonian facility at Dulles Airport to the spot on the pier where G-BOAD currently is located.
The Intrepid museum currently has a loan agreement with BA, which runs until the end of 2013, meaning that if they are unable to display Concorde they would have to significantly contribute towards the cost of the aircraft's relocation to a museum that British Airways would be agreeable to.
In 2003 to secure Concorde as an exhibit, the Intrepid museum proposed housing Concorde in a glass dome structure, which never materializes.The Intrepid museum closed for extensive refurbishment between 2006 and 2008; Concorde was relocated to a sports centre at Floyd Bennett filed, but never opened to the public. In the summer of 2008 Alpha-Delta Aviation enthusiasts around New York State were horrified to find out that her famous nose had been ripped form her fuselage at the sports centre by a passing truck.
The nose was expertly repaired and Concorde returned to Intrepid in October 2008, but now faces and uncertain future as the museum moved forward with plans to display a space shuttle that never flew in space, in place of the fastest passenger jet to cross the Atlantic…..
In a response to an enquiry by Concorde SST, a spokesman for the Intrepid said : "(we) are assessing all options so that the Concorde is appropriately displayed once the Enterprise comes to New York City."
Barbara Harmer passes away - Feb 2011
The former hairdresser turned Captain was the first ever woman to pilot the aircraft, when she completed her conversion course in March 1993. She was the only woman in British Airways to pilot Concorde.
Barbara Harmer was born in 1954 in the Sussex town of Bognor Regis. She left school at the age of 15 to become a hairdresser in her home town. However, a few years later she decided to train as an air traffic controller, working at Gatwick Airport and also studied by herself for GCE ‘A’ levels, which she had not taken at school. She also started learning to fly, gaining a private pilot's licence and gradually accumulating flying hours before becoming a flying instructor, working at her local Goodwood Flying School.
She then decided that the logical next step was to become a commercial pilot and fly for the airlines. Her first job was with a commuter airline called Genair. Then in 1984 she joined British Caledonian, Next, she started flying British Aircraft Corporation BAC 1-11 aircraft on short haul routes, before transitioning to the larger McDonnell Douglas DC-10 on long haul flights.
When British Caledonian merged with British Airways in 1987 this unlocked the final door for Barbara to fulfil her dream and fly Concorde. However, at that time BA employed over 3,000 pilots, of whom only 60 were women. She therefore felt that her chances of being selected to fly Concorde were slim, since only a few highly capable pilots were recruited to undergo the rigorous six month training programme required to become certified to fly Concorde.
However, in 1992 Barbara was selected for Concorde training. Her first historic Concorde flight in 1993 qualified her as the first female pilot to fly Concorde, and made her world famous. Public scrutiny was intense, with Barbara becoming a celebrity. She took fame in her stride, and flew Concorde for a number of years.
One of the most memorable flights was when she flew the Manchester United football team to their epic Champion’s League Final in Barcelona. “I was thrilled and honoured to be asked to fly the team on their historic journey to Barcelona and felt quite emotional as I taxied the Concorde out to the runway, with British flags flying and thousands of people wishing the team luck on the way”.
Barbara moved upwards to become a Captain on other aircraft in the BA fleet and retired as a skipper on the Boeing 777.
Barbara’s skills were not limited to the air. She is also a fully qualified RYA Commercial Offshore Yacht Master and often commanded the “Concorde Crew” in various high profile international yachting events. However, it was in the air at 60,000 feet and at 1,350mph that she felt most at home. She admits that she is lucky and extremely privileged as there were very few Concorde Crews. After all not everyone gets to impress the “rich and famous” to the point of spontaneous applause. Actor Tom Cruise, himself a qualified pilot, didn’t restrain his appreciation as he sat with Barbara on the flight deck and watched her “grease” Concorde onto the ground at JFK.
Images courtesy Corbis Library
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)
G-BOAF to be stored pending future exhibit site being developed - Nov 2010
Year on year Airbus said visitor number had declined, meaning that as the conservation costs increased, the financial model was no longer viable; with sufficient funds not being generated to support the ongoing running costs, or contribute significantly towards the new museum.
The aircraft is due to be moved inside a hangar on the Filton site early in the new year to allow conservation work to take place. It will then be placed in deep storage at Filton, pending the proposed museum, at the adjacent Cribbs Causeway site, becoming reality.
The Concorde trust have been focusing their main efforts to ensure this new facility becomes a reality. Previous progress has been hampered by a significant reduction in the funding market caused by the global economic crisis and by many other complex issues. However, major steps forward are now being been taken, and The Concorde Trust is currently working with a team of professional consultants, learning institution partners and the broader community to prepare applications to the Heritage Lottery Fund and other potential funding sources.
Airbus UK Country Manager, Mark Stewart, explained: “While we have been proud to have been the custodian for Alpha Foxtrot, the exhibition on the Airbus site at Filton was always meant to be an interim step towards a more permanent home in the Bristol area. British Airways has praised the condition of the aircraft under our care, but the time has come to urgently find a more permanent and accessible solution for its display.
Over the past seven years, Airbus has spent £1.4 million maintaining the aircraft and supporting the tour activities. When compared to the net revenue realised from the public exhibition, which was meant to help fund a permanent exhibition for the aircraft, and with visitor numbers declining, it no longer makes financial sense.
During the winter maintenance period, Airbus in the UK will work with British Airways and other key organisations, such as The Concorde Trust, to find a permanent home for the aircraft. Our common goal is ensuring the Concorde is being looked after properly and that she is preserved and displayed in a manner befitting her iconic status.
We understand that closing the tours is disappointing, especially to the volunteers from the Bristol Aero Collection who have been wonderful ambassadors for the aircraft, but the aircraft will return to its outdoor exhibition space sometime in the Spring, and remain there until it moves to a new home.”
Mike Littleton, from the Concorde Trust, told the Bristol Evening News: "I think it is good news that Airbus has spent so much money on making sure that we will get a Concorde in pristine condition.
"We have a site for Concorde at Cribbs Causeway and we gained (outline) planning permission earlier this year. We are speaking to leading businesses about funding and we are very confident this will go ahead.
"This is the dawning of a new era for us and we are very grateful for everything that Airbus has done for us."
There is further information and discussion about this hot topic on the ConcordeSST.com Forum
French group aim to relight an engine on F-BTSD - Feb 2010
A French group of enthusiasts , known as Olympus 593, has this week got permission to start preliminary work that could lead to the powering up the engines on the retired Air France Concorde at Le Bourget.
The team, who are made up of former Air France Concorde engineers, will initially work on inspections of the engine systems to ensure that they could be safely re-fit after being idle since June 2003, when the aircraft flew for the final time.
If the inspections are successful, then funding will be required to be sought to allow the Concorde hall to be modified with a suitable door, which allow the aircraft to easily move outside, where work can start on the fuel system, which in turn could eventually lead to the first engine being run.
Gérard Feldzer, the "Museum Director", has set a target of returning all 4 engines to ground running condition, but once 2 engines and their respective systems are re-commissioned, he believes that it will be possible to taxi the aircraft.
A lot of work is required, with minimal spares availability, to accomplish these ambitious goals. Without any secured funding, no timescale has been announced.
There is further information and discussion about this hot topic on the ConcordeSST.com Forum
AF4590 Trial Underway in France - Feb 2010
Nearly 10 years after the Concorde crash, lawyers and experts have started to re-debate the cause of the accdent, this time to apportion blame.
The four month trial, will, examine at least three contradicting, explanations for the crash of the Air France Concorde near Charles de Gaulle airport on 25 July 2000. Did the aircraft, its 100 passengers, nine crew and four people on the ground fall victim to an 18in strip of titanium which dropped onto the runway from a previous, Continental Airways, flight? Or is this - the official explanation - simply a cover-up for a blunder by Air France in the maintenance of the doomed Concorde's undercarriage?
The trial will also examine more fundamental questions about the safety of the iconic aircraft, which was for 24 years the pride of the French and British aviation industries. Both prosecution and defence lawyers will claim that Concorde suffered from design weaknesses which were systematically ignored for at least 20 years to keep the aircraft flying. The crash led, after a brief resumption of flights, to the abandonment of Air France's and British Airways' supersonic services across the Atlantic in April 2003 due to the deteriorating economic climate.
The accused, in an especially enlarged court-room at Cergy-Pontoise, west of Paris, will be the Continental Airways company itself, two of the airline's Paris ground staff, two elderly retired Concorde engineers, and a former senior French air safety official (see box). All are charged with the manslaughter of 113 people when the aircraft, carrying German holidaymakers to the Caribbean, crashed into a motel two miles from the end of the Charles de Gaulle runway.
More than a million pieces of the aircraft were painstakingly gathered and collected in a hangar after the accident, which partially - but only partially - explains why the trial has taken a decade to come to court.
The immediate cause of the accident is not in dispute. At least one of the Concorde's left-hand undercarriage tyres burst as it was gaining take-off speed. A shower of hard rubber fragments penetrated a fuel tank in the left wing, causing a fire and a loss of power. The pilot, who was beyond the point of no return on his take-off run, tried to save the aircraft by lifting it into the sky prematurely, something that on a delta winged aircraft should not be done. One engine was halted deliberately by the flight engineer, against standard operating procedure before the aircraft had obtained the V2, safe flying speed, speed. The other engine later began to lose power. As the pilot struggled to remain airborne with an essentially fully laden airraft on on only 2n engines, F- BTSC's right wing lifted, the pilot with had no option but to reduced the thrust on the 2 good engines to try to level the aircraft, but according to one eye-witness the aircraft with no significant forward airspeed fell "like a leaf" - onto the Hotêlissimo motel. All passengers and crew and four motel employees were killed.
According to the prosecution, the tyre was punctured explosively by hitting an 18in-long titanium thrust reverse wear strip which fell from a Continental Airlines DC10 which had taken off from the same runway four minutes earlier. Titanium, a much harder metal than aluminium or stainless steel, is not supposed to be employed for temporary repairs on aircraft. Continental Airways is accused of systematically using titanium for such repairs, even though the danger to aircraft tyres was well known. Two of its ground staff in Paris are accused of ignoring the titanium ban and botching the repair. Continental rejects these accusations. Its principal defence lawyer, Olivier Metzner, claims that 28 witnesses saw the doomed Concorde catch fire before it reached the part of the runway where the titanium strip was lying. "Their evidence has been ignored. Everything has been done to obscure the truth," said Mr Metzner, who was also the lawyer for the former prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, in his successful defence against charges of trying to smear President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Mr Metzner will argue that the Concorde's tyre burst because an important element of the undercarriage had been accidentally left out by Air France ground staff. As a result, too much weight was bearing on the tyres, one of which exploded when it hit a bump in the runway. Air France and the French air accident bureau admit that there was a mistake in repairing the Concorde's undercarriage but they insist that it could not have caused the tyre burst. However there is no factual evidence of any fire on the aircraft before it hit the piece of metal and the tyre burst from any marks observed on the runway.
The other main battleground in the trial will be the safety record, and design, of Concorde itself. Two Concorde engineers and a French air safety official are accused of deliberately playing down or ignoring the evidence of weaknesses in the aircraft's tyres and its wing fuel tanks. In the 24 years of Concorde flights before July 2000, there were 65 incidents of burst tyres, six of which led to the perforation of fuel tanks early in Concorde’s life. The rate was significantly reduced by use of better non-remolded tyres and strengthened wheel rims.
The lawyers representing the families of the crew will argue that the three individuals on trial are merely scapegoats for a policy that was agreed at a higher level. In the dock: The accused Six defendants have been accused of manslaughter in the Concorde trial. All deny the charges.
*Continental Airlines Accused of negligently allowing its staff to use banned titanium strips for aircraft repairs. If found guilty the company faces a fine of up to €375,000.
*John Taylor, 41, Continental Airlines mechanic He fitted the titanium strip which fell onto the runway before the doomed Concorde flight. Like the other four individuals on trial, he faces up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of €75,000 if found guilty.
*Stanley Ford, 70, head of the Continental Airlines maintenance team He is accused of approving the banned repair.
*Henri Perrier, 80, head of the Concorde programme at Aerospatiale from 1978 to 1994 Accused of failing to respond to evidence of weakness in the aircraft's tyre and fuel tank designs.
*Jacques Herubel, 74, chief Concorde engineer at Aerospatiale from 1993 to 1995 Accused of not taking action to strengthen the fuel tanks.
*Claude Frantzen, 72, senior official at the French civil aviation directorate from 1970 to 1994 Accused of underestimating the gravity of previous tyre and fuel tank incidents and failing to demand design changes.
Agency copy is unsed in this article from PA and Reuters
Flight International has an excellent editorial on the trial and its irrelevance
‘Filton’ Concorde trust launch survey Jan 2010
In January 2010, the centenary year of aviation innovation at Filton, The Concorde Trust are undertaking a short online survey to establish what people want the new aviation heritage centre to contain and what visitors want to do when they have all day to spend in Concorde's new home.
They need your help and would appreciate it if Concorde enthusiasts could please spare just a few minutes to fill in the survey and seize your chance to say what will make the new aviation heritage centre a really great place to visit.
The Concorde Trust, an independent organisation, set up in June 2007 to deliver the project, and to raise the remainder of the funds and to build the new aviation heritage centre.
The objects of the charity are: “For the benefit of the Public, to Build, establish, maintain and operate a museum specilaising in the public display, restoration and conservation of aircraft, missiles, rockets, satellites and other flying or aerial,, or space devices, of machines and the components of them and drawing and archived and other products relating to the aircraft and aerospace industries.
With the 40th anniversary of Concorde's first flights in the France and the UK, its about time I did a quick update on all the news Concorde wise.
Aircraft & Location
Le Bourget Air and Space Museum, Paris
The aircraft is on Display at the air and Space Museum at Le Bourget on the outskirts of Paris
YeoviltonG-BSST is on public display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum.
G-AXDN now takes price of place inside the Airspace hanger at Duxford. An excellent walkway around the hangar allows elevated views of the aircraft.
Musee Delta, Orly Airport, Paris
Work is still on going by Volunteers to repaint the aircraft
Airbus A340 Factory, Toulouse
The aircraft is open on selected days for tours through www.taxiway.fr, who also organise tours of the Airbus site.
In the medium term, their are plans for the aircraft to be moved to the new Toulouse aviation museum alongside F-BVFC
Brooklands Museum, Weybridge
Since opening to the public in 2007, over 100,000 visitors have passed through the Brooklands Concorde experience
The remains of Concorde F-BTSC are still under judicial control in a hangar at Le Bourget airport, near Paris.
Alpha-Charlie now undercover at the Manchester Airport viewing park, but is open for tours on selected days.
Sadly the technician who looked after the aircraft and had been the driving force behind the re-location of the Trident 3B to the viewing park, was made redundant a few days before the official re-opening.
Dulles Airport, Washington DC
F-BVFA is now on public display at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center at Washington's Dulles Airport. Unfortunately it is not open for internal tours.
East Fortune Airfield, Scotland
G-BOAA has been on display at East Fortune since 2006. Thousands of people have visited the aircraft and the exhibition which features an excellent audio tour.
The aircraft is on display at the Auto & Technik museum, alongside the TU144
If you believe the story in the Times newspaper, G-BOAB is heading for Dubai.
After spanish company Ferrovial took over BAA, the airport owner appeared to lost interest in Concorde, leaving G-BOAB nowhere to be properly displayed. No other museum in the UK have the means to display her, so if the rescue package that will see her in the Middle East comes to fruition, this could be a happy ending for the aircraft.
It must be also be remebered that the First BA Concorde destiation was Bahrain.
Fox-Charlie is occasionally available as stop on the Airbus factory tour. It is hoped she will eventually join Concorde 201 in the new aviation museum.
USS Intrepid, New York
After having had her nose ripped off in an accident last year, the aircraft has returned to the refurbished Intrepid museum....Complete with repaired nose.
The radome fortunately was sheered off we a clean break in the fibreglass, so a very good and nearly unnoticeable repair has been accomplished.
Fox-Delta was scrapped in November 1994, after being stored for 12 years at CDG.
Very little of the aircraft structure remains, but a small 20ft section of the fuselage, around the start of the wing, is held in the reserve collection of Le Bourget Air and Space Museum.
G-BOAE is open in her new how at Grantley Adams airport in Barbados.
A regular sound and light show is the highlight of the exhibition.
Le Bourget, Paris
Sierra-Delta is now open at the Le Bourget Air and Space Museum. The aircraft has been placed in the Concorde hall next to F-WTSS.
A small team of engineers keep some of the aircraft system alive, including one of the three hydraulic systems, therefore allowing them to lower and raise the famous droop nose.
G-BOAG has become a hugely popular exhibit at the world renowned Museum of Flight in Seattle.
Recently the museum have installed a new architectural bridge from the main museum site to the aircraft park that features Concorde, the first ever Boeing 747 and a retired Air Force one aircraft.
Charles De Gaulle, Paris
The Aircraft is on display along side the taxiways at the Paris Airport
Alpha-Foxtrot has been a very popular attraction since it opened for tours in the summer of 2004.
With the legal case after the tragic death on the site now over, the focus is on to move the aircraft into a similar structure to that used at Manchester. The target for this is 2011
The famous Heathrow Conorde model was donated to Brooklands for restoration in 2007. This year will see the fully restored model go on display at the Museum as its gate guardian
|Many thanks to Markus Altmann, James Cullingham, Serge Bailleul and Annie Clark for the use of their pictures.|
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