Air France crew 'had premonition'

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The Independent Online

An atmosphere of anxiety, or "morbid expectation of an accident," had gripped the small, élite team of Air France Concorde crew before Tuesday's disaster in Paris, according to one pilot.

An atmosphere of anxiety, or "morbid expectation of an accident," had gripped the small, élite team of Air France Concorde crew before Tuesday's disaster in Paris, according to one pilot.

Speaking anonymously to Le Parisien newspaper, he said there had been feeling among the 36-strong team of pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers that some kind of crash was due.

"I had this sense that we were going to bump into the scenery," he said. "The atmosphere on the Concorde team for the last few months - one has to have the guts to admit it - has been one of morbid expectation of an accident."

Until the causes of Tuesday's crash are known, the mood among the Concorde team would remain edgy, he said. The group had come to regard themselves almost like astronauts, but their esprit de corps may never recover.

"Concord is more than just an aircraft. It is almost a rocket. Up there, you are between the Moon and the Earth. You can see the curvature of the planet. You are already in space."

Concorde cruises at 55,000ft, compared to a Boeing 747 at 40,000ft. Operating at these altitudes and at supersonic speeds, he said, the pressures on the crew are much greater than on other aircraft. "Each crossing of the Atlantic is an experiment, as if it might be the first... You can never be sure you're going to get to the other side. We sometimes have to make an unscheduled landing on the way."

The pilot said that the Concorde team in Air France - 12 pilots, 12 co-pilots and 12 engineers for the fleet of six aircraft - had always been a "little sect" within the airline. Only the most experienced and capable crew were invited to join.

There had always been an atmosphere of camaraderie, but also one of great confidence. "On this aircraft you can't be scared, because you have to be ready for anything ... Concorde doesn't give you a second chance." Nonetheless, he said, in recent months "it was as if I was waiting for something to happen".

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