Concorde black box reveals 'catastrophic engine failures'

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The Independent Online

A catastrophic series of failures, including a fire in one engine and a loss of power in a second, brought down Concorde flight AF4590 near Paris on Tuesday, the black box flight recorders show.

A catastrophic series of failures, including a fire in one engine and a loss of power in a second, brought down Concorde flight AF4590 near Paris on Tuesday, the black box flight recorders show.

The crew also told the control tower that the landing gear had failed to retract on take-off. These may be separate faults or, possibly, metal fragments from the failed landing gear damaged the engines.

Debris has been found along its brief flight path, starting with fragments of tyres on the runway, said the French accident investigation agency, the Bureau Enquetês-Accidents.

The cause of what appeared to be the original fault - the complete failure of the No2 engine, the inner engine on the left side - remains unclear. This engine had been the subject of a quick, "non-vital" repair just before take-off.

But aeronautic experts in Paris said the preliminary black box evidence suggests the original fault may have been in the landing gear. The engines and fuel lines may have been damaged by metal shards from disintegrating wheels.

The recorders also show that the other engine on the left wing - No1 - also briefly lost power as the plane struggled to lift off the runway. A minute later, this engine lost power again. That was the moment that Concorde F-BTSC tipped on to its left side and hit the ground, with the loss of 113 lives. The cockpit voice recordings show the pilot and co-pilot reported the failure of No2 but told the control tower they were already going too fast to abort their take-off.

A second or two later they said the landing gear had jammed. The captain said he intended to try an emergency landing at Le Bourget airport, six miles away. Then came the crash. The harrowing task of removing the 113 bodies from the wreckage-covered site at Patte d'Oie, near the small suburban town of Gonesse, was completed yesterday afternoon.

The mayor, Jean-Pierre Blazy, has called on residents to march in silence this afternoon from the town hall to the road junction where the Concorde came to earth.

The state-owned French airline is to make a payment of £14,000 to the relatives of each victim, pending larger claims. Air France has also offered to pay for the funerals.

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