Failed engine 'repaired' minutes before take-off

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The Independent Online

The Air France Concorde plane that crashed and killed 113 people during takeoff had been delayed for last-minute maintenance on the jet engine which caught fire and ultimately caused the plane to crash.

The Air France Concorde plane that crashed and killed 113 people during takeoff had been delayed for last-minute maintenance on the jet engine which caught fire and ultimately caused the plane to crash.

Air France revealed that the captain of the Concorde returning from New York to Paris earlier in the day had reported the number two engine reverse thrusters were not operational.

The thrusters are used to slow the plane on landing. A spare part was not immediately available, although "given the technical tolerance authorised by the manufacturer, the aircraft could take off again without being repaired," said Air France.

It added: "The information was presented to the captain of AF 4590. He made the decision to have the spare part changed. The part was immediately obtained from another spare Concorde and it took 30 minutes to make the necessary repairs."

French Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot ordered the entire fleet of Air France Concordes to be indefinitely grounded while the precise cause of the tragedy is ascertained.

French forensic experts examined the charred bodies of the victims, mainly German tourists, to determine their identities, as relatives began arriving in Paris.

Gayssot said he wanted more checks, with special emphasis on the recovered flight recorders. "When we know a sufficient amount about them, and when we're in touch with our British colleagues, we will be able to consider the decision to resume (Concorde flights)."

If the flight recorders did not contain enough information, Gaysott said, "I cannot exclude the possibility of asking for a new certification of the Concorde engines."

He said French authorities did not want "to take any risks."

However, he said the future of the supersonic jet was "not in question." At least one of the engines of flight AF4590 caught fire during takeoff Tuesday and smashed into a hotel moments later.

Air France spokesman Francois Brousse told an airport news conference Wednesday that flight AF4590 was delayed for several minutes before takeoff while work was carried out on an engine.

Brousse did not say whether the engine involved was one that caught fire or whether the problem may have been related to the crash.

Brousse did say the work was done at the request of the crew.

"Our safety rules are such that if our crew has any hint of a problem, then this kind of intervention is automatic," Brousse said.

"The Concorde without a doubt died yesterday. It had just turned 31. For France, it's a day of mourning. The myth of a beautiful white bird will remain," the daily Le Figaro wrote.

Until Tuesday's crash, the Concorde had a perfect safety record during 31 years of service since it was developed by Britain and France in the 1960s. The crash was a blow to French pride.

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