French failed to implement Concorde safety measure

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The Independent Online

A modification to Concorde that reduced the risk of debris from a tyre blow-out puncturing the skin of the aircraft was not implemented by Air France, the airline confirmed last night.

A modification to Concorde that reduced the risk of debris from a tyre blow-out puncturing the skin of the aircraft was not implemented by Air France, the airline confirmed last night.

The safety measure involved the strengthening of water deflectors and was recommended by a report in the mid-Nineties. It was adopted by British Airways for its supersonic fleet after a 1993 accident when a burst tyre sent metal debris into a fuel tank. One theory for the Concorde crash in Paris last week, which killed 113 people, is that a fuel tank caught fire when it was punctured after a tyre exploded.

BA took action to modify water deflectors, used to reduce spray from wet tyres on runways, after one broke up and ruptured an underwing fuel tank when a tyre burst on one of its Concordes in 1993. The change stopped the deflector coming away from the aircraft if a tyre burst.

The French Accident Investigation Bureau confirmed yesterday that debris from water deflectors on flight AF4590, which crashed on 25 July, had been found on the runway at Charles de Gaulle airport.

Air France said that under French civil aviation rules it had not been obliged to introduce the modification, which it said would not stop the deflectors coming away from the undercarriage.

A BA spokeswoman said the safety modification was made in 1995, after an inquiry revealed that one had broken up and ruptured fuel tanks in the 1993 incident. She appeared to contradict Air France's statement, saying the alteration, devised by a French firm, meant that even if the deflector shattered, a cable kept it attached to the main arm of the undercarriage.

"The cable holds the deflector together," she said, adding that since 1995, the fibreglass deflector had never broken off.

BA has continued its Concorde flights after the disaster, saying there is no safety risk. Air France has grounded its fleet and yesterday the French Transport Minister, Jean-Claude Gayssot, said that new safety measures must be put in place before flights could resume.

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