How 'plane in flames' picture was taken

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The Independent Online

The man who took the picture of the Air France Concorde showing a plume of flame bursting from one engine in the seconds before it crashed was not a seasoned professional photographer but a self-confessed aviation "freak" from Hungary.

The man who took the picture of the Air France Concorde showing a plume of flame bursting from one engine in the seconds before it crashed was not a seasoned professional photographer but a self-confessed aviation "freak" from Hungary.

Most holidaymakers in Paris stroll along the Champs-Elysée, soak up the culture in the Louvre, or have their picture taken at the Eiffel Tower, but Andras Kisgergely, a 20-year-old student, could not stay away from the rather less glamorous and arguably less picturesque Charles De Gaulle airport to indulge his passion.

But when flight AF4590 took to the skies he was in a position many press photographers would envy. Mr Kisgergely's picture was passed to the Reuters news agency and splashed across the front pages of hundreds of newspapers around the world. The picture is likely to become one of the most instantly recognisable images of our time.

But it is unlikely to make the photographer rich. Media sources say he was paid a modest "flat rate" fee of £300 by Reuters, and all newspapers that subscribe to its photographic service were able to use the image free.

Mr Kisgergely, who cannot afford air travel, was on holiday with a fellow student and air enthusiast, 22-year-old Szabolcs Szalmasi.

The two young men spend three weeks every year sleeping in their car for the pleasure of seeing and photographing planes at foreign airports. Now they have earned a place in aviation history.

"I suppose the Eiffel Tower is nice but we were more interested in the airport," Mr Szalmasi said. "Some people collect stamps or coins. We collect pictures of airplanes."

The two friends study engineering at the Hungarian Technical University in Budapest and have collected thousands of pictures.

Planes became Mr Szalmasi's passion when he was 12 and living next to an airport. Mr Kisgergely caught the bug more recently and the two reckon they have visited as many as 150 airports through Europe.

This was not the first time Mr Kisgergely had seen a plane crash. Last year he was on the scene when a Hawk 100 military aircraft crashed after failing to execute a loop at at an airshow in Bratislava.

"Wherever he goes there is a crash," Mr Szalmasi said of his friend. "I would not fly with him."

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