Scrap of metal on runway 'caused Concorde crash'

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The Independent Online

A stray piece of metal on a runway probably caused 113 deaths by slashing a tyre on the Concorde which crashed moments after take-off last month, France's Accident Investigation Bureau (BEA) said yesterday.

A stray piece of metal on a runway probably caused 113 deaths by slashing a tyre on the Concorde which crashed moments after take-off last month, France's Accident Investigation Bureau (BEA) said yesterday.

The finding could mean that Air France's six-strong Concorde fleet, grounded on the orders of the French Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot since the accident on 25 July, will soon be able to fly again. Mr Gayssot will meet his aides today for a special meeting on the crash, as he previously said flights could not restart until experts knew what chain of events caused the accident.

A BEA statement said that the 16-inch metal strip, later found at the side of the runway at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport, fitted the shape of a cut in one of the tyres and "it is probable that this piece [of metal] caused the cut". However, they did not know where the strip had come from.

"According to a process which has yet to be determined, one or several fuel tanks on the left wing were very rapidly damaged, causing a major fuel leak and the fire," the BEA said.

The likely chain of events is that as the supersonic airliner accelerated at 150mph along the runway, the tyre burst and threw pieces of rubber weighing as much as nine pounds upwards with enough force to rupture one or more fuel tanks.

The BEA statement follows intensive investigation since the crash, the first one to involve a Concorde in almost 30 years of flight.

The left wing of the Air France aircraft, carrying German holidaymakers to New York, was ablaze as it took off, leaving the pilots unable to control it. Seconds after leaving the runway it crashed on a hotel, killing all 109 people on board and four on the ground. Initial theories about the cause focused on work done by mechanics before take-off, in which a faulty thrust reverser - used to slow the aircraft down on landing - had been replaced on an engine on the left wing.

Now the investigation has apparently shown that there was no inherent fault in the Concorde or its tyres.

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