Third crew member may hold key

The Flightdeck
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The Independent Online

The actions of the flight engineer on board the AF4590 will be crucial in piecing together the final moments in the cockpit before the Concorde crashed.

The actions of the flight engineer on board the AF4590 will be crucial in piecing together the final moments in the cockpit before the Concorde crashed.

Concorde is one of the few commercial aircraft that needs a third member of the flight crew as well as the pilot and co-pilot. It is the engineer's job to monitor the four engines during take-off.

A retired aviation engineer who worked on British Concordes said the engineer's unusual role was down to the aircraft's complexity. "The pilot doesn't even see all the dials so the flight engineer would have had to tell the captain," he said. "He should have been the first to know of any problem with the engine. The investigators will be looking closely at his actions during take-off."

British Airways pilots said yesterday it should have been possible to land the plane despite the engine failure and expressed surprise that the crew did not raise the undercarriage to make it more controllable. One pilot said: "We can't understand why they didn't get the gear up. Maybe they were distracted or there was a major problem other than the flaming engine.

"I have spoken to some of our Concorde pilots and they believe they might have been able to save the plane if the flaming engine was the only fault. But the undercarriage would have to have been raised," he said.

However aviation expert Kieran Daly, editor of the internet news service Air Transport Intelligence, said it was impossible to say if the crew could have done more. "If there was catastrophic damage to an engine that was so rapid and enormous, then the aircraft could not be saved," he said.

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