Engineering Disasters: Concorde Crash

Air France Concord Fireball
Huge fireball erupting from wing of Concord during takeoff

On the morning of July 25th, 2000, there was an Air France Concorde crash moments after takeoff from near Paris based International Airport, Charles de Gaulle, killing 113 people. During takeoff, suddenly a tire was cut by a piece of metal strip debris that was lying on the way, and a large chunk of the ruptured tire struck the underneath of the wing caused a series of actions that ended with the crash.

Understanding the Concorde crash

Only five minutes earlier, a Continental flight headed to Newark took off from the same runway, lost a titanium alloy strip. Normal protocol for a Concorde flight includes a full runway examination just before takeoff, this was considered unnecessary at that time. The consequences of that was a piece of this debris ruptured a left tire, which only a few second later disintegrated. A piece of the tire struck the wing, where fuel tank #5 was located.

Leaking fuel gushing out from the bottom of the wing and was most likely ignited by an electric arc in the landing gear bay or through contact with hot parts of the engine. Two engines lost all power, and with only 2 km (1.2 mi) of runway remaining and already travelling at a speed of 328 km/h (204 mph), the only option was to take off.

The Concorde would have needed at least 3 km (1.9 mi) of runway to safely abort the takeoff. The crew continued with the takeoff, but the plane could not gain enough airspeed with the three remaining engines, and with falling airspeed they lost control and the aircraft stalled and the Concorde crashed into the Hôtelissimo Les Relais Bleus Hotel near the airport.

Future risk mitigation

Air Frace concorde crash
Aftermath of Concorde crash

The accident led to modifications being made to Concorde, including more secure electrical controls, Kevlar lining to the fuel tanks, and specially developed, burst-resistant tires.

The design of the airplane that was once considered among the safest planes in whole world, however the disaster, coupled with the drop in passengers caused by 9/11 attacks, marked the end of the supersonic airliner and the Concorde eventually retired 3 years later.



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