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French Concorde crash

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French Concorde crash

Old 8th Dec 2010, 21:21
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Since the "eyewitnesses" of "fire before the aircraft had hit the metal strip" have been dragged in yet again....

Could all of you ask yourselves a few basic questions?

How fast was the aircraft moving?
Close to 100m/sec.
So this hypothetical fire would have started only a few seconds before the aircraft hit the metal strip, causing the tyre burst and a major fuel leak.

One...
With eyewitness perception as it is, how on earth would any of them be able to assert that "the aircraft was on fire" before it hit the metal strip, especially since none of them could have known at the time when that happened.
We all know how easily eyewitnesses' memory is distorted by subsequent knowledge about the event, and subsequent efforts at "recall" about "exactly" what they saw.
Even only hours afterwards, could any of them have pointed to within a few hundred metres to the exact location where they first saw the fire?
Of course not, especially after (to them) such a dramatic event.

Two....
The locations of the first kerosene (from the leak) and soot (from the fire) marks on the runway, the fragments of the tyre, and the metal strip itself, all coincide more or less (read the report).
There are no physical indications of anything significant before that, neither are there any indications on the FDR.
The mere suggestion that a pre-existing fire would have left NO traces is faintly ridiculous.

Three....
The "theory", that a hypothetical fire started a few seconds before all the conditions were reunited for a real fire to occur (tyre burst, major fuel leak, potential ignition sources) is really pushing probability a bit too far.

CJ
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Old 8th Dec 2010, 22:28
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We may be onto something as it appears there is concerted effort by some individuals to discount this testimony well before it has a chance to be publicly read and understood.

Oh please read the transcripts of the trial.
I wish I could JC. I am native English speaker and fluent in German. My French is lacking.

Anyone care to share the salient points in testimony where first responders (airfield firemen) and a head of state aircraft captain see fire coming from the Air France Concorde well before the metal strip became an issue?

Many thanks in advance.
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Old 8th Dec 2010, 23:02
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vapilot2004

I haven't read the transcripts but I've read the report. As I said here, it says on P77 that "The primary and secondary nozzles showed no signs of overheat on any of the engines"; on page 122 "It should, however, be noted that no traces of fire were discovered during the examination of the engines" and on page 134 "The observations and examinations carried out on the four engines brought to light no malfunction of any of their basic equipment or components, or any indication of any behaviour outside of the certificated norms. None of them showed any signs of overheat or overspeed prior to the impact with the ground."

So there is no physical evidence of engine fire. If not engines, what else might have caught fire? The wheels? If so, where is the evidence on the runway? The report says that there is none until after the first kerosene spillage, which is coterminous with the positions of the strip and tyre fragments.

So what might have been on fire?

Anyone care to share the salient points in testimony where first responders (airfield firemen) and a head of state aircraft captain see fire coming from the Air France Concorde well before the metal strip became an issue?
As ChristiaanJ says:

With eyewitness perception as it is, how on earth would any of them be able to assert that "the aircraft was on fire" before it hit the metal strip, especially since none of them could have known at the time when that happened.
And I'll add, that the strip was there to hit in the first place.

Extremely improbable events occur, so I'm not going to rule out a preexisting fire simply on the grounds of probability. But where is the physical evidence for it, unless it was entirely destroyed in the crash?
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Old 8th Dec 2010, 23:08
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vapilot2004:

Sorry to jump in, but that wasn't JC, that was Wings Folded, and I think he's actually arguing the same point you are - i.e. there is *no* eyewitness testimony on the legal record stating that the aircraft was on fire before it hit the strip. The only source for that claim was the tabloid press.
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Old 8th Dec 2010, 23:16
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Thanks for the information Ducks.

DW, thanks for the jump in. Apologies not needed. Are you telling me that according to the court transcript, the Chirac pilot and airport firemen gave absolutely no testimony?

Also could you or anyone else verify that both the pilot and the alleged other witnesses were not on the court docket as witnesses? The reason I ask is witnesses are sometimes called, but for various reasons, their testimony is sometimes stricken from the official record by the presiding judge.
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Old 8th Dec 2010, 23:28
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KBPsen
Am not an expert on French law, but in the UK it's normal to only allow an appeal to proceed for either an unlawful decision or if a point of material fact was withheld from the original hearing.

To be in a position to suggest either would require a detailed study of the courts findings and the conduct of the hearing. This in my view is very difficult for any of us posting here to have a view on. Unfortunatly there is a tendency here for those who disagree with the outcome to imply that the result was a foregone conclussion; and for a few to go further in there allegations.

I have no problem in people providing different technical viewpoints. What I have difficulty with is when they then assume that their different viewpoint is in itself evidence of a corrupt trial.

Regards
Nick
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Old 9th Dec 2010, 00:16
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Originally Posted by vapilot2004
Are you telling me that according to the court transcript, the Chirac pilot and airport firemen gave absolutely no testimony?
Certainly not as far as I'm aware, having done some cursory digging. It's repeated endlessly in press articles and blog posts though, because it makes for good copy. Variations on the story include F-BTSC passing within 7m, 70m or 7 yards(!) of the alleged Chirac 747, the alleged 747 itself either on the runway and exiting, at a holding point or *actually crossing the runway across F-BTSC's path*. Some even have Chirac himself "looking on in horror" as the flaming Concorde passed by.

Now you'd think that if any of this were true, Chirac would at least have said something in public by now - or the 747 pax and crew would have been called as witnesses.

This lack of confirmation - combined with so many variations in the telling - suggests to me that the whole story is complete hogwash.

As an aside, while French officials did and do sometimes travel on AF charters, the usual mode of travel in Chirac's day was a government-owned A310.
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Old 9th Dec 2010, 00:24
  #208 (permalink)  
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Consequences of aborted takeoff

Originally Posted by Ex Cargo Clown
If you can't control the aircraft with an engine failure, then you might want to consider that there is a serious failure, and you may not get airborne for very long. Even after V1 it's better to stick it somewhere than take off into the unknown.

Remember the 748 at STN years ago, landing back on.

This is pilot error, pure and simple, not CO's fault.
BEA final accident report, english version, page 166:

Note: the simulation described in paragraph 1.16.13.4 showed that an aborted takeoff would have led to a high-speed runway excursion. Under these conditions, the landing gear would have collapsed and with the fire that was raging under the left wing, the aircraft would probably have burst into flames immediately.
1.16.13.4 describes simulation in detail, with various hypotheses and residual speeds at end of runway: "These figures show that an aborted takeoff would have led to a runway excursion at such a speed that, taking into account the fire, the result would probably have been catastrophic for the aircraft and its occupants."
 
Old 9th Dec 2010, 01:07
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Cool

Hi,

DW, thanks for the jump in. Apologies not needed. Are you telling me that according to the court transcript, the Chirac pilot and airport firemen gave absolutely no testimony?
As I remember from my reading ....
After the intervention of the Continental lawers (about fire before the lost piece) and a explaination based on the witnesses reports (Continental made a 3D movie presentation for that) the judge asked to the BEA what about ....
Chirac would at least have said something in public by now - or the 747 pax and crew would have been called as witnesses.
The BEA (by the voice of Mr Arslanian) tell at the trial that they received the testimonies (pilots and firemen and also tower personnal of course) but they discarded them.
So .. as they were discarded .. the witnesses don't appeared for testimony at the trial.
Those testimonies were also recorded by the "Gendarmerie Nationale" of course.
Apparently the judge (was a woman) don't used her power (if she want she can call any people during the trial) to ear the witnesses.

Last edited by jcjeant; 9th Dec 2010 at 01:33.
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Old 9th Dec 2010, 02:05
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There seems to be a general misunderstanding amongst many of the above posters, as to what a court considers.
A court is appointed to consider and sift evidence. The quality of evidence is rated within courts systems.
Verbal evidence is the lowest level. Verbal evidence with correlation is rated a little higher. Witness statements, in writing, rate slightly higher.
Hard evidence, in the form of physical items that show proof of the events being considered, rate very highly.

Courts are convened to sift evidence for truth. Evidence that doesn't meet court truth standards is ignored.
Never forget that old, very truthful comment... "One has only to listen to the descriptions from the witnesses of a traffic crash, to start to become concerned about the record of written history".

This court sat for a long time and considered much evidence. The aim of the court was to establish the factors and causes of the crash. Their decision is largely correct.
What is galling many is that the court appeared to need to enlarge its list of witnesses to include many that weren't interviewed.
This is a factor in many court cases, and is not one easily resolved. The court has an aim when a case commences, and many witnesses deemed not directly crucial to the courts aim, are excluded.

Witness statements that they thought they saw fire prior to the Concorde hitting the titanium strip, are not backed up by the hard proof of where fire evidence was found.

The bottom line is, that despite this event, "having never happened before in 105 years of aviation"... the Concorde was a machine that from the very beginning, was testing the limits of aviation design and materials.
As such... and with the large number of burst tyre events that preceded this disaster... it is quite obvious, that much more emphasis should have been placed on tyre burst danger prevention... particularly by AF, and particularly by the aviation safety authorities.

The simple fact that there was a divergence in safety improvement ideas, between AF and BA, to reduce tyre burst damage... is indicative that there was greater concern... and understandably correct concern, inside BA... that the tyre burst problem, was one that held a substantially greater danger for Concorde, than for any other type of aircraft.
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Old 9th Dec 2010, 05:08
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Thanks DW, JC and others.

I understand how eyewitness reports often vary and can be unreliable. The 'caliber' aka technical background of the witnesses however is often used to apportion weight to their words. A policeman or fireman will be given deference to say a carpenter or baker when it comes to matters of crime or fire. On the other hand, the baker would be the best man to ascertain just how high the dough has risen.

So again, I am left to wonder if the Chirac pilot or the alleged airport firemen were called to the witness stand at all and more importantly, were they on Continental's witness list?
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Old 9th Dec 2010, 08:22
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DozyWannabe

Variations on the story include F-BTSC passing within 7m, 70m or 7 yards(!) of the alleged Chirac 747, the alleged 747 itself either on the runway and exiting, at a holding point or *actually crossing the runway across F-BTSC's path*.
The pictures on page 92 of the BEA report were evidently shot from an aircraft on one of the S taxiways; going by the map on page 39 and looking at the perspective, probably S2. So there was an aircraft holding there that Concorde swung towards, whether or not Chirac was on board.
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Old 9th Dec 2010, 09:43
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This court sat for a long time and considered much evidence. The aim of the court was to establish the factors and causes of the crash. Their decision is largely correct.
What is galling many is that the court appeared to need to enlarge its list of witnesses to include many that weren't interviewed.
This is a factor in many court cases, and is not one easily resolved. The court has an aim when a case commences, and many witnesses deemed not directly crucial to the courts aim, are excluded.

Witness statements that they thought they saw fire prior to the Concorde hitting the titanium strip, are not backed up by the hard proof of where fire evidence was found.

The bottom line is, that despite this event, "having never happened before in 105 years of aviation"... the Concorde was a machine that from the very beginning, was testing the limits of aviation design and materials.
As such... and with the large number of burst tyre events that preceded this disaster... it is quite obvious, that much more emphasis should have been placed on tyre burst danger prevention... particularly by AF, and particularly by the aviation safety authorities.
Good summation onetrack. Though, not so much as the witnesses excluded, but the questions raised by the court findings over the circumstances are significant, not in terms of the tinfoil hat & conspiracy brigade, but on an operational level within the industry.
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Old 9th Dec 2010, 10:17
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This is a factor in many court cases, and is not one easily resolved. The court has an aim when a case commences, and many witnesses deemed not directly crucial to the courts aim, are excluded.

Witness statements that they thought they saw fire prior to the Concorde hitting the titanium strip, are not backed up by the hard proof of where fire evidence was found.
I can't tell from the maps where the fire services were located. However, looking at the photographs on page 92 of the BEA report, the photographer was looking almost straight down the runway. The angle of view and runway heading diverge by only a few degrees. Consequently the Concorde would only have had very slow R-L movement across the photographer's field of view. The crew, probably further ahead, would have been at an even more acute angle.

I doubt that it would have been possible to make an accurate assessment of where on the runway events happened from such an acute viewpoint.

Therefore, witnesses in that holding aircraft could certainly confirm and describe the fire, but probably not add much to the evidence in the photographs.
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Old 9th Dec 2010, 10:46
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jcjeant,
Apparently the judge (was a woman) don't used her power (if she want she can call any people during the trial) to ear the witnesses.
Exactly what is the relevance of your helpful observation "was a woman"?
Do you believe that she should have been at home preparing her husband's dinner?
You are furthermore wrong.
There was not one judge, but three, presided by a female judge.
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Old 9th Dec 2010, 12:05
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Nick, Continental have already publicly stated that they will appeal the verdict. I doubt they would do so unless they knew they had the option. The feeling I get from various interviews in the media, is that there is a belief that the ruling will likely be overturned on appeal.
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Old 9th Dec 2010, 12:05
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Originally Posted by Iron Duck
So there is no physical evidence of engine fire. If not engines, what else might have caught fire? The wheels? If so, where is the evidence on the runway? The report says that there is none until after the first kerosene spillage, which is coterminous with the positions of the strip and tyre fragments.

So what might have been on fire?
Well, what we know - with the benefit of the forensic report and hindsight - is that the engines were not substantially damaged by fire. However from the CVR we know that the location of the fire *did* trigger the Engine Fire Master Warning, and a significant drop in thrust was simultaneously noticed by the F/E. As far as he was concerned, all signs pointed to an engine fire, and the tower warning that they were trailing flames indicated a very serious one.

About a second beforehand the aircraft was losing acceleration, possibly due to the tyre burst, and veering to the left in such a manner that full right rudder was unable to compensate - this justifies the Captain's decision to get airborne just prior to runway excursion. Then came the engine failure warning from the F/E, followed in quick succession by the engine fire warning and all of a sudden it could be argued that the decision doesn't look so sound. However, only the pilots could see what was directly in their path and it's very unlikely that the taxiways they would have crossed on the excursion were empty at the time (in fact the photographic evidence proves that they weren't).

The tragic irony in this case is that it might have been possible to get to Le Bourget's boundary if the engine fire warning had been ignored - but to do so would have gone against every aviator's training, not to mention instinct. At the same time the Master Warning console would have been lit up like a Christmas tree, and I suspect the noise from the audible warnings would have been horrendous.

This happened in the space of a few seconds, and every action taken by the crew looks justified if you take into account the order in which events occurred and the split-second decision making that took place - to say nothing of the shock of having a routine flight go so badly wrong so suddenly.

Regarding the "alternative" theories, I have a deep respect for John Hutchinson - he was a hero of mine ever since I saw the BBC Concorde Special in the late '80s as a boy. However I think his passion and love for the aircraft he flew have taken him off-piste on this occasion.
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Old 9th Dec 2010, 12:40
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KBPSen

Nick, Continental have already publicly stated that they will appeal the verdict. I doubt they would do so unless they knew they had the option. The feeling I get from various interviews in the media, is that there is a belief that the ruling will likely be overturned on appeal.
I have spent much of my life in legal wrangles of this sort.

I have yet to encounter a lawyer who does not immediately talk of appeal when his party lost.

Maitre Metzner is a highly experienced lawyer at the French bar.

He will know whether there are grounds or not for an appeal.

In most jurisdictions you cannot appeal a verdict merely because you do not like it.

There have to be solid reasons, such as procedural irregularities for an appeal to go forward.

Maitre Metzner as Continentals' lawyer was free to call as witness anybody with relevant knowledge. He did not call Jacques Chirac, nor the supposed pilot of his 747.

One has to presume that his calling of witnesses was designed to give the best possible face to his client's case.

He and Continental went to a considerable length in constructing a 3D replay of the accident, according to their version.

It was not found to be conclusive by the court.

Courts exist for that very purpose.
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Old 9th Dec 2010, 12:44
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So the short answer is that you don't know.
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Old 9th Dec 2010, 12:53
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So the short answer is that you don't know.
Correct.
I did not hear all the evidence. I trust those who did.
Did you attend at the trial? Were your findings different? Were there questions you were burning to put to the witnesses, but could not because you had no authority so to do?
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