Concorde crashes near Paris.
July 25, 2000 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Concorde crashes near Paris. Oh, no. Not again...
posted by iceberg273 (19 comments total)
The French News Channel LCI has live video feed. (In French, of course).
posted by iceberg273 at 8:54 AM on July 25, 2000

MSNBC live video feed.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't there reports of cracked wings in the Concorde this week? Apparently it was an engine problem though.
posted by perplexed at 10:24 AM on July 25, 2000

Hang on there, Iceberg! As a commerical airline junkie from way back (Dad travelled alot, I spent many long hours in airports waiting for him as a kid and can still tell name dozens of airlines on sight), I have a special fondness for the Concorde. There's no "again" - this is the first time any of the 13 Concordes has crashed. There've been problems in the past, particularly with the extending nose, but never a crash nor loss of life.
posted by m.polo at 11:30 AM on July 25, 2000

Actually, I believe Perplexed might be thinking about the Russian SST which crashed during a Paris air show many years ago.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 11:52 AM on July 25, 2000

I just posted something about this on my site - I'll post it here again -

"I can hardly believe that a Concorde crashed. I flew on an Air France Concorde, on that same route (Paris-New York) back in 1993. I remember being very excited about it - not many 15 year old kids get to fly Concorde - I was and am an aviation nut - I even did preliminary training as a pilot. I'm sure many people are going to start saying that the Concorde is old and dangerous, and should be grounded permanantly, but I don't think this should happen. Yeah, so the plane is getting old now, has been flying for 31 years, but it's had a perfect safety record up until now. What I do think should be looked at are the Rolls-Royce engines - one of them failed on the left wing, took out the other on the same wing, and the aircraft probably became unbalanced. My take is that the pilot tried to perform a turn, to fly back to the runway and crash-land, but the plane stalled and crashed. It's a miracle that so few people on the ground were killed. Those things carry a lot of fuel, especially just after take off. It's even more miraclous that someone survived the crash, if present eyewitness reports can be believed. My condolences to all involved."
posted by tomcosgrave at 12:03 PM on July 25, 2000

Nope, I was right. Two days ago there was a report of cracks in the wings of British Concordes and one was grounded.

Of course, they're saying this looks like an engine problem, but still...
posted by perplexed at 12:24 PM on July 25, 2000

My prediction: Rolls-Royce will be receiving a phone call ordering 52 new Olympus engines before tomorrow.

CNN chuckle:

> Live audio: CNN coverage Real or Windows

Guess they have it right.
posted by baylink at 12:58 PM on July 25, 2000

Sorry for the ambiguity, m.polo. I was referring to the TU-144 crash at a Paris airshow in 1973. Interstingly enough, it sounds like Russian supersonic transport is being resurrected.
posted by iceberg273 at 1:34 PM on July 25, 2000

I may very well be the only aerospace engineer on MeFi, so I guess I *have* to butt in: the Concorde is an exceptional aircraft. Comparing it to a mere airliner is tantamount to comparing a Toyota Camry to a Ferrari 456.

The Concorde is a mighty expensive aircraft to operate and maintain. It barely breaks even --and I actually doubt that it does. The only reason that the Anglo-French consortium and then BA and Air France stuck with it (whereas the US, with the Boeing SST and the Soviets with the Tu-144 didnot) was national PRIDE. Because of that pride, it was extremely well maintained; this accident is just statistics catching up: 30 years of untarnished operation, even for ~15 (12 now) airliners is too long.

Now, for some technical tidbits: get real: the Olympus engines are very short-lived --I am sure the engines this bird was flying were like its 15th or 20th set. The Olympuses are *fighter* engines, straight from some UK bomber whose name escapes me. Thus, their shelf life is much shorter than an airliner's. This aint a car folks; planes get stripped down and re-build every few years, and I am sure the Concorde had an even shorter overhaul cycle. Secondly, it was found that the Concorde's unique flight characteristics (high temperature at cruise, followed by cooling before landing) was effectively annealing the skin and frame metal, prolonging its useful life. That was one of the reasons that they extended its operational life to 2007.

My educated half-assed guess: big wings at take off at a high angle of attack, probably means some serious ass vibration: a fuel line to the engines or a portion of the wet-wing cracked setting fire to an engine cowling --2 engines per cowling. The plane lost 50% of its power at the worst possible time and the pilot lost control.
posted by costas at 1:42 PM on July 25, 2000

13 Concordes mentioned above?

20 have been built... (actually the bits for 22 were made, but the final two were never constructed; the parts were used for servicing the ones which were built).

2 Prototypes: 1 British, 1 French
2 Pre-production Concordes: 1 British, 1 French
16 Production Concordes in use

All this data provided only last week when I attended lectures by the very informative airline enthusiast Frank McKim (who has written a couple of books on the story of Concorde). A tradgedy has befallen a once immensely successful means of transport.

Of course, British Airways has cancelled Concorde journeys in the very near future but I think it won't cause the whole fleet to be grounded.
posted by williamtry at 2:57 PM on July 25, 2000

How long is that trip supposed to take, anyway? Not the one that crashed. I guess what I'm looking for here is the Concorde air speed.
posted by internook at 3:08 PM on July 25, 2000

CNN mentioned two days ago that there were 13 Concordes operational --thus, my 12 number. I think the distribution is now 7 BA, 5 Air France. Some of the production craft have been retired, as fixing some of their really complicated structures (the variable-thickness wing, for example) is not economical.

Internook: the Concorde's cruise speed if memory serves is 2.04-2.06 Mach (i.e. avg 2,510 kph or 1560 mph). I think it can go as fast as 2.1-2.2 Mach if need be. Cool trivia: there are Machometers (LCD readouts with the current speed in Mach) throughout the cabin.

posted by costas at 3:22 PM on July 25, 2000

Three and a half hours to fly Paris NY. When I flew it got done in 2hrs 45, because we had a good tailwind.
That's about the best thing of the Concorde - it's pretty boring otherwise, except for the sky going a darker shade of purple.
posted by tomcosgrave at 3:25 PM on July 25, 2000

This is the most amazing still photo I've seen since that PSA 727 crash in the late 70's.
posted by Mr. skullhead at 4:10 PM on July 25, 2000

BTW, there is some evidence that the TU-144 crash was caused by a shadowing Mirage recon plane taking pictures and not due to any flaw in the actual design (Nova on PBS did a whole program on it a couple of years ago).
posted by Mr. skullhead at 4:14 PM on July 25, 2000

Yes, expensive supersonic jets can crash & rich people do die.
posted by aflakete at 6:41 PM on July 25, 2000

I just think it's cool that I can now see MSNBC full screen on my computer and I don't even have cable anymore.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:28 PM on July 25, 2000

I'm in Paris and I'd just like to say, besides that streaming LCI footage which was hard to make out at first and then disappeared after the server got hammered, all of the French news sites were at least an hour behind their American counterparts with this story. You'd think, being one of the major news distribution centers of the world, they'd have done better.

This doesn't surprise me, of course. Some of the French news sites update only once or twice a day, and some of them don't do their first update until well after 9 a.m.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:38 AM on July 26, 2000

skullhead: here's that PSA 727 photo -- very apt, good memory.

It's very ironic this happened one day after the announcement about the microscopic cracks, but I don't think they are related.
posted by dhartung at 11:55 AM on July 26, 2000

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