Wednesday, September 6, 2000 Paris--As is often the case in air accidents, it is
the conflux of several events in sequence that results in a crash. In the
wake of the French Bureau Enquêtes-Accidents (BEA, Office of
Investigations-Accidents) preliminary report last week, this is apparently
the case in July's Concorde crash. Evidence is pointing to a strip of metal on the runwaythat
caused a tire blowout scattering debris enough to puncture a fuel tank
leading to engine failure. While Concorde tire blowouts occurred in the
early '80s, they were thought to have been solved by tire and procedure
changes as well as monitoring systems. While, by their nature, tires
cannot be made blowout proof under the harshest conditions, this chain
reaction needs to be examined to avoid such an occurrence any aircraft.
Solutions may include material improvements to tires or
using a material such as Kevlar to strengthen tank wing skins, engine
inlet deflectors, or shields over the tires. (The latter approach may not
be workable within geometry and weight limits.) But any technology,
materials, and procedural changes necessary must be cost effective. And on
Concorde's fleet of only a dozen or so aircraft, that will be the ultimate
arbiter of whether Concorde returns to the skies, even at premium ticket
prices. Go to http://www.bea-fr.org/francais/actualite/actuConcorde.htm
for the preliminary accident report that, although in French, contains
useful information and exclusive images of the stricken aircraft during
take off. Pages can be run through web-based translation programs from
French into English.
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