The Concorde blame game

C’mon. Help me with this:

  1. The authorities at CDG don’t check the runway for debris.

  2. Air France, unlike BA, doesn’t bother to put the “mud flaps” on its Concordes.

  3. The pilot turns off two engines while trying to take off.

  4. The Air France Concorde crashes killing all on board and some innocent bystanders on the ground.

So they are going to try to make US insurers pay for this disaster because a piece of metal found on the runway may belong to Continental, that piece of metal may have been hit by one of the many tires on the Concorde and that tire may be the one that blew up throwing rubber shrapnel into the wing, causing it to leak fuel which was ignited by the engine before the pilot turned the engines off?

Am I the only one that finds this troubling?

By-the-way, the reason BA put mud flaps on their Concordes was because a tire blew up, breaking the wing fuel cells which were set afire by the engines. That pilot turned the plane around and landed safely, but then, he didn’t turn the engines off.

Airlines are legally responsible for any parts that drop off their aircraft.
That said:
This is called “follow the money.” There is a lot of blame to go around. One of the potential things to blame has now surfaced as a large U.S. airline that is fully insured.
Note that Continental is a “potental” thing to blame. There is no proof of liability at this time.
You will be reading about these goings on for a long time.

Generally, this isn’t done. When you have a jet taking off every 30 seconds, there’s no way to get out there. Airport authorities will check out any hazard that’s reported though.

The military does “FOD walks”, where crewmen walk the length of the runway (deck) to look for objects that may damage an engine.

Actually, this isn’t entirely true. Civilian runway inspections are pretty common. I took the following quotes from this site.

So, civilian airports do routinely check runways for debries. But, as JohnnyLA points out, not necessarily as much as the military. And, even if they had checked the runway, it would probaly have been ineffective in spotting this piece of metal. It was pretty inevitable.

I think you would agree that it’s operationally impossible to check after each and every take-off. It would simply take too long.

Given the above, the CDG did just about all they could have done to avoid this accident.

You have a better idea? There’s flames shooting out of the engines on that side, I think they did all they could given what they knew at that time.

Absolutely- If it was Continental’s fault, and they were found negligent in not securing that piece from falling off in the first place, then who else would you want to blame?

How about Firestone :smiley:

Ok, yeah that was too easy

I knew I was going to get called on my statement, as I was posting it. As CnoteChris points out, there are runway inspections. What I was trying to say (remember, I posted this w/o the benefit of caffeine!) was that there has to be a balance between runway inspections and air traffic. Ideally, the runway would be checked and/or sweeped after every take-off in order to decrease the chance of something damaging an aircraft; but this is obviously impractical. There are periodic checks, and if a hazard is reported, that will be checked out. One thing to remember is that most FOD doesn’t result in catastrophes like Concord. FOD may damage an engine, but the aircraft is almost always able to return for a safe landing. In a more extreme case, an engine fell off of a plane leaving LAX a couple of weeks ago. (I heard a report yesterday that the FOD was organic – specifically, a seagull.) The aircraft made a safe landing.

If most aircraft can survive FOD and the Concord burst into flames, does that mean that there’s a design flaw in Concord? Not necessarily. It would’ve been a “one-in-a-million” occurance.

Since someone’s bound to ask, FOD means “foreign object damage” among aviation folks. Curiously, among computer folks it means “finger of death”, which boils down to pretty much the same thing.

Even if the Concorde crash was one-in-a-million, is that good enough these days? A OIAM flaw in the 737 would bring down more than 3 planes a year (more than 2,000 were made, flying 4 trips per day). There were only a dozen Concordes (give or take), so a flaw might have taken this long to show up, but shouldn’t it be held to the same or higher standard?

That’s partly a rhetorical question. The safety record of modern aircraft, Concorde included, is stunningly good. So much so that as crashes become rarer, each one seems to be more of a tragedy and the people responxible seem more careless. Maybe we should cross index this with a thread on frivolous lawsuits, but lately I’ve been pondering just what level of technical perfection we can realistically demand from the world around us.

Robot Arm wrote:

In the Navy, it means “Foreign Object Debris.”

It’s the bureaucratic-ese word for “trash.”

Mostly in response to CnoteChris:

If they can afford to have TV cameras in the bathroom to preserve security, certainly they could put a few out near the runways to make sure they are clean.

As noted in my original post, I just can’t believe that that piece of metal would have been responsible for the tire blow-out. I don’t recall the news saying where the piece was found, but, if it was found near the beginning of the takeoff run, then it would not have had any influence. I can’t see how it would have been at the end, because it would have had to have fallen off the CO jet near the end of its run - ever see a football bounce - especially at 180 mph? Do you really think it would have stayed neatly near the center of the runway? I sure don’t.

Also, Concorde tires blow out often and they burst the wing fuel cells - that is why BA put the “mud flaps” on theirs.

I give more credence to the probable and typical than the improbable.

Regarding turning off the engines, I believe that was the mistake that led to the crash. Everything else up to that point was survivable. Concordes can fly with two engines, but they can’t take off with only two. The flames were not coming out of the engine and there was no indication that they were. The pilot crashed the plane, not Continental.

To begin with, they don’t have cameras in the bathrooms- they have smoke detectors. Big difference. They do in fact have cameras and security personnel who look for all kinds of things on the runway. They look for anything and everything- Including runway debris.

It really doesn’t take much to crash a plane. Well, correction here, it didn’t used to take much.

You might be shocked that the plane that lost its engine due to a bird strike that JohnnyLA pointed out is bizarre, but to a designer of the engine, it did exactly what it was suppose to do.

Designers take any number of disaster scenarios into account when designing a plane. Bird strikes used to be a major contributer to aircraft crashes. Jesus, any number of reasons used to crash planes. No more, or not as much as they used to.

Manufacturers have designed planes that can withstand everyday oddities, birdstrikes to aircraft being an important aspect. Here is an example that was explained by Cecil himself.

What you seem to be missing here is the fact that not everything can be predicted. I doubt you, or anyone for that matter, could have predicted what felled the Concorde.

Put simply, it’s not a matter of one thing going wrong that dropped the plane. It’s a series of events that when taken seperately are no problem, but when taken as a whole caused the catastrophe that happened to the Concorde.

[Edited by slythe on 09-29-2000 at 07:43 AM]