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The BBC's Justin Webb at Charles De Gaulle
"Was it coincidence or was it faulty maintenance"
 real 56k

The BBC's Jane Hughes in New York
"A departure that should have been a celebration"
 real 56k

Thursday, 27 July, 2000, 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK
New clues to Concorde crash
Fireman/Concorde debris
Concorde fragments will be reassembled where possible
The pilot of the Air France Concorde that crashed outside Paris on Tuesday signalled problems with both left, or port-side, engines during the last seconds of the flight, air accident investigators have revealed.

The French Accident Investigation Bureau said the engine nearest the fuselage - engine number two - had broken down, and that the other engine on the port wing also twice lost power just before the plane swerved to the left and crashed.

It has also been disclosed that a tyre blew out at a crucial moment during take-off, and that the Concorde crew told the control tower that the undercarriage would not retract.

Mourners comfort each other at the Paris memorial
Mourners comfort each other at the Paris memorial
Memorial services have been held for the 109 people on board and four people on the ground who died when Flight AF4590 crashed shortly after taking off from Charles De Gaulle airport.

Crash investigators spent the day painstakingly analysing data from the doomed flight after decoding the plane's second black box.

A BBC correspondent in Paris says it is likely that more than one factor contributed to the accident.

All 113 bodies - the majority burned beyond recognition - have now been recovered from the crash site at Gonesse, just north of Paris.

Grieving relatives were joined by many uniformed Air France staff and government officials at a memorial service in the Madeleine Church in central Paris.

Relatives embraced each other for comfort as prayers were read out for them and for the emergency services.

Germany mourns


Germany was also in mourning on Thursday, with flags flying at half-mast as a mark of respect for the 96 German passengers who died in the crash. They were flying to New York to embark on a luxury Caribbean cruise.

Investigators are trying to find out what caused the catastrophic fire which engulfed the supersonic jet's number two engine as it was taking off.

One of the key questions is whether last-minute repairs carried out on the engine just before take-off played a part in the crash.

The information from the flight data recorder will be compared to that from the cockpit voice recorder - a task which could take up to three days, according to the French Transport Ministry.

However, investigators who have been examining 600 pieces of technical information on the flight recorder say they expect to have an initial verdict by late on Thursday.

Repairs

The ground crew who worked on the plane have been given psychiatric counselling for shock. They have already been interviewed by the investigators.

Graphic showing Concorde engine

Air France said the pilot, Christian Marty, had asked for a defective part in the engine's thrust reverser to be replaced. The device slows a plane for landing and can abort take-off.

The work delayed the flight by 30 minutes, but an Air France spokesman said it was routine maintenance and there was no evidence linking it directly to the crash.

The plane flew at low level for a few kilometres trailing a huge plume of fire, but crashed into a hotel at Gonesse.

Union leaders said nobody had been suspended from the Concorde service team.

Air France has grounded its remaining five Concordes pending the result of investigations. British Airways has already resumed its Concorde flights.

The Concorde which crashed was built in 1974 and was the oldest in service. But Air France said it had flown fewer hours than any other Concorde in the French or British fleets.

Church services

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer joined the French Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot and Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement for the church service in Paris.


We're hitting the boundaries of human comprehension

Peter Deilmann

About 1,200 people packed into the Paris church for the memorial service and more gathered outside to show support for the relatives.

A special service was also held in Neustadt on Germany's Baltic coast. The Deilmann tour company which organised the holiday for the German tourists is based in the town.

Peter Deilmann
Peter Deilmann: The cruise is still going ahead

"We're hitting the boundaries of human comprehension," said Peter Deilmann, 64, who had booked the passengers on the $1,500-a-head Concorde flight.

Some of the bereaved have visited the crash site and placed red roses amid the wreckage.

Air France says it will pay an advance of 140,000 francs ($20,000) to relatives to cover their immediate needs.

Meanwhile, the French prosecutor's office has opened a judicial inquiry into the crash to determine whether charges should be brought.

'Too late to turn back'

Amateur video footage confirms that the engine was on fire before the plane took off.

French officials say the control tower alerted the pilot that the back of the plane was on fire 56 seconds after take-off.

He responded that it was too late to abort the flight and that he was trying to reach nearby Le Bourget airport.

The pilot's last recorded words were: "Problem in engine two."

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See also:

27 Jul 00 | Europe
In pictures: Paris remembers
27 Jul 00 | Europe
Germany in grief
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