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The BBC's Adrian Campbell
"There is still a lot of data to be analysed"
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Expert Bill Lightfoot witnessed 1979 tyre drama
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Saturday, 29 July, 2000, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Concorde theory put to test
German relatives leave the memorial service in Muenchengladbach
German families wept as they left Saturday's service
Wreckage from the Air France Concorde is being placed under intensive scientific scrutiny, as investigators probe their theory that a burst tyre triggered the disaster.

A French government official said on Saturday that exhaustive laboratory tests were being carried out on fragments of the supersonic jet.

The Concorde crashed into an hotel in Gonesse shortly after take-off from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris on Tuesday, claiming 114 lives.

Clues jigsaw
Tyre shredded as Concorde sped down runway
One engine failed outright - minutes after repairs on the ground
Other engine on same wing lost power twice
Landing gear jammed
US experts reveal four earlier tyre blow-outs
Other investigators are still sifting through the wreckage at the crash site, and police say they can not rule out the discovery of more bodies.

As the crash investigators continued their task, relatives of some of the 96 German tourists killed in the disaster gathered in the town of Moenchengladbach for a memorial service.

A number of the victims lived in the town. All were heading for a luxury Caribbean cruise.

Burst tyres

The Concorde flight had been delayed for repairs to a thrust reverser, sparking early speculation that faulty work could have contributed to the disaster.

Michele Fricheteau, director of the Hotelissimo, with her son
Injured hotel owner Michele Fricheteau attended Gonesse vigil
But the investigators switched their focus to the burst tyre theory after shredded remains were found on the runway.

The French Accident Investigation Bureau (BEA) believes the plane had lost one or even two tyres, which could have sparked the deadly chain of events by firing debris into an engine or fuel tank.

The tyre theory has been given further credence by air safety investigators in the United States, who have revealed that warnings were issued on the dangers of Concorde's tyre blow-outs, following several incidents some 20 years ago.

Air France's remaining five Concordes are still out of service
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released details of four incidents in the US between 1979 and 1981, in which Air France Concordes blew tyres on take-off and produced a "potentially catastrophic" situation.

The NTSB recommended at the time that each tyre and wheel be inspected before take-off, and that if a problem was suspected during take-off, the landing gear should not be retracted.

The pilot of the downed Concorde told air traffic controllers minutes before his death that he could not retract the landing gear, and that two of his four engines were not working properly.

He was seeking an emergency landing at nearby Le Bourget airport when the plane plunged to the ground.


Flowers have been piling up near the crash site, swelled on Friday as hundreds of local residents took part in a silent vigil of remembrance.

Crash site
Reports suggest the Concorde was unable to raise its landing gear
Hotel owner Michele Fricheteau, her arms still bandaged to cover the burns she suffered, joined the silent march, clutching a single white rose which she laid among other the wreaths.

Air France Concorde flights remain suspended, and the airline has provided counselling for the ground staff who worked on the Concorde immediately before its take-off.

The airline has also announced preliminary payments of 140,000 francs ($20,000) to relatives of crash victims "for their immediate material needs", and would pay for funerals and any psychological treatment the families might require.

British Airways, the only other airline which operates Concordes, grounded its seven-strong fleet after the accident, but the planes resumed service the following day, after safety checks.

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See also:

28 Jul 00 | Europe
US warned on tyre risks
28 Jul 00 | Europe
French response to tyre warning
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