Concorde’s future is in the balance

THE FUTURE of Concorde was in serious doubt this week as British Airways grounded its fleet after official confirmation that a burst tyre caused the Paris crash.

After weeks spent expressing its confidence in the safety of its fleet, BA bowed to the inevitable just hours before the Civil Aviation Authority removed the plane’s airworthiness certificate.

Ken Smart, chief inspector at the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch, said early findings of the inquiry showed a burst tyre led to the accident in which 113 people died.

`Tyre damage during take-off and landing is not uncommon in Concorde flights, but it has never previously led to a fuel-fed fire,’ said Smart.

The investigation team said one or more ruptures of at least one fuel tank occurred, with leaking fuel igniting in a few seconds.

The CAA and its French equivalent, the DGAC, have now asked Concorde’s joint manufacturers, BAE Systems Airbus UK and Aerospatiale in France, to recommend an action plan.

But there are fears that significant redesign work could prove too costly, leaving Concorde grounded permanently.

Glyn Davies, one of the team of Concorde’s designers and now professor of aeronautical structures at Imperial College London, told The Engineer that an impact-resistant tyre shroud may be the only way to ensure safety. He added that this need not prove prohibitively costly if the airlines were determined to keep the aircraft flying.

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