Tyre shrouds may be `the only way to keep Concorde in service’

AN IMPACT-resistant shroud covering Concorde’s tyres could be the only solution to ongoing doubts about its safety, one of the aircraft’s original designers told The Engineer this week.

Glyn Davies, who worked on the Bristol-based Concorde team in the 1960s, said designing and installing a tyre covering device could not be done in less than a year, raising the prospect that the plane may have to be grounded in the interim.

Davies – currently professor of aeronautical structures at Imperial College London – said such a measure could be the only solution if, as seems increasingly likely, a burst tyre was the fundamental cause of the crash in Paris last month.

Davies said: `There is no possibility that we could thicken the wings (to protect the fuel tanks) because of the additional weight, but energy absorbers could be wrapped around the wheels or the undercarriage.

`It would be a sort of shroud, with part of the wheel poking out from underneath it. If a burst tyre is shown to be the reason for the crash, then this could be the only way to keep Concorde in service.’

An investigating team of French and UK civil aviation authorities, Rolls-Royce, Snecma and Air France announced this week that a burst tyre was likely to have triggered the fuel tank fire that led to the crash at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle, killing 113 people.

The initial theory blaming the failure of one of the…… aircraft’s Rolls-Royce Snecma Olympus 593 engines, initially has now been all but ruled out as the primary cause of the disaster.

The original Concorde design team did not consider a tyre blowout resulting in fuel tank damage as a significant safety concern, according to Davies.

`We never thought it to be a serious threat because of the amount of energy required to puncture the thickness of the wings. Concorde’s wings are tremendously robust, and don’t take anything like the load levels of conventional wings,’ he said.

Davies said he was shocked by the crash, because the design team had `played it so safe’ when developing the aircraft.

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