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Concorde Crash: Investigators Discover Tire Debris Along RunwayAired July 27, 2000 - 1:37 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: A new development in the crash of the Concorde Air France Flight 4590 near Paris.
CNN's Jim Bittermann is at Charles de Gaulle Airport with the latest evidence from the French -- Jim.
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, a change in direction in the investigation, I think, this afternoon from what we've been hearing from the prosecutor general. Some new information has come out that may potentially change the direction the investigation is going.
What he has told us is, in fact, debris from a tire from the Concorde was found along the runway after the accident as searchers, after the accident, looked along the runway found debris from a tire. The other thing is that the crew reported that they could not withdraw, could not retract their landing gear after takeoff.
Now, why this is significant is the following: The Concorde has had in the past several incidents with tire problems, one of which took place where a tire exploded on takeoff and parts of the tire rim went through the wing and caused a near-catastrophic incident. The plane was able to return to the airport safely. So, in fact, if something like that had happened two days ago, that, in fact, could have been the cause of the accident.
We've been looking at engine No. 2 and the repairs that were done on the engine shortly before takeoff, but this new information seems to indicate that there were an awful lot of things happening all at once.
The other thing the prosecutor said is that, in fact, the pilots reported that power was dropping in engine No. 1. They said that they had a failure in engine No. 2 and power was dropping in engine No. 1. So you had a sequence of events where you had the control tower seeing a ball of fire coming off the end of the aircraft, the aircraft's landing gear doesn't go up, the engine fails -- engine 2 fails, engine 1 is losing power. There's a lot of things happening at once in a very short period of time. The Concorde's moving at 250 miles an hour so the pilot was faced with an awful lot of decisions and an awful lot of things happening over which he may not have had a lot of control, particularly if it was a tire failure -- Lou. WATERS: So those -- the flight data and cockpit voice recorders would not be able to produce any concrete information of a tire failure, would they?
BITTERMANN: No, probably -- well, the tire failure maybe. We're not sure the -- one of the recorders does, in fact -- the data recorder does, in fact, monitor 600 different parameters. One of those parameters could be, indeed, the tire pressure or something like that. So there may be a way to check that. But, of course, if they found the tire on the runway after the accident, that means the tire exploded before the plane took off and so that could indicate that there was something seriously going wrong underneath the wing of the Concorde.
It also would lead one to the next question that investigators raised right after the crash, and this is why was there so much fuel outside the aircraft? These aircraft are designed with, you know, as many are, perhaps, with their wings loaded with fuel. But they're sealed and it's not the kind of thing -- you have to have something to rupture that seal in order for the fuel to spill out and burn in the kind of flames that we saw coming off in the amateur video and the amateur photo that were taken. Those kind of flames come from a lot of fuel coming off the wing very quickly. So the question is, how did that happen? One could suppose that, you know, it could be a tire failure that punctured the wing that sent fuel out.
But all that is complete supposition. What the prosecutor is saying is that this is just a preliminary report. There will be more reports, and then perhaps towards the end of August they will have some kind of a final report on the crash.
WATERS: You say that the French suggest a change in direction of the investigation. How will that change be effected and what would the next step be here?
BITTERMANN: Well, I think, you know, if it was, indeed, a tire failure that started the chain of events, then I think the question would be, why did the tire fail? What was the problem with the tire? Concorde, early on, early in its history, had a problem with its tires and there were a number of incidents where tires failed either on takeoff or landing. But the question will be, why now? because those tires -- those problems, rather, were resolved a long time ago. In the last 20 years, there hasn't been that kind of an incident.
So that's the kind of question I think that'll be raised: If it failed, why did it fail? What was the sequence of events leading up to the tire failure?
Also, there may be other things involved here that we just don't know about. I think there's going to be a lot more investigating needed before they get to the real root cause, and they'll probably have to go, for instance, to check the wings to make sure that the wings are intact -- the wing fuel tanks are intact. So there's a lot of things that they'll be looking at in great, minute detail, and it will take a while to do that.
WATERS: All right. And CNN's Jim Bittermann will be keeping close watch from Charles de Gaulle Airport.
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