October 23rd 2003 is a date many aviation nuts will remember as the end of the era of supersonic passenger transportation.
It was the day the final Concorde flight took place, ferrying celebrities into London Heathrow airport.
Of course, her fate had already been sealed when Air France flight 4590 crashed just outside of Charles De Gaulle airport in July 2000 killing 113 people.
Her retirement may soon come to an end, if a team of engineers get their way. The engineers are part of two groups – the British Save Concorde Group, and the French group Olympus 593 (named after the amazing Concorde engines).
The purpose of the collaboration is to get a Concorde back in the air – on time for the 2012 London Olympics opening celebration. The Concorde in question is currently parked at the Le Bourget Air and Space Museum. With $22 million in available funding, the first step is to determine whether the engines on the plane can be started, and whether the plane can be taxied.
After that, there will still be a long way to go, especially if the plane is to receive a certificate of airworthiness. Still – as someone who was lucky enough to fly her several times, the prospect of seeing her take to the skies makes me very, very happy.
Tomorrow, Continental Airlines will have to answer to a French court about allegations it knowingly installed an unapproved part on one of its DC-10 aircraft. That small metal strip is partially blamed for the crash of Air France Concorde flight 4590 on July 25th 2000.
On that fateful day, 113 people lost their lives when the fuel tanks of the Concorde caught fire, sending the plane crashing through a hotel just outside the airport. 109 people died on the plane, and four were killed in the hotel.
The court case has taken ten years to prepare, and follows a 2004 investigation that concluded the crash was caused by the strip of metal that had fallen off a Continental plane that took off minutes before Concorde came down the runway. The inquiry reached the conclusion that the titanium strip had blown a tire to shreds, sending debris into an engine, and blowing holes in a fuel tank.
Along with Continental and two of its employees, the court will also hear testimonies from Concorde program officials and the boss of the French aviation institute. According to the court, the Concorde program managers ignored years of problems, including several identical incidents that thankfully did not end as disastrous.
The main objective of the trial is to determine levels of blame for those responsible for the crash. Continental plans to fight the allegations, claiming the engine was already on fire before the plane hit the piece of metal. In the end, it’ll most likely come down to how much was known about the weakness of the Concorde design, and why a simple piece of metal could cause such a catastrophic crash.
The disaster ended more than the lives of the 113 people involved in the crash – it also started the end of the supersonic passenger flight era. After the crash, the entire Concorde fleet was taken out of service for fuel tank upgrades, but she took her final flight on November 25th 2003.