The iconic, supersonic aircraft Concorde was a remarkable engineering feat. Although no longer in service, no other passenger aircraft has yet surpassed it in speed or beauty. A joint venture between the English and French governments, Concorde was thus named because the French word translates as ‘good understanding’.
On July 25 2000, Concorde (Air France flight 4590) took off from Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris, for John F Kennedy in New York – a three-and-a-half-hour trip – carrying 100 passengers and nine crew. The plane, chartered by a German tour company, was carrying passengers to New York to begin a 16-day cruise to South America. Their dream holiday was never to be because, within seconds of take-off, one of two engines on the left side burst into flames.
Two minutes later the plane crashed into a hotel in Gonesse, a town just north of Paris. Eyewitnesses saw a huge fireball and plumes of thick, black smoke when Concorde hit the ground. Parts of the hotel, as well as Concorde itself, were reduced to a horrific tangle of burnt and twisted debris. All passengers and crew were killed instantly, as were four others on the ground.
The French transport minister immediately halted all Air France Concorde flights pending investigation. The plane itself, which had been flying since 1980, was inspected just four days prior to the disaster and was passed as entirely fit to fly. Until the accident, Concorde had been the safest passenger aircraft in the world. The accident report of 2004 stated that, minutes earlier, a titanium strip had fallen from the previous plane’s take-off, rupturing Concorde’s tires. The fuel tank fractured and ignited, rolling the aircraft into a rapid, unstoppable descent. Despite modifications, this heralded the end of Concorde. The final flight departed from Heathrow in November 2003.
When was the Concorde Air Crash: July 25 2000
Where was the Concorde Air Crash: Gonesse, near Paris, France
What was the Concorde Air Crash death toll: 113
You should know: British and French investigators had an alternative theory: that the plane was both unevenly and too heavily loaded, and that its landing gear was compromised.
In 2008 five individuals, including the former head of the Concorde Division in France, his chief engineer, and a former employee of the French airline regulator, were charged with manslaughter.
In early 2010 an official French inquiry claimed that the accident was the result of poor maintenance and that the Concorde in question had been ‘unfit to fly’.