AKRON (Aug. 11, 2000) — Goodyear has sent a two-person technical team to France at the request of French authorities to aid the ongoing investigation into the July 25 crash of an Air France Concorde supersonic that killed 113 people.
Investigators have said they believe one or more of the plane´s tires — built by Goodyear, sole tire supplier to the Air France Concorde fleet since 1995 — burst during takeoff.
French investigators are focusing on the possibility that the fuel tank of the Concorde´s left wing ruptured and caught fire; this may have been caused by debris from the tires or pieces of the plane damaged by the exploding tires, according to various news reports.
All 109 passengers and crew aboard the New York-bound Concorde, plus four people on the ground, were killed shortly after takeoff from Charles De Gaulle International Airport in Paris, when the plane failed to gain altitude and rammed into a hotel near the town of Gonesse, France.
The French government´s Bureau of Accident Investigations (BEA) reported that shards from the tires were found on the runway, and the aircraft was seen spewing a 120-foot jet of flame just before the crash.
More recently, the BEA said a metal plate about 16 inches long was found on the runway and was determined not to be from the Concorde. While the agency offered no opinion as to the relevance of this discovery, other reports have suggested the Concorde may have run over this plate during takeoff, damaging a tire.
The tires Goodyear supplies for the Concorde are "regular aircraft tires, suitable for the Concorde," a company spokesman said. They are designed in Goodyear´s Akron Technical Center and manufactured at its Danville, Va., facility.
Conventional jets often use retreaded tires, but the spokesman said the tires Goodyear supplies to the Concorde are all new, and added that he didn´t think Air France had them retreaded.
The Goodyear spokesman declined to discuss further aspects of the accident, the identity of the two company personnel who arrived in France July 31 or how long they will remain there.
Although this marks the first crash of a Concorde jet since Air France and British Airways began operating them in 1979, the planes have had close calls in the past, several of them involving burst tires.
According to news reports, in 1987 five of 10 tires on a British Airways Concorde blew out during a landing at New York´s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Six years later, a blowout upon landing at London´s Heathrow Airport damaged another British Airways Concorde.
Before the crash, Air France said its Concorde fleet had been certified for safe flying until 2015. Currently, however, the airline has grounded its remaining five Concorde jets pending further results from the investigation.