Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Crashed Concorde Black Boxes Decoded




PARIS -- French investigators finished decoding the second black box Thursday on the Concorde supersonic jet that crashed and killed 113 people, but it could take up to three days to complete the analysis of the fatal flight, the French Transport Ministry said.


The ministry said there were 600 bits of technical information on the recovered flight data recorder that had to be analyzed and then compared with information decoded earlier from the other black box, the voice recorder.


In another development, the French prosecutor's office in the Val d'Oise region opened a judicial inquiry into "involuntary homicide and involuntary injury" relating to the accident, judicial sources, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said. Such an inquiry will try to determine whether charges should be pressed and against whom.


Involuntary homicide in France is defined as a negligent killing punishable by up to three years in prison, or a 300,000-franc ($43,000) fine. The three judges in the case have the legal right to call witnesses to determine the circumstances of the accident.


Meanwhile, French authorities were preparing the Madeleine church in central Paris for a memorial service later Thursday in honor of the victims.


A French judicial and aeronautics expert called for a probe into the motor turbines on the ill-fated Concorde that plunged to the ground in a furnace of fire. Raymond Auffray, an engineer and aeronautics expert to Paris' Court of Appeal, told the daily La Croix that technical investigations should focus on turbine discs inside both engines on the left wing, including the number-two engine that caught fire shortly before takeoff in the Wednesday accident.


The pilot's loss of control of the aircraft points toward a ruptured "turbine disk," which he said would cause the engine to completely destruct. The risk of such a rupture in normal circumstances is low f less than one in a billion for each hour of flight, so he didn't exclude the possibility of "intruding objects" in the engine.


The daily Liberation newspaper reported Thursday that experts believed the number-two motor was "without a doubt, the cause of the disaster."


Le Figaro reported investigators were not ruling out the possibility of human error. Liberation cited Andre Turcat, a longtime supersonic pilot, as saying the decision of the pilot of the ill-fated Concorde to head toward Le Bourget Airport 2.5 kilometers away instead of returning to Charles de Gaulle where it took off was "imaginable but risky."


Captain Christian Marty tried to wrestle his stricken jet down on the airport as a fiery blaze was consuming the left side of the plane, said Elisabeth Senot, the prosecutor in charge of the judicial investigation.


On Wednesday, France's Transportation Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot said he hopes to authorize his country's Concordes to resume their supersonic flights in the next few days, even as the world watched in horror at video footage showing the fiery death of Air France flight AF4590.


"The resumption of flights could start in the coming days," Gayssot said. "It depends on the results of the inquiry."


British Airways resumed Concorde flights from London to New York on Wednesday after the government dropped a ban imposed after the Paris crash.