The Real Reason for the Crash of Air France Flight 4590

concorde-crash flight 4590

Concorde pilot John Hutchinson presents clear evidence that the French authorities, who conducted the crash investigation, covered up the true cause and tried to blame Continental airways engineers and design weaknesses in Concorde.

Air France Flight 4590 was an international charter flight, from Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris to John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York, flown by an Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde. On 25 July 2000 at 15:43 UTC, the aircraft serving the flight (registration F-BTSC) crashed on take off.

Chain of Events

F-BTSC was in maintenance prior to this flight. The left main landing gear was disassembled to correct a problem. When reassembled, a wheel spacer was not reinstalled and was found still sitting on a shelf after the crash. The aircraft had done four flights with this defect prior to the crash so it wasn’t the prime cause.

The cause of the crash was pilot error.

The Captain overrode procedure and ordered the tanks to be filled to the brim instead of the normal 80%. He ordered more fuel than was required to be put in the aft tanks used for taxiing. He allowed 19 bags, that had not been weighed, to be loaded in the aft hold. All this made the aircraft over weight and the center of gravity out of limits.

Presumably due to the weight and balance being out of limits he requested to use the runway extension, even though it was officially closed because it was being re-surfaced. He also elected to take off with an 8 kt tail wind.

On take off the aircraft struck the ledge as it left the overrun and came on the to the runway. The effect was not unlike driving your car over a square curb at a 90 degree angle. This caused the wheels of the left main gear to turn 90 degrees to the left as they had no spacer to constrain them. The tires overheated and burst starting the fire.

The malfunctioning gear and burst tire forced the aircraft to slew to the left. It was then that it struck a runway light. Debris from the light struck the underside of the left wing. This caused a shockwave in the fuel of the over-filled tank. Fuel spewed from the bottom of the wing which was set on fire by the tire fire.

Investigation photo showing where aircraft departed the runway at taxiway S3.

At this point the aircraft was past V1 speed of 180kts and the Captain was committed to the takeoff. As the aircraft climbed off the runway, the Left Engine Fire Light came on. The co-pilot incorrectly shut down the engine. The fire light was false because the fire was overheating the engine. Although the engine was overheating, it was still performing at 100%. The correct procedure for an overheat would be to continue operation until the aircraft safely airborne and then shut down the engine.

Air-France-4590-Runway-Events

Once airborne, with the center of gravity shifted further aft by the escaping fuel, lack of full engine power and being overweight, the aircraft stalled and crashed..

113 people were killed in the crash.
100 passengers
9 crew
4 people on the ground.

Co-pilot: “Le Bourget, Le Bourget.”
Pilot: “Too late (unclear).”
Control tower: “Fire service leader, correction, the Concorde is returning to runway zero nine in the opposite direction.”
Pilot: “No time, no (unclear).”
Co-pilot: “Negative, we’re trying Le Bourget” (four switching sounds).
Co-pilot: “No (unclear).”
Control tower: “De Gaulle tower from fire service leader, can you give me the situation of the Concorde?”
Cockpit Area Microphone (CAM): (Sound of effort)
End of recording

Last Words

It is said that pilots are the first one’s at the scene of a crash. Some are caught unaware but most fight the problem all the way down. The CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder) records their final words. These are some of them.

“There he is .. look at him! Goddamn that son-of-a-bitch is coming! Get off!”
Pan Am 1736, Boeing 747, 27 March 1977.

“Pete, sorry.”
Air Canada 621,Douglas DC-8, 5 July 1970.

“Hey, what’s happening here?”
Eastern Airlines 401, 29 Dec 1972.

“Ma I love you.”
Pacific Southwest Airlines 182. 25 Sep 1978.

“Larry, we’re going down, Larry…. I know it!”
Air Florida 90, Boeing 737, 13 Jan 1982.

“Amy, I love you.”
Atlantic Southeast Airlines 529, 21 Aug 1995.

“Mountains!!!”
Vnokovo Airlines 2601, 29 Aug 1996.

“Ah here we go.”
Alaska Airlines 261, MD-80, 31 Jan 2000.

“Too late! No time. No TIME!”
Air France 4950, Concorde, 25 JULY 2000.