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.
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.
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.
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