The unpalatable enigma...should Concorde have ever been issued with a Certificate of Airworthiness?
The ghastly vision of that fiery doomed aircraft staggering along at an impossibly low airspeed will forever be etched into our minds. Hindsight can be an unpleasant, even distasteful business, but in aviation it is essential if we are not too fall into the traps of the past. And so we are again about to witness a long-running judicial "Blame Transference" or "Avoidance" procedure. As I cast my mind back over the life of the Concorde project, and subsequent flight operations, certain aspects come to mind. A long history of tyre failures and a debate over using retreads purely to cut costs. A British Airways machine that suffered a tyre failure causing chunks of rubber to smash their way into the fuel tanks leading to fuel gushing out. A Concorde Captain told me a fair bit about that episode. The long BALPA battle to get improvements and modifications done to reduce the hazards of tyre failures. When you stand back and take long thoughtful look at the aircraft's design configuration and consider it was intended to carry paying passengers, one has to wonder a little. Why would you mount two military after-burning engines adjacent to each other in a longitudinal location where it is patently obvious, that should tyre debris penetrate the fuel tanks, fuel would gush out and enter the engine intakes. Or am I missing something? Why would you start using retreaded tyres when even new tyres were operating right up on their rotational speed limits. Why would you even consider permitting max. weight take-offs with a certain amount of tailwind purely to save money and a long fuel-consuming reversal turn to take up a SID? With such a long history of tyre problems, why would you not mandate a runway debris inspection immediately prior to EVERY Concorde take-off? Just compare the cost of a light ute and a couple of chaps to check for no junk. Bits and pieces have always dropped off aircraft, and always will. That omission is particularly hard to fathom given that there were few Concordes flying and their number of sectors flown was miniscule compared with other aircraft. And how on earth can you certify an aircraft that cannot take running over a little strip of light alloy without suffering extremely dangerous fuel tank damage? Those sort of things you might just tolerate in a military machine. But Concorde was like no other civil transport. Just a look at it and one could be forgiven for assuming that its intended role was to be a supersonic nuclear-armed strategic bomber. My personal belief is that to even consider that Continental is to blame for the Concorde's inherent design faults is utterly bizarre. Just as an example; suppose a RR or GE or P &W engine spat out a section of turbine blade onto the runway and the Concorde ran over it and burst a tyre....would the French then place the blame on the engine manufacturer? It is an utter nonsense and I was astonished to learn of this pending case. Perhaps I am way off beam here but it is just one man's view after all.