Concorde Crash Near Paris Kills At Least 113

Concorde Crash Near Paris Kills At Least 113
GONESSE, France - An Air France Concorde en route to New York crashed outside Paris shortly after takeoff Tuesday, slamming into a hotel and a restaurant.

At least 113 people were killed when the charter flight of mostly German tourists went down in the first-ever crash of the needle-nosed supersonic jet.

Police said all 100 passengers and nine crew members on board Flight AF4590 were killed, and the Interior Ministry said four others died at a small hotel next to the two-star Hotelissimo.

All the passengers were German except for one American, two Danes, and an Austrian, Air France said.

The airline said the American was a retired Air France employee, but did not release a name.

At least a dozen people were injured at the hotel. They were in good condition, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said.

Early Wednesday, the Transportation Ministry said the plane's two flight recorders, which were damaged in the crash, had been found.

Experts said possible causes of engine problems ranged from birds flying into the air intake to mechanical failure. The plane was powered by Rolls-Royce Olympus 593 engines.

Rest Of Planes Grounded

After the crash, none of the Concordes was flying. Air France agreed to temporarily ground its five remaining Concordes, and British Airways, which owns the other seven Concordes, grounded its two remaining flights for Tuesday night.

French television showed a chilling photograph of the plane flying low over the airport, flames already trailing from its engine.

The hotel the plane crashed into was in flames, and sections had been reduced to rubble and twisted metal. Firefighters poured streams of water on the blackened wreckage, which had broken up into scattered, smoking chunks.

The remains of the Concorde were barely recognizable as an airplane fuselage.

There was no immediate word on what might have caused the crash of the jet, which had been in service since 1980, had flown 12,000 hours and had just had a mechanical checkup on Friday.

In the more than 30 years that Concorde jets have flown, none had gone down.

Huge Cloud Of Black Smoke

The plane had been chartered by Peter Deilmann Shipping Co., a German tour group, and the passengers were on their way to New York to join a cruise ship.

The jetliner crashed at 4:44 p.m. in an area of farmland crisscrossed by highways and the small town of Gonesse, about 9 miles northeast of Paris. It went down soon after takeoff from Charles de Gaulle airport.

Witnesses said the supersonic aircraft was not able to gain sufficient altitude before it crashed. Others said a huge cloud of black smoke went up in the air.

On Monday, British Airways said it had found cracks in the wings of some of its supersonic Concorde aircraft, but said there was no danger to passengers.

Among The World's Safest

The Concorde, which crosses the Atlantic at 1,350 mph, has been considered among the world's safest planes. Its only major scare came in 1979, when a bad landing blew out a plane's tires. The incident led to a design modification.

The plane is popular with celebrities, world-class athletes and the rich. It flies above turbulence at nearly 60,000 feet, crossing the Atlantic in about 3½ hours, less than half that of regular jetliners.

The first Concorde plane flew in 1969. Now, 13 of the jets are operated by Air France and British Airways. A round-trip Paris-New York ticket costs $9,000, roughly 25 percent more than regular first class. A London-New York round-trip runs $9,850.

Air France officials have said in the past that their current fleet is fit to fly safely until 2007.