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Blackwater Valley Environmental Justice

Communique 28 July 2000

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Recent air crashes

Would you like to see 18 tonnes of burning aviation fuel dumped on your children's heads? ... We're not talking of a disaster like Lockerbie: we're talking of another Aberfan - or another Titanic. And that is not an exaggeration! -- air safety expert John Sturgeon addressing a public meeting in Farnborough

In the week leading up to the Farnborough Airshow there were two air crashes. In India a Boeing 737 crashed on the approach about a mile from the runway on a town. At least 50 people were killed. The Foreign Office warned its own diplomats not to use the airline but did not make the warning public. A Russian military helicopter crashed on takeoff outside St Petersburg.

On the second day of the Airshow Air France Concorde AF4590 en-route to New York with flames hundreds of feet long shooting from its left bank of engines crashed on takeoff from Charles de Gaulle outside Paris, narrowly missing the town of Gonesse. All 109 passengers and crew were killed, plus four people on the ground. Number 2 engine which had earlier developed a fault suffered a catastrophic failure and caught fire as the plane was taking off. The speed was such that the pilot had no choice other than to continue the take off. The pilot tried to gain altitude but failed. The Concorde was carrying over 25,000 gallons of aviation fuel when it crashed. Eye witness accounts described the crash as a 'mini-atomic bomb'. It took 400 firefighters two hours to put out the flames leaving nothing left but a blackened hulk. It wasn't until the smoke had cleared that it was possible to see that the hotel into which the Concorde had crashed had been completely destroyed.

The impact of the Concorde crash reverberated around the world. Both France and Germany were in a state of shock. At the Airshow it was business as normal.

As campaigners against expansion of flying at Farnborough have been saying for some time, the majority of crashes take place during landing or takeoff. This puts residential Farnborough in the crash zone.

The Mayor of Gonesse has been campaigning for a limit on flights from Charles de Gaulle. Had it not been for the action of the Concorde pilot in banking hard to the right, the stricken plane would have crashed on Gonesse. The day before the Concorde crash, Andrew Lloyd, Rushmoor Chief Executive, together with a Boeing executive, was at the airshow singing the praises of the Boeing Business Jet (modified Boeing 737). When asked by the BBC about the concerns of Farnborough residents over safety he dismissed their concerns as irrelevant.

22 December 1999, a Korean Air cargo plane crashed on takeoff from Stansted narrowly missing a farmhouse on the edge of Hatfield Forest. Had it taken off from Farnborough there would have been nothing for it to miss. The plane was carrying depleted uranium as a counter weight. The area is now contaminated with depleted uranium.

2 May 2000, a Learjet en-route from Farnborough to Nice, experienced engine trouble and was forced into an emergency landing at Lyons. The jet came in at very low altitude and crashed short of the runway, killing pilot and co-pilot. Had the journey been reversed, the Learjet would not have made the airfield on its low altitude approach as it would have ploughed into residential Farnborough killing or seriously injuring far more than two people. Learjets, regularly used at Farnborough, have a reputation for being difficult to handle.

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BVEJ Communique 28 July 2000
Published by Blackwater Valley Environmental Justice

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