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Blackwater Valley Environmental Justice

Communique 20 August 2000

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Concorde crash

We put safety first, say BA. When the Air France Concorde crashed on takeoff from Charles de Gaulle Air France immediately grounded all its Concorde fleet until further notice as a precautionary measure. Air France decided that until it was known beyond reasonable doubt the cause of the crash it was wisest to ground all Concorde flights. BA took the opposite view. Until the cause of the crash was established no flights would be suspended.

CAA concurred with BA. Until the cause of the crash was known no Concorde flights would be grounded.

The Air France Concorde crashed into a hotel, narrowly missing the town of Gonesse. All 109 passengers and crew were killed, plus four people on the ground.

It is now known that a tyre burst on takeoff, fragments of rubber ruptured the fuel tank, causing the catastrophic crash. Since 1976 there has been 70 incidents of tyre failure, some have ruptured the fuel tanks, none have caused a catastrophic crash as was witnessed in France.

Three weeks after the Paris crash, when the cause was known, Concorde had its air worthiness certificate immediately withdrawn by the CAA.

CAA are the authority that may be minded to grant a licence for TAG to operate a business airport at Farnborough. CAA only considers the safety of passengers and crew, CAA does not consider the safety of those on the ground, those people living in fear under the flight path.

In spite of promises to the contrary, no safety study has been carried out for Farnborough. The local plan was passed by Rushmoor Borough Council, even though they failed to commission a promised safety study.

TAG have repeatedly claimed that their operation is safe. To date they have given no evidence to support that assertion. Indeed the studies carried out by NATS show that at the numbers of flights TAG wish to impose on the area the unacceptable risk contours extend over residential Farnborough.

Safety guidelines for Farnborough require pilots to line up on the runway three miles on approach (they should be lined up over Coleford Bridge) and to approach on a 3.5 degree glide path. These guidelines are not adhered to. Cutting down the trees that project into the flight surface will encourage pilots to come in even lower. Installation of an ILS radio beam automatic landing system will prove problematical due to multiple reflections from the many buildings on final approach giving rise to a fluctuating, distorted beam.

World wide there are 30-40 fatal air crashes every year. Business aviation has a crash record 16-100 times that of a reputable airline like Air France.

The Concorde crash is forcing the French to reappraise their urbanisation policies around airports. Similar safety concerns are now being raised across Europe. In addition to safety, questions are being asked about the uncontrolled expansion of airports and air traffic, with mounting criticisms of the environmental impact, especially noise and emissions.

Farnborough is not unique is raising these concerns. What makes Farnborough unique is that the residential area, including a college, is situated at the end of a runway on top of a hill.

TAG have frequently threatened they will relocate to Europe if they face continuing opposition, and good riddance if they go, but it begs the question 'go where?' as they will find no one else will want them either.

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BVEJ Communique 20 August 2000
Published by Blackwater Valley Environmental Justice

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