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Air France Concorde Jet Crashes Near Paris; All 109 Aboard DeadAired July 25, 2000 - 11:21 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Once again, want to bring you the very latest that we know of anyway out of Paris, France. A French Air France Concorde plane apparently has gone down shortly after takeoff, leaving Paris headed for New York. We know very little information right now, but the pilot we just spoke to, the American Sid Hare, who apparently saw the plane in the air, he saw smoke coming out the left rear engine before it went down. The reports from the Associated Press, apparently the plane may have hit a hotel on the ground as well.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: He said, from his reports, from what he saw, that it took -- the crash happened very soon after it crashed. We can tell you this is an Air France plane taking off from Paris headed to New York City. We understand the jet was carrying about 100 people. Of course, since these reports are very early, we have no idea on the extent of injuries or people who might be hurt or killed on board this crash.
HEMMER: We have some file videotape here from one of the Concorde planes. And very few people have much experience on these because...
KAGAN: That's true.
HEMMER: ... for the most part, they are for the flying elite. The Concorde crosses the Atlantic, according to the information off the wires here, at about 13,050 miles an hour. It flies extremely fast and considered among the world's safest planes.
It's -- a correction there: That's a British Airways plane you're seeing on the videotape, not an Air France. It is a Concorde, however. It's only major care -- scare, rather, came back in 1979, according to this report from the Associated Press, when a bad landing blew out a plane's tire. The incident led to some design modification. But apparently, through the years, a plane that flies at extreme altitude, about 60,000 feet, has an extremely safe record for flying.
KAGAN: In fact, the wires are saying that this is the first crash of a supersonic jet. We were talking about how so few people have taken part and been able to fly in a Concorde. There's only 14 of them in service. Air France has six and British Airways has seven. The video we were showing was a British Airways Concorde. And then, of course, today was an Air France one.
HEMMER: To give you an idea, if you fly across the Atlantic, you know that, roughly, the flight time from anywhere in New York City over to the western edge of Europe can take about six hours. But a Concorde can cut that in half: about three hours flying time. And most of the people you see flying these, major executives from businesses, and big-time athletes as well who maybe want to cut down on the jet lag or what it takes to get to their particular destination. The Concorde has been a major, dependable route for a lot of those people who can afford that plane.
KAGAN: Yes, that is definitely a luxury trip, indeed.
We heard from the one pilot who we were talking to who saw it outside his hotel room. The wires are saying that there's another eyewitness saying that they watched the plane and that it wasn't able to gain sufficient altitude before it crashed. And, again, the earlier reports we had, that it didn't just crash, but perhaps it crashed into a hotel that's very close to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
HEMMER: If we have more of that file videotape, give you a few more fast facts quickly on the Concorde that's coming over the wires right now. The Concorde plane flew back in 1969. Now 13 of these supersonic jets operated by Air France and British Airway. A round trip Paris-to-New York ticket costs about $9,000...
HEMMER: ... roughly 25 percent more than the regular first class. A London-New York round trip runs about $9,850. Air France officials have said in the past that their current fleet is fit to fly safely until the year 2007.
Again, we have no idea what happened here today in Paris. Certainly it's traumatic. We don't know what has happened on the ground, we don't know why this took place, but, again, this is the news we have right now, and as we continue to collect more from across the ocean here.
KAGAN: Each one of these planes carries about 100 people. And from the early reports we're seeing, it looks like there were about 100 people on board the plane that crashed today.
Interestingly enough, the Concorde's not going to -- there we are with the map back -- fly forever. It's going to cease activity in 2005. There is no plane to replace it at this point.
HEMMER: And, again, Sid Hare is a pilot. He works for Federal Express. And, in fact, he spoke with us about 15 minutes ago. Apparently he was in a hotel room just near the airport. And, in fact, he said he was watching CNN International inside his hotel room when he heard what appeared to be a sound outside of his window that was not normal. And as a pilot, many times you can pick up on these sounds that are emitted from a jet engine.
This Air France, the Concorde, the plane in question -- not specifically. However, this is file videotape.
And what Sid Hare said is that he looked out of the window, he saw this plane trying to gain altitude. Clearly it was not gaining altitude. He saw smoke coming out the back, left engine. And then from there, he saw that plane go down.
KAGAN: Well, and interestingly enough, the reason he saw and heard as much as he did, he said the air conditioning was out or wasn't working very well in his hotel room, so the window was open and that provided him the opportunity to see something that I'm sure he wished he did not have the opportunity to see.
HEMMER: Let me interject this, Daryn: Sid Hare, the pilot for Federal Express back on the telephone.
Sir, can you hear us again?
SID HARE, PILOT: I sure can.
HEMMER: OK, again, if you could relay to our viewers who may be just joining us right now, you gave us the scenario you experienced 15 minutes ago. Again, what did you see and hear from outside your hotel room there?
HARE: Well, the first thing was the noise. It was much louder than usual. And I have the window open most of the time and hear jets taking off all day and all night. And we're about three-quarters of a mile from the runway and it's not so loud that I can't sleep with the window open. But this particular jet was two or three times as loud as normal jets taking off and so I wanted to see what was making all the racket. So I went to the window and could see smoke trailing from where the Concorde had just taken off, but I couldn't see the airplane because it was so low to the ground, it was obscured by other hotels and a tree line between me and the other runway. And then it emerged on the other side of the tree line, probably 200 feet above the ground, and I knew it was in trouble.
The left side of the engine bank -- there's four engines on the Concorde and the left side, number one and number two engines, one of those obviously had a catastrophic failure. It was trailing flames 200 to 300 feet behind the airplane and probably wiped out the other engine next to it. So the airplane was then trying to climb on only two out of four engines and it just couldn't gain altitude. He kept trying to get the nose up to gain altitude, which eventually caused a stall. The nose pitched straight up in the air and the airplane just started rolling over and backsliding down toward the ground. And at that point where the crash site was, it's probably two miles from me and I couldn't see the hotel this reportedly crashed into. But it was a sickening sight when it hit, and just a huge fireball, like a mini atomic bomb went up. And it's just really a sickening sight.
KAGAN: Sid, I know that you shared with us that you're a pilot and that you don't fly these particular planes, that you don't fly the Concorde, but as a pilot you must be interested in other planes. What do you know about the Concorde that you can tell our audience? HARE: Well, it's got a great safety record. I always wanted to fly it myself or even go as a passenger but never had the opportunity. But, you know, it's been in the news recently with the wing cracks, and I'm sure this had nothing to do with any wing cracks. And I say I'm sure it doesn't -- anything's possible when it comes to machines.
KAGAN: Let us just interject a second for us here, Sid. What you're talking about is British Airways has grounded one of its Concorde supersonic jetliners -- that was in the news yesterday -- as small cracks were spotted on its wings grew larger. Engineers had detected the two-inch cracks in the rear-most wings of the entire seven-plane fleet a few months ago. Again, that was with British Airways, and today's crash involves Air France.
We'll have you stand by.
Let's bring in Peter Humi, our Paris bureau chief who is on the phone with what you know -- Peter.
PETER HUMI, CNN PARIS BUREAU CHIEF: Well, it's very dramatic listening to Sid Hare, the eyewitness accounts of what he saw at the airport. I don't have too many more details, but I can confirm that it was an Air France that was heading to New York. It was due to take off about 45 minutes or so ago. Now that's at quarter to five local time.
The Concorde has been in service for many, many years. As Sid Hare said just now, it does have a very good safety record. The first we heard of it was a air hostess of Air France that had been contacted or had contacted the French news agency AFP, and she described that there had been some sort of accident. They are giving us more a detailed account of what he could see from his window near to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Charles de Gaulle Airport is to the north of Paris, 15 kilometer, that is about 10 miles more or less from the outskirts of Paris to the airport there.
I don't really have too many more details concerning where the plane crashed. We know it's in a location called Kneffe, and to the north of Paris again, and also, according to French media reports, one of the engines did appear to be on fire, again according to eyewitnesses by the French media.
HEMMER: Peter, understanding you are not at scene there just yet and your information is limited. However, the reports we are getting here through the Associated Press that it hit a hotel on the ground. Are you picking up similar reports there from where you are in Paris?
HUMI: No, we have heard, and I can't confirm those reports, similar to what you've just mentioned there, Bill. But I can't confirm that, we have people on the way to -- to the sites, and we're hoping to get some more information out of them when they get up there. But they appear to be, according to reports we have heard, about 100 passengers onboard, that may include crew as well.
HEMMER: All right, all right. Just so you know, Peter, Associated Press is reporting here that a crash into a hotel and restaurant in a nearby town there. But again, that has not been confirmed by us here at CNN, that is just the word we are getting just near the airport there.
Peter Humi stand by there in Paris. We want to bring back in our pilot, Sid Hare.
Sid, you have been around airports and runways for about how long as a pilot?
HARE: I started flying in 1970.
HEMMER: OK, so you have pretty extensive experience, and you know, from watching a Concorde takeoff, it can be a rather impressive flying object?
HARE: Yes, it is, under normal circumstances it is impressive, because it is very loud, it is one of the few commercial airliners, probably the only one, that has an afterburner, which actually pours raw fuel into the back of the engine to give increased thrust on takeoff.
When I first saw it, I thought to myself, that afterburner is a lot bigger than I'm used to. But it became obvious that -- that it was more than afterburner, this was some kind of fuel spill, possibly, or catastrophic...
HEMMER: We apparently, Sid, are you still with us?
HEMMER: You dropped off just a little bit. Go ahead and finish your thought.
HARE: With that engine failure, my thought is that one engine probably failed on takeoff, and may have damaged the engine next to it. The number one and number two engines are both on the left side, and you got number three and number four on the right side. And possibly that engine coming apart, slung blades into the wing, which could have opened a fuel leak, and that would account for the huge fire coming out of the back of the airplane.
HEMMER: And Sid, where you saw those flames and the smoke on the ground, how far would you say that is from -- from Charles de Gaulle?
HARE: It was obvious to me that the engine failure occurred during takeoff roll.
HEMMER: Which would have been at what point in the takeoff of that aircraft? HARE: He probably had no indications in the cockpit, prior to raising the nose, because at that point he had already made the decision to take off. But it was certainly, within those few seconds, from the time he made the decision to take off, to continue to take off.
HEMMER: So you say it was just within a few seconds when the plane left the ground, it was starting to gain altitude; correct?
HARE: Absolutely. In fact, if I had to guess, I would say that he had engine failure before the airplane even left the ground, but had to continue takeoff because he didn't have enough runway to get it stopped, and that is normal procedure for all airplanes. You have a go, no-go point, and he had obviously passed that, and was trying to get the airplane to fly, and turn back around, come back and land. But he didn't make it anywhere near to the point where he could even think about turning around. He never gained more than a couple hundred feet of altitude.
HEMMER: Sid, clarify one thing for me. I think, earlier in our conversation, you described the plane flipping on its side or even over its top, is that accurate?
HARE: Well, I am trying to replay it over in my mind, and, as the airplane was not gaining altitude, it's natural instinct for the pilot to try to get the nose up. And at some point, the wing stopped flying, and that's a stall. And that's what happened in this case, the nose pitched up almost straight in the vertical. That much I know for sure. And after that, I'm not sure if it just started a backslide or continued to fall over on the left side.
At that point, it was so near the ground, it really didn't matter.
HEMMER: Sid, you have been an excellent source of information for us, being a pilot yourself, with your experience and also seeing this firsthand. We encourage you to stay with us here with CNN, we'll come back to you shortly.
Let's go to my partner quickly now, Daryn, with more news.
KAGAN: We want to bring in Kieran Daly. He is editor with "Air Transport Intelligence." He is joining us by phone from Farnborough, England.
Mr. Daily, thanks for joining us.
KIERAN DALY, "AIR TRANSPORT INTELLIGENCE": You're welcome.
KAGAN: What can you tell us about the Concorde? As we understand it, it's one of the safest airplanes in the world.
DALY: Well, yes, I mean, it is, in the sense that there has never been the loss of a Concorde, of course. It is almost a unique case because there are so few Concordes. And furthermore, they fly relatively small number of flights, and they are extremely well cared for. So it's difficult to compare them with conventional airline safety records. They are really a case all unto themselves.
KAGAN: There is a story in the news yesterday, and it is way too early to speculate of what was happening, and with the move that British Airways made yesterday has any anything to do with today's crash. But tell us a little bit more if you are familiar with the reason that British Airways decided to ground one of its Concorde supersonic jetliners.
DALY: British Airways discovered some cracking in the wings of some of its aircraft. That is not altogether an unusual thing on most types of aircraft. Eventually, some cracking, to some extent, appears. The aircraft is designed to cope with that, that is built into the design in the first place. In this case, what they found was enough to concern them that, as you say, they did ground one aircraft and work has to be done on that. They are still reviewing the situation with the other aircraft, and some of their other aircraft in their fleet were not affected to that extent.
It would be most extraordinary coincidence if that had anything to do with the accident at Paris today. That is really most unlikely.
KAGAN: And once again, just to be clear, it is British Airways that made the decision to ground its Concorde jetliner, and the crash today occurred with Air France.
DALY: That certainly appears to be the case, I don't have the facts that it was Air France...
KAGAN: We have confirmed that.
DALY: ... operating Concordes out of Paris, that is correct.
KAGAN: Once again, my partner, Bill Hemmer, and I were talking earlier how few people, few Americans, few people in the world, are familiar with the Concorde because it is such a luxury item, $9,000 to fly from New York to Paris. Tell us what you know about the airplane, why people desire it so much and why it is such a great ride over the Atlantic?
DALY: The magic of Concorde, if you like, really, it's a reason for being out there at all is simply the efficiency it gives to really either to business travelers or to people who have so much money that they are not too concerned about how they are spending it. The point is it will get you across the Atlantic in a time that lets you even go out and back to the States from here or vice versa inside one day. You don't necessarily have to be away for a night, and clearly there are enormous efficiencies in people's business lives that can be achieved that way. But it is a tremendous cost.
The record of the airplane is that it has always had an extremely limited niche role. It was never sold beyond British Airways and Air France, which were of course the national carriers of the two countries involved in building Concorde in the first place.
And the reality is that this was a taxpayer-funded project in the first place to build it, and it was operated by two taxpayer-owned airlines for a very long time.
British Airways has since privatized and Air France was part privatized. But the fact of the matter is that there is no prospect at the moment of any other supersonic airliner being built, perhaps there will never be another supersonic airliner.
Having said that, it has always been extremely safe. Although it is something of an oddity in the world because there are so few of them and it is so unique that isn't because it didn't do what it is designed to do, it is simply because it is a very expensive way of getting around the world.
KAGAN: And the market is so small, you make a very good point, it is not your average airliner. Kieran Daly, editor of "Air Transport Intelligence," thank you for joining us by phone and telling us a little bit more about the Concorde.
If you are just joining us, to bring you up to date on the story that we are following here, the breaking news story that we have here at CNN, an Air France Concorde jet crashed earlier today. It was en route from Paris to New York City. We understand about 100 people were onboard. The fate of the crew and passengers onboard is not clear at this point. But we understand that the plane crashed into a hotel neater town of Gonesse. This was the first time a supersonic jet like this has crashed.
HEMMER: Associated Press also saying a restaurant on the ground also was affected, hit by that crash.
But let you know just a little bit more about the Concorde, in your discussion with the industry analyst just there we got a pretty good insight into this aircraft and how unusual it is because there are so few that fly around the world and its safety record is nearly impeccable. We talked about the blown tire 25 or 30 years ago, what it was before. But to give you a better idea, four-engine jet, as it was described before by Sid Hare, the Federal Express pilot on the ground there in Paris. Passenger capacity: 100 on board; just a bit more than 200 feet in length, and wingspan just nearly 85 feet wide there.
KAGAN: And as we keep that graphic up on the screen that shows you the size of the plane, let's bring Sid Hare, our pilot who is in Paris right now.
Bring -- Sid, bring you back. Give us, those of us who aren't familiar with the Concorde, compare those numbers that we just dropped off of our screen, how that compares in size to a jet that maybe more average Americans are used to flying on?
HARE: Yes, it's a good bit longer than most commercial jets. And the thing that most people notice when they first get inside the Concorde is how small it is inside compared to even a 727. Since it flies so fast and so high, the pressure differential is much greater than normal commercial airliners and so it has to be a much tighter airplane. And it is small compared to -- especially your jumbo jet, the 747. It's tiny inside. HEMMER: Sid, we're -- I pardon for the interruption. We'll come back to that thought in just a second, but this just crossing from the Associated Press wires as well out of Paris, saying 109 passengers on board. And apparently, according to the Interior Ministry in France, that, indeed, there were no survivors on the ground there in that Air France Concorde crash. Also, some reports saying most of the passengers were believed to be German tourists.
And, again, if you're just joining us, this plane was intended -- it's intended route, anyway, was New York City about 3 1/2 hours after it took off. That's normal flying time. But apparently something went dramatically wrong on board that plane earlier today.
KAGAN: We have on the phone with us now Lee Dickinson, former NTSB official, joins us from time to time on aviation matters here on CNN.
Lee, any insight into what could have gone wrong with the Concorde?
LEE DICKINSON, FORMER NTSB OFFICIAL: Good morning, Daryn.
KAGAN: Good morning.
DICKINSON: No, obviously it's -- I'm getting information just as you all are putting it out, just trying to collect facts, as I'm sure most people that are heavily involved in the investigation are doing right now, just trying to figure out where to start.
HEMMER: Lee, let's start with this one simple fact. It appears, although very low in number, the Concorde is a very safe airplane. Would you concur on that thought?
DICKINSON: Well, again, Bill, I think the short answer to that would be yes. This is, my understanding, the first fatal accident in about 30-some years of flying for the Concordes. Given the fact that you have about 30 years with no accidents, no fatal accident, one could say that, statistically, it is very, very safe. On the other hand, you got to keep in mind the numbers are of -- the total population of the Concordes, I believe, there are 14 in service, or 13 now. It's difficult to compare those with other airlines, but, indeed, with one accident, I have to say that this is, indeed, a very safe plane itself.
KAGAN: Lee, did you follow the story from yesterday, British Airways grounding one of its Concorde jets, talking about cracks in the wings?
DICKINSON: I heard that also, Daryn, this morning. I am not aware -- I have not read the report. Again, I was just relayed that information earlier today.
HEMMER: Lee, this plane has four engines, four large jet engines on board. Can it fly if one goes out?
DICKINSON: It should be able to. Typically, for airplanes that are flying in the United States, they're certified to fly with one or more of their engines out, obviously depending on the number of engines on the airplane. So, again, the answer to that question should be yes.
HEMMER: OK, the second question on that: With these aircraft, I believe they take off from Heathrow outside of London for British Airways, BA. And it's obviously Charles de Gaulle for Air France. Do you know how often these aircraft leave Paris on a daily basis?
DICKINSON: No, I do not. That is information that is known by people that keep that data, but I do not know how often it flies.
HEMMER: And I know we're trying to steer completely away from speculation, but when you first heard the reports, and based on the information you have right now, is there anything that comes to your mind based on your experience and your past?
DICKINSON: Not yet. Keep in mind, as I've told both you and Daryn in the past, that typically what you find from eyewitnesses, although I think people are trying to say what they actually think they saw, sometimes that is not always the case. So the information that I've heard so far about possibly an engine being on fire and then the airplane rolled over, one or both of those things may be correct, but, again, there has to be a lot more information to corroborate what is already known.
HEMMER: And in this business we like to deal in facts, and unfortunately right now we are very short on facts.
But, again, Lee Dickinson, former NTSB chairman there, we will keep you on the line there and come back to talk with you shortly.
But in the meantime, let's go back to Paris now and more with our folks here at CNN.
KAGAN: And we'll get some more information now from our Paris bureau chief, Peter Humi, standing by in our Paris bureau.
Peter, have you been able to learn anything more?
HUMI: Not too much at this point, Daryn. We're waiting for the information to come in. It does appear that there was this crash that happened, oh, just about 50 minutes or so ago as the Concorde that was due to take off for New York crashed shortly after takeoff at a location, at Gonesse, which is to the north of Paris, as is, indeed, the Charles de Gaulle Airport itself. It's about 15 kilometers, about 10 miles or so north of Paris.
We've heard, as, indeed, have all our listeners and viewers, the very dramatic account, eyewitness account of Sid Hare who described the Concorde obviously in trouble, one of the engines possibly on fire, according to French media. As to reports where the Concorde actually crashed, Gonesse is a suburb of Paris. It is a reasonably built-up area. We have heard reports that it possibly could have crashed in a hotel or a restaurant. I just can't confirm that at this point. But we are hoping to get more information in the next few minutes. Certainly -- it certainly appears to be a very serious incident, indeed. The Concorde has its usual capacity, about 100 passengers on board, possibly including crew members as well.
So, as I say, we are waiting to get more information in.
KAGAN: And we're hearing that there were 109 people on board this plane. Peter, do we even have a flight number? We know it's Air France, we know it's Concorde, we know it was taking off around 5:00 p.m. Paris time. But do we have a flight number?
HUMI: No, unfortunately I don't have that information.
If you look at air schedule guides, in fact, the only scheduled flight to New York is listed as one that leaves at 11:00 in the morning Paris time, which was many, many hours go, in fact. So this is possibly an extra flight put in during the summer, the summer months, the holiday season when people, obviously, here in France take their holidays, July and August. So at this point, I don't have...
KAGAN: Yes, actually, we're getting information that it was -- sorry, Peter. We're getting information that it was a chartered flight, so that would explain why it didn't show up in Air France's regular schedule of flights.
HUMI: That's right. If I can just jump in there...
HUMI: ... in fact, the Concorde does fairly often operate these chartered flights. That way you can -- you know, companies hire the Concorde for any sort of flight, really. I mean, it's...
KAGAN: Carry a bunch of executives back and forth.
HUMI: It's possible. We don't have that information, but certainly the Concorde has a tradition of making its planes available. There are relatively few scheduled passenger flights by Concorde. Air France flies to New York, British Airways operates, also, to the United States. I believe it's Washington. The plane has been in service for many, many years. The first test flight, I believe, was in 1969 and entered operational service, I believe, in 1976 or '77. It has a very good safety record. British Airways announced, I believe, just yesterday that it was going to inspect some of its planes. There were reports of very small cracks. We can't, at this stage...
KAGAN: Right, we can't say that one is connected to the other. And, again, that's British Airways...
HUMI: No, that's right.
KAGAN: We're talking about an Air France jet.
Tell us a little bit more, for those of us not familiar with Paris and the area, where Charles de Gaulle Airport is in relation to Paris and where Gonesse is in relation to that. How far is it from the airport and what type of town? I think you said it's a little bit built-up, a suburb. What more can you tell us about that?
HUMI: Well, it's on the, if you like, the outer sort of satellite of greater Paris. It's -- Charles de Gaulle is, as I said, it's about 15 or 16 kilometers north of Paris. Gonesse is gust a little bit further north from that. Obviously the Concorde was heading in the north-northwesterly direction, as far as we all are aware.
Gonesse itself is a relatively built-up area. It has some industry. It does have some hotels for people that, you know, are changing planes at Paris Airport or so. And I'm just getting some information that, according to sources -- and if we can just confirm this -- excuse me -- that it does appear that -- and now I'm quoting the French Ministry of Interior that has just released an update: 109 people on board, as you said, 100 passengers and nine crew members. And, in fact, all are now confirmed dead. And this is a report just coming to us from the French Ministry of Interior. They confirmed that the crash did happen at Gonesse, just north of the Charles de Gaulle Airport, and unfortunately, all of those onboard, 100 passengers and nine crew members, are now confirmed dead.
KAGAN: Peter, does that report have any news about people who might have been on the ground or in the hotel that we understand the plane might have crashed into?
HUMI: No, it does not. It just confirms the people that were onboard the plane. And, as I say, that report coming to us from the French Ministry of Interior. The crash, once again, happening about one hour ago.
Obviously, being fairly close to, or very close to Paris Airport, the rescue services were there quickly on the scene, and unfortunately there appears to be no survivors.
KAGAN: Peter Humi, our Paris bureau chief, we are going to have you stand by. That is tragic news. It is, however, consistent with what we were hearing from eyewitness accounts of what happened, that they described the plane going down quickly after takeoff and reports of a fireball as well. One hundred and nine people aboard that Air France Concorde, and he French Ministry right now saying no survivors from that crash.
With more, here is Bill.
HEMMER: In addition to that, we are also getting reports out of Paris, the Interior Ministry, about 30 minute ago, that they were reporting, indeed, that most of the passengers on board were from Germany. And again, that plane bound for New York, scheduled to land 3 1/2 hours later, 8:30 local time in Paris. Apparently, that is not the case, something dramatically has gone wrong on board that Air France Concorde plane.
Back with us now, Lee Dickinson, a former investigator.
Sir, where do you start? where do you start looking at questions when you arrive on the scene in a case and situation like this? DICKINSON: Bill, one of the things that will happen, the French investigators and authorities will most likely follow a procedure very similar to what the United States National Transportation Safety Board would follow. It would break up into various groups.
Apparently, my understanding is that the aircraft did indeed hit a hotel. One of the things that has to be done right away is to make sure that there are no people that are injured and need medical help that are in a hospital. So that is number-one priority before the investigation would begin.
After the medical people make that determination, then the investigators will start collecting the data and working, if you will, from the ground up to try to find out exactly what happened, but more importantly, why.
HEMMER: So many times it takes investigations like these a full year, if not more time, to make conclusions. Is that a safe assumption in this case?
DICKINSON: When I was at the safety board, when I was one of the board members, one of the rules that we tried to follow was, indeed, to have a report ready for the public within the one-year after the anniversary date, if you will, of the accident.
I would assume, that the French that they would be leading this investigation, possibly with the help of the NTSB, if so requested. They would probably try to do the same thing.
What they want to do is make sure that they don't leave any stone unturned, so to speak; that they do gather all the information that they can. That would be the foundation for doing the analysis and coming up with the cause of the accident.
HEMMER: All right, Lee Dickinson, former NTSB official there, again with us by telephone.
Also with us by telephone, back from Paris, Sid Hare, a pilot with Federal Express, an eyewitness to the crash, that again took place just before 5:00 local time in Paris.
Sid, I understand you are back on the phone with us. What more can you add since the last time we talked?
Sid Hare, can you hear me? Bill Hemmer in Atlanta, CNN.
OK, obviously, we are having a bit of difficulty getting Sid Hare on the telephone line. They will try and establish that connection once again.
But just as a matter of course here, let's go ahead and recap what happened. What we know, anyway. An Air France Concorde jet left Charles de Gaulle Airport.
KAGAN: About 5:00 p.m. HEMMER: Yes, just about an hour and 10 minutes ago or so. And crashed shortly after takeoff. The eyewitness reports we have, through Sid Hare, a pilot who is an eyewitness in a local hotel, he says he saw flames coming out the left rear engine and then shortly thereafter saw -- excuse me, smoke initially, I apologize, and then later the flames were spotted there.
And again, the reports we are getting there is indeed through the Interior Ministry, 109 people onboard, including the crew members, all perished in that crash today.
KAGAN: And if folks are tuning in looking for a flight number, wondering if one of their loved ones is on board. This flight, we should say, as we understand it, it's a chartered flight. It is not a regularly scheduled flight of Air France. So we can possibly assume it is an entire group that has taken that flight, and that it was -- and that it was a group of German tourists.
HEMMER: Sid Hare will hopefully be back on the line with us shortly, so Lee Dickinson standing by with us now, former official.
We have more facts again about the Concorde. It's really somewhat unknown to most people just because it is so small in distribution and it is only flown by...
KAGAN: British Airways and Air France.
HEMMER: And most exclusive passengers as well.
KAGAN: Costs about $9,000 to fly from New York to Paris to New York. But what that buys you is what has been an excellent and exceptional safety record.
Lee, tell us a little bit more about, up until now, how safe this plane has been?
DICKINSON: Well, as and you Bill both mentioned, this is, indeed, the first fatal accident in about 30 plus years that the 14 airplanes have been flying back and forth across the country. So it is a pretty phenomenal record. And I use the caveat, as I did before, we are talking about 14 airplanes, but there really never has been a fatal accident, obviously, to the extent that we are talking about this here one today.
KAGAN: All right, Lee, stand by, we are going to back to Peter Humi.
HEMMER: Indeed, we are. More information, Peter, live there in Paris?
HUMI: That -- that's right, yes, Bill, if I can just quote again, the information that we're getting from the French media, and that is that the Concorde was, indeed, a charter flight. It was -- it was chartered by a company that is called Dialman (ph), which is a tour operator, and this is according to a spokesman from Air France. The company once again called Dialman. We believe, I can't confirm, but we believe that that is a German tour operator.
Also, according to reports from the police at Gonesse, once again just to remind you, Gonesse is the location just to the north of Charles de Gaulle Airport. This is where the Concorde crashed. According to police at Gonesse, at the location, the Concorde did strike a hotel, it's known as the Hotel Hotelisimo (ph). No indications yet whether the Concorde actually came down, smack onto the hotel or whether just a wing of the hotel or indeed just very close to the hotel.
But police are saying, there was some damage on the ground to the hotel in Gonesse. So those -- some other eyewitness reports and some of the earlier reports now seem to be confirmed, as to the location, actually in Gonesse, where the Concorde came down. it does appear to be, again, according to police on the ground, some damage to a local hotel.
KAGAN: Any word on casualties or injuries on the ground as part of that hotel, Peter?
HUMI: No, no, there's not, Daryn, not yet. The only information that we have and, again, quoting the French Ministry of Interior, that released a statement just a few minutes ago, that all of those onboard, 100 passengers, and nine crew members, there are no survivors, following the crash of the chartered Concorde flight.
HEMMER: And Peter, there is no videotape coming into your bureau right now, either broadcast locally or by some other means that has been able to give a glimpse of the scene on the ground there; correct?
HUMI: No, in fact, I am looking across the newsroom now, at a monitor that a few yards away, and I'm looking at a -- a French news network, and they have no pictures at this point. They have graphics and they have people in their studio doing the same sort of reports, I guess, that we are doing, but I have not seen any pictures.
HEMMER: Peter, here is a question for you, seven flown by BA, British Airway, five by Air France. How did the French perceive this flying machine? because, indeed, it is rare when you look at a global perspective on the airline industry?
HUMI: It is indeed, and in fact, if you consider that the Concorde has been flying really now for 30 years. It was first tested in flight around 1969, and entered commercial service in 1976 or '77, I believe. It has primarily just been in service with British Airways and Air France. I believe Singapore Airlines may have had a Concorde or two back in the late '70s, but they certainly don't anymore.
And it's a plane that has seen 30 years service, and the experts were saying that -- well, there is no reason why it couldn't fly for another 20 years. It has a very good safety record. There have been a few incidents over the years, involving repair work that's had to be done with the Concorde. It's certainly a plane that catches the eye, it is a unique airplane, it is a supersonic jet, can cross the Atlantic in three hours and 40 minutes, fours or so, less than four hours. And it has almost become, if you like, the means for businessman or...
HEMMER: It was the class. It was the mode of transportation for those who wanted to cross the Atlantic or jump scotch the ocean, and do it at a pretty fair cost.
We talked earlier about upwards of $9,000. Recently, there have been some flights available for as little as less than $6,000, roughly about $5500. Still though, a pretty penny to travel if that was your mode of transportation.
KAGAN: Want to mention, this has been of course a huge news days, about 15 minutes from now, we are expecting President Clinton to speak about the collapse of the Mideast peace talks, we were talking about that earlier, the Israelis and Palestinians packing it from Camp David, getting ready to go home, no agreement in hand.
Up until that time, the next 15 minutes, we will continue to cover this story out of Paris. Once again, an Air France Concorde jet crashed about within the last hour and a half. We understand it is a chartered flight. It crashed very shortly after takeoff into the town of Gonesse. It crashed into a hotel, a hotel by the name of Le Hotel. It is in that northern Parisian suburb of Gonesse: 109 people on board this flight, 100 passengers, nine crew, the French ministry coming out just a little bit earlier and saying there are no survivors from this crash.
As to what has happened to people on the ground, to people inside that hotel, the Le Hotel, we are not sure yet at this time. We will continue to get this information and get pictures as we move along.
HEMMER: Give you a bit of a time frame here, from what we understand, as we continue to look at the dimensions of the Concorde again, very few flying worldwide. But according to the best tabulation I can make right now, 10:45 a.m. Eastern, which is about 4:45 p.m. local time in Paris, Paris six hours ahead of New York City right now. That plane did indeed go down about an hour and 17 minutes ago.
Lee Dickinson, former investigator, now with us as well.
And Lee, as we are looking at this graphic right here, what are we missing that we should know and be aware of regarding this aircraft?
DICKINSON; One of the things the investigator will be looking at, Bill, or looking into, obviously, is the maintenance records on the airplane, itself. Inspections that were done, whatever changes may have been made, making sure that whatever air-worthiness directives were required were done, making sure that all components that indeed had been identified as having problems, and I say that in quotes, had been repaired or fixed or in the like. Make sure that the maintenance is indeed up to snuff. And that the airplane was flying as it should be.
HEMMER: OK, Lee Dickinson, former investigator there, and earlier we were talking to Lee about what questions and what things you look at initially when you get to the ground. And certainly, investigators that do arrive there will be looking at exactly those things.
You mentioned the Middle East Peace situation. You also have Dick Cheney, the vice president, George W. Bush is going to be announced at 2:00 local time in Texas, 3:00 Eastern time. That's expected today as well.
And just getting word that we will hear from the president in about 90 seconds from now regarding the Middle East peace situation.
KAGAN: On a situation that is sure to be a disappointment for the president, hoping to bring together these two sides, in anticipation of September, when the Palestinians have said that they will go ahead and declare independent statehood for themselves, whether or not there is a peace agreement between them and the Israelis.
HEMMER: But before we go to that. I was just watching Peter Humi, I saw him put his arm up there. Let's go back to Paris.
Peter, do you have something to add that you want to jump in here now.
KAGAN: Peter, quickly.
HUMI: Yes. Just, again, information coming from the French media, quoting firemen, the rescue services that are up in Gonesse, the location where the Concorde came down, just to the north of the Charles de Gaulle Airport. Apparently all the passengers onboard were of German nationality. We are also hearing reports that there may have been one survivor. I can't confirm that, We are hearing reports, again, from the same source, the French media, the rescues services, that there may have been one survivor.
Now, we're not entirely clear yet whether the survivor is someone that was on the ground or was one of the passengers. But, at this point, we can say that the passengers, at least, are all believed to be of German nationality.
KAGAN: And Peter, once again, we said that this was a charter flight, not a regularly scheduled Air France flight. Tell us, quickly, the name of tour operator, as we know it, and the hotel that we believe it crashed into, the plane?
HUMI: The tour operator is given by Air France, it obviously owns the Concordes, and they're the people that charter these out on a fairly regular basis, I should add. The tour operator is called Dialman. We believe that's to be -- that's a German company that operates charter flights. I don't have any more detail than that. But the name is given as Dialman.
HEMMER: Have to interrupt you. Peter, I apologize. We will get back to that shortly.
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