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All 109 Aboard Dead in Concorde Crash into Hotel Near Paris; 4 On Ground DeadAired July 25, 2000 - 12:14 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now we want to go back to our breaking news story, which is happening outside of Paris. An Air France Concorde jet crashed with 109 people onboard a couple of hours ago. We are looking at pictures from French television right now.
And what we are going to do, we are going to bring in our Paris bureau chief, Peter Humi, who is going to translate some French into English with the latest -- Peter.
PETER HUMI, CNN PARIS BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, Daryn, what we're looking at right now are pictures from one of the French all news networks. They did show a little while ago some very long shots of the aftermath. It looked like a plume of smoke. Pictures weren't too clear. Looking at the pictures at the same time as
Looking at the pictures at the same time as you are here now. They are going over to a correspondent that is, I believe -- no, they are speaking to an amateur pilot for his opinion. It is not clear at this point whether he was an eyewitness or not. Just listening to what he's saying.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Peter, I don't want to occupy all your time there, but listen to that report, and let us know if there is anything we are missing right there. Have they said anything that we have not discussed just yet?
HUMI: Not really, we did hear some eyewitnesses, some people in Gonesse saying that they heard a very loud explosion, they confirmed the earlier eyewitness reports that we had from Sid Hare, the FedEx pilot. They said there was a huge ball of fire, that a -- followed by, when they looked over the direction of the noise, a lot of smoke billowing up. They said it was a very loud noise indeed.
We also saw some pictures of police and some of the rescue services in the area that in Gonesse, which is close to Charles de Gaulle Airport to the north of Paris.
HEMMER: Peter, listen, continue to listen there, and again if they show that videotape we'll train our camera right on that monitor, and see what we can come up with again. Still waiting for pictures there. Still waiting for pictures there from Paris and Charles de Gaulle. Again, if you are just joining us, it was about an hour and 15 minutes ago, and Air France Concorde jet, leaving Charles de Gaulle, en route for New York City, went down shortly after takeoff. The word we has, 100 passengers onboard, nine crew members, all perished onboard that plane. There was one report that we haven't heard a second time just yet, possibly one survivor onboard. But again, that's very preliminary at this point.
KAGAN: Actually I think we heard that from Peter Humi. And he was saying that actually could have been somebody who was on the ground. This plane, as we were hearing from reports, did crash into a hotel in the Parisian suburb of Gonesse, a hotel called Le Voilevlue (ph), a hotel just outside of Paris,
Want to show you a Web site, what we know about the people onboard this flight. This was a chartered flight onboard the Concorde, Air France running the operation, but this was chartered we believe by a group called Peter Deilmann River and Ocean Cruises. And this looks like -- if you look at their Web site -- to be a very expensive travel agency outside of Germany.
If you click through their Web site, under air transportation, they say that Peter Deilmann Cruises offers regularly scheduled round- trip air arrangements in conjunction with any of our cruises. Special air supplements are also available for groups and charters, which would sound like this would be the group we're dealing with today.
They offer you to fly from "one of our convenient U.S. gateway cities, passengers have the option to upgrade business class at a specially priced supplement."
So, as we understand it, we believe this is a group of German tourists that were coming from Paris, here to the U.S.
HEMMER: Indeed you are right. Going to take that picture again of French television there in the bureau in Paris for CNN. They too continue to run pictures, file videotape, of the Concorde jet itself. And earlier today, we did see, just a few moments ago in fact, we saw some pictures from the scene. We're still waiting for those.
Lee Dickinson, I believe, also a former official investigator, is still with us on the phone as well.
And Lee, I guess at this point we're just waiting for more information -- I will hold that. Here are the pictures we saw here from French television.
KAGAN: Kind of hard to see exactly what we are seeing. Of course, we are shooting a television monitor, doing the best that we can, even French television, we are hearing from Peter Humi, is having trouble getting pictures out of this crash site.
But let's bring Lee Dickinson back in, former NTSB official.
Lee, anything you have been able to put together from the facts, few as they are, that we have been able to report so far. LEE DICKINSON, FMR. NTSB OFFICIAL: Nothing more, Daryn, than what we have talked about before. Very important piece of information the recorders we have talked about, a number of other crashes that have occurred, flight data recorder, the cockpit voice recorder, that's information that would be very important, and hopefully it will be able to be not only located, but then retrieved and founded a read out. Hopefully, if that's the case, then it should give the investigators some idea about not only what the airplane was doing, but what the crew was actually doing to the airplane at the time of the crash.
HEMMER: Lee, how much involvement have you had with the Concorde over the years? You ever flown one?
DICKINSON: I have never flown one. I have been on the Concorde once, only at the Paris air show. I have never been actually in flight.
HEMMER: We are going to get back to that question in a second. What we are seeing right now is we have moved from really the scene. OK, just lost it there.
KAGAN: We're probably going to be in and out. As we talk to Lee Dickinson, you will be seeing these pictures that we're taking right off of a monitor, a television monitor in Paris. The first pictures out of this plane crash that took place just north of Paris.
HEMMER: Back to Lee, go ahead and finish your response there. You say you have never flown on one, but certainly you have been around them. What should we know?
DICKINSON: I think what your seeing, what your audience is seeing right now, the photograph right there, you see what the airplane is. it is, indeed a subsonic/supersonic airplane. It takes off sub-sonically, and then it is able to move into the supersonic positions, and then fly about 1300 or 1400 miles per hour, making the flight from either London or Paris to New York or here in the East Coast in 3 or 3 1/2 hours.
HEMMER: For aviation folks out there, is that Mach two, at 1,300 miles an hour, for a plane like that, 60,000 feet?
DICKINSON: Again, it's about Mach two. Yes, we're talking at normal altitudes, Mach is right around 600 or 700 miles per hour depending on conditions. So we're talking about Mach two, a little under Mach two, that's correct.
KAGAN: And, Lee, as we continue to talk to you, we're getting our first pictures in here to CNN of the site in Gonesse. That is the Parisian suburb where this plane, this Air France Concorde crashed into a hotel, Le Raleigh Bleu (ph). It happened about an hour and 15, hour and 20 minutes ago. One hundred people, 100 passengers onboard, nine crew members, the French ministry came out about a half hour ago and said they believe there are no survivors in the wake of this crash.
HEMMER: There is an eyewitness account there, obviously speaking French, hopefully we can get that translated for you.
KAGAN: Wanted to ask Lee, who's talking about the takeoff and the supersonic and subsonic aspects of this jet. Are there any special requirements this jet has for take-off, a longer runway, a shorter runway? pertinent here because it appears that the problems with this flight took place during the takeoff today?
DICKINSON: No more than normal for most airplanes that are indeed taking off, indeed, larger airplanes that are taking off. I'm not aware of any special requirements, other than obviously when it gets into its supersonic, what's known as cruise, when it's flying supersonically up around 50,000 or 60,000 feet. It can indeed, as your -- one of the pilots mentioned earlier, it can attain that speed at that altitude. And that's really what it was built for.
HEMMER: Sid Hare is that pilot we were speaking to outside of the airport there in Paris, a pilot for Federal Express. What was the future for this aircraft, the Concorde? it's been in service about 30 years, very successful in terms of safety. Where was it headed?
DICKINSON: Are you asking me that, Bill.
HEMMER: Yes, just in general, the Concorde itself, what was the future for this aircraft?
DICKINSON: Well, it's interesting because a number of years ago I ran a study dealing with the supersonic transport. And we were looking at that time at what was then known as an advanced supersonic transport, what we called an AST. This was in the late '70s.
And your audience may recall that in the early '70s, that we were going through energy crisis and environmental issues dealing with oil embargoes and the like. And part of the problem with the earlier Concordes was indeed that it did use a lot of fuel. Therefore that was one of the factors that really did not help it move along in terms of growing into either a larger airplane, larger than carrying 100 passengers, because it was not fuel efficient.
As I indicated, we looked at a number of other issues to build a larger airplane, maybe carrying up to 300 people, more fuel efficient engines and the like and dealing the environmental and the economic consequences of building those types of airplanes.
HEMMER: Interesting history.
KAGAN: Lee, we'll have you stand by, ask you more about the Concorde. We want to show our audience, once again, the pictures that are coming to us from outside of Paris of the crash site. These are first pictures in. Doesn't show a lot, doesn't show the hotel that we believe that the plane crashed into.
You can see some smoke, that would have happened in the aftermath of the crash. But as we said, these are the first early pictures. So we wanted to bring it to our audience. Obviously these haven't been completely edited. We're just showing it to you as they come in.
We were talking about the future of the Concorde, and, Lee, isn't it right, the Concorde is supposed to stop flying in 2005?
DICKINSON: That is my understanding, Daryn, I don't know the exact date, but that is what I've heard.
KAGAN: But it's coming to an end, its era.
DICKINSON: Correct, I said it's been in flight over for 30 years, or it's been in the air. And the technology is getting older and the airplanes are getting more modern, sophisticated and automated. But again, it has been a very good airplane, as we know from the safety record.
HEMMER: Interesting to see this videotape here when we talk with Sid Hare, that Federal Express pilot I mentioned a short time ago. We'll bring that back for you folks, that'll be back in a second here.
He described that plane taking off. And the first sound he heard was inside his hotel room. He looked outside, spotted the aircraft, saw the smoke coming off the left engine as it just took off there. And later the flames ensued.
But Lee, I was curious about just a pilot's experience with the Concorde, do you need special qualifications? or is it something that's not considered extremely difficult to fly?
DICKINSON: That, you would have to probably check more closely, Bill, with the pilots that actually fly that. But again, with the technology, as I indicated, being about 30 years old, I would not -- and you saw some of the footage of the cockpit itself. It is not necessarily that sophisticated an airplane. I don't mean to degrade it at all. But I'm just talking in terms of the video that you see. Obviously the pilots are rated to fly those airplanes. But I don't think it's necessarily that difficult an airplane to fly.
KAGAN: Lee, let's talk to you about being a former NTSB investigator and putting together the pieces after a crash. Tragedy like this, the only thing you can take away from it is hopefully to learn. If this crash did indeed end in a fireball, or it appears that it did, what are there besides the black boxes? how do you put together the pieces?
Well, as we answer that, we also want to tell you that we're showing more pictures to our audience from French television of the crash site.
DICKINSON: I'm looking at those as your audience is.
HEMMER: OK. DICKINSON: In addition to the recorders there is information that the investigators would like to glean from the air traffic control folks, the people at the airport, at the tower itself. What were they saying to pilots? what were they telling the pilots? where were they -- what directions, if you will, were they giving, or advice were they giving to the pilots?
There are also, depending on how much wreckage can be found and how much can be recovered, there could be information on the wreckage itself in terms of, if indeed there were problems with the aircraft prior to the accident. These are something that in some cases, under examination or scrutiny, metallurgical exams and the like, you may be able to determine that something was indeed, not correct.
I'm not saying that that's the case. But I'm just saying these are things that may be looked at. So you can couple all that information. If the weather was a problem, and I don't know that, that will be an area that we looked at. Operations, what was the crew doing? Were they following company procedures? All that information is coupled with other information that's collected. That information then becomes the foundation for the analysis that then supports the cause of the accident.
KAGAN: Still a lot to learn, Lee Dickinson, you've been very helpful in trying to help us piece together what's happened just outside of Paris today. Thank you for joining us.
If you are just joining us here on CNN, we can tell you that there was an Air France Concorde jet that crashed about an hour-and-a- half ago. It was taking off from Charles de Gaulle airport, just outside of Paris. It crashed in a suburb north of Paris, a suburb known as Gonesse, into a hotel, Le Raleigh Bleu hotel.
There were 109 people onboard the Concorde that crashed. The French ministry told us earlier that no one onboard that plane survived. One hundred passengers, nine crew members and now we're getting word here into CNN from French television that they believe there were four additional casualties on the ground. That number could grow as we go along, given that it crashed into a hotel.
HEMMER: Just trying to scour the wires, here, Daryn, that we've taken from many different sources around the world, trying to get more information on it. Now reporting again, as you just said, French TV, four dead on the ground, according to French television there, in hotel there.
Sid Hare is the pilot who was nearby that hotel.
Sid, are you back on the line with us now?
SID HARE, PILOT, FEDERAL EXPRESS, CRASH WITNESS: Yes, I am.
HEMMER: OK, what can you add? it's been about 45 minutes since we talked.
HARE: Nothing new from here. HEMMER: Are you still in your hotel, sir? or have you moved closer to the scene?
HARE: No, I'm still in the hotel, still at work actually.
HEMMER: OK, we have talked twice now, this being the third time, about your eyewitness account, what more can you add about what you thought was a particularly peculiar sound as you were sitting inside that hotel room, oh, I believe it was an hour and 43 minutes ago at this point?
HARE: Yes, it was a louder than normal takeoff. And that's what took me to the window. Of course, the Concorde is a loud airplane, anyway. But as soon as I got to the window and...
HEMMER: But the sound you were hearing, sir, was the engine, correct?
HARE: That's correct.
HEMMER: OK, and the altitude at that point was just off the runway.
HARE: Just barely off the runway, in fact, watching the smoke trails was all I could see when I got to the window, would indicate that it went off the end of the runway, less than 100 feet off the ground. And I didn't actually see it until it was probably half a mile past the end of the runway, maybe a mile, when it cleared the tree line. And at that point I would estimate the altitude at about 200 feet and just barely climbing if it was climbing at all.
HEMMER: And sir, I don't know if you're able to see CNN International from where you are right now. If you can, what...
HEMMER: OK, you can see obviously the flames that are on the videotape that was taken a short time ago. Are there -- rather the smoke, rather, I correct myself. Is there smoke still coming from that scene?
HARE: No, there's not, they've obviously got the fire put out.
KAGAN: All right, Sid Hare, pilot, who's been an excellent eyewitness for us in describing what's been going on. Thank you for joining us.
Want to bring back in our Paris bureau chief, Peter Humi.
Peter, along with us, you've been able to watch some of these first pictures coming in from French television. What else have you been able to learn?
HUMI: Well, let me just bring you up to date, Daryn. The Ministry of the Interior -- excuse me, here in Paris has released an updated casualty toll. And that toll has now risen to 113, 100 passengers onboard, nine crew members and four people now confirmed to have died when the Concorde crashed close by to a hotel in Gonesse, close to Charles de Gaulle airport North of Paris. The total now stands at 113. There is always the possibility, of course, that unfortunately, this toll could rise.
Other information that we've been getting is French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, the French minister of transport will heading to the location of the accident. We understand from information from the French media that rescue services have now extinguished the fire, the huge fireball that erupted when the Concorde hit the ground at Gonesse, close to the hotel as I have said. But the latest casualty toll, 113 people, 109 onboard and four civilians, if you like, on the ground.
Now, we've been listening and watching some of what French television has been able to obtain and there have been some eyewitness accounts. Let's try and listen. I'll try and translate as we go along.
We're listening to someone saying, well, we're used to planes coming over. But even though the Concorde does make a certain noise, this was certainly a very unusual bang and explosion.
This particular eyewitness saying, in the building where he was -- I believe he was an office worker in Gonesse -- he felt the windows in his office shake and he says there were two very loud bangs. The second one made the windows where he was working shake.
I heard earlier, also, some other eyewitnesses saying that there did appear to be some flames coming out from one of the Concorde's engines. And yet another eyewitness that French television interviewed shortly after the accident said that the plane seemed to turn over. I'm not sure we've heard that from anybody else, but he seemed to think the plane turned over and went down into close by the hotel in Gonesse.
KAGAN: Peter, I want to ask you about the casualties on the ground. So far, you said that the French ministry is saying that there are four additional casualties, fatalities on the ground in addition to the 109 people that were on board the Concorde. But I thought I heard you say that it crashed near a hotel. Earlier we had said that it crashed into a hotel. Are we clear on that?
HUMI: Not entirely clear, Daryn, I'm afraid. I mean, the reports that I've been seeing say they came down very close to a hotel. In fact, once says right next to a hotel. I haven't actually seen a report that's indicated so far that the plane actually came down on the hotel. However, it was certainly very close to it. We don't have information as to where the four fatalities on the ground -- where these people actually were. They could have been in the building next to the hotel, if that is, indeed, where the Concorde came down, or it could have been, of course, inside the hotel itself. We're awaiting confirmation on the exact location of the impact.
Another little bit of news that we've had in just the past few minutes: We said -- we reported earlier that all the passengers on board were of German nationality and that the Concorde had been chartered by a company known as Deilmann. It's a German charter company. It's called Peter Deilmann.
Now, the passengers were on their way for what would have ultimately been a cruise -- a cruise in Ecuador. I'm just reading the information on that, that they had been due to take a two-week-long cruise on a ship departing from Ecuador. And, again, the exact routing that this charter plane would have made, we've been informed that it was heading for New York and that, presumably, they would have flown on. It's not clear whether it would have been on the Concorde or whether the passengers would have changed planes. But their ultimate destination appears to be Ecuador, or appeared to be Ecuador in Latin America, where they were due to take a cruise ship. So a little bit more information coming in.
HEMMER: One would assume, if they were flying on to New York, they would change planes and then fly another plane into Quito, the capital city there in Ecuador. But...
KAGAN: Yes, although this isn't the kind of trip that I don't think a lot of people would have planned and would know about.
HEMMER: Peter Humi, stand by there in Paris. I want to bring back Sid Hare, who is also in Paris. He is actually just near the hotel.
And, Sid, if you can hear me, Bill Hemmer again live in CNN...
HARE: Hey, Bill.
HEMMER: ... in Atlanta. We were talking with Lee Dickinson who's a former official, an investigator who goes to these crash sites, et cetera, with the National Transportation Safety Board. My question was about the pilots who fly these Concorde jets. Do you need any special qualification? Is it considered more arduous as a pilot or less so because of the flight time?
HARE: From my understanding, it's a much more arduous training environment, much more arduous day-to-day flying with the Concorde, particularly for the flight engineer. For the pilots I'd be speculating, so I don't really know.
HEMMER: Is that due to the speed, excess of 1,300 miles an hour, as well as the altitude, excess of 60,000 feet?
HARE: Combination of both. It's -- my understanding, it's -- cruise flight is not near as relaxed as other airplanes because the airplane operates on such a small index of weight and balance.
KAGAN: Sid, Daryn Kagan here in Atlanta. I know you told us your story a couple time, but people do tune in as word gets around that there's been this plane crash. And you are a pilot and you are there near Paris and you did see what happened, so if you could tell briefly again what you saw and what you heard about an hour and a half ago. HARE: Well, I was just drawn to the window from the loud noise of the takeoff, which -- and I haven't heard or watched enough Concorde takeoffs to know if it was louder than normal, but I've had the window open for a couple of days now because the air conditioning's not working very well here. And as soon as I got to the window, I could see that the smoke trailing the airplane. I couldn't actually see the airplane itself. It was obscured behind the tree line. It, soon after that, emerged from the tree line and that's when I saw the flames coming out of the port side, the left side, of the airplane, 200 to 300 feet behind the airplane, which indicates to me a catastrophic failure of at least one of the engines on the left side.
And no one in the business likes to speculate, but it would seem to me that that airplane can fly easily on three out of four engines and probably fairly well on two out of four. So it seems to me that one of the engines had a catastrophic failure, which may have caused, also, the failure of the engine next to it on the left side, leaving it with only two out of the four engines. And a massive fuel leak, would be my only guess, would cause such a fire, you know, streaming behind the airplane that far, again, probably caused by the failure of that engine, high-speed turbine blades possibly smashing into the wing tank.
Again, that's all speculation.
HARE: The safety investigators hate speculation.
KAGAN: Yes, they do, as we do here. But we're just going off of what you saw, and we appreciate that you're a pilot and appreciate your expertise, a combination of eyewitness account and understanding what happened.
Want to talk about the Concorde itself. It's so attractive, basically, because it's fast. It gets you from one place to another in an amazing amount of time, flight from Paris to New York three hours and 35 minutes. Seems almost surreal.
HEMMER: You see the takeoff speed 250 miles an hour. We'll talk with Lee Dickinson shortly and compare that to other jetliners that leave major American cities and other airports around the world. Cruising speed, I mentioned earlier, 13,036 miles an hour at roughly 55,000 feet. They can go higher if indeed that's what the jet stream calls for; landing, 187 miles per hour.
One slight correction before we go to Lee Dickinson. Lou Waters here at CNN informing us now that the cruise ship itself actually was in New York City.
KAGAN: Oh, it was.
HEMMER: So, indeed, they would land at possibly JFK, John F. Kennedy Airport there, and then board the cruise ship there and then possibly work their way down the coast of the Atlantic and eventually through, possibly, the Panama Canal and ending up on the west coast of Ecuador.
Back with Lee Dickinson shortly here.
And Lee, we just showed the numbers here about the speed at which a Concorde travels. What more can you add on that relative to most jetliners that people are used to flying?
DICKINSON: Well, I think, Bill, the only thing that I see -- saw the little schematic that says takeoff about 250 miles per hour. That is much faster than most airplanes will, indeed -- the speed that they will attain to, what's known as rotate, meaning lifting the front end of the airplane off its nose gear and then get into the air. Landing at 187 miles per hour: Typically, airplanes would indeed land at slower speeds than that, but that's about the only thing that I could say right now in comparison to other both wide-body and narrow-body airplanes.
KAGAN: Want to get back -- Lee, we'll have you hold on -- get back, explain to people what this group was again so we understand who was on board the Concorde. As we understand, it's a group of German tourists who had booked a trip through Peter Deilmann Cruises. That's a German outfit that, it's Web site explains, will basically book everything for you: the luxury accommodations, the airfare, everything.
And as we understand it, they were taking off from Paris, going to fly to New York, going to get on board a cruise ship. They were supposed to land at 2:21 p.m. at New York's Kennedy Airport, according to wire services. And then, according to the New York Port Authority, they were supposed to embark around 2:00 p.m. on Thursday to go on a cruise through Ecuador.
HEMMER: That's about an hour and 40 minutes from now, the anticipated or expected previous landing time. Again, the passenger manifest there, 100 passengers onboard, plus 9 crew members, and 4 people apparently on the ground all perish in that crash earlier today.
Back to Paris. He is Peter Humi once more -- Peter.
HUMI: Bill, just another piece of information that has come to us in the past few minutes. According to the French Civil Aviation Authority, they are not at this point planning to automatically the other Concorde supersonic jets that are flying with Air France, that is not to say that they won't. They said, at this point, it is too early to say exactly what they will do, in terms of checking the other Concordes or in terms of eventually grounding them.
However, I think it's fairly likely that the -- fairly obvious, the other Concordes will go through fairly thorough checks. British Airways just reported, earlier this week, in fact, that they had detected very small crashes in some of their Concordes. So, following on from that, and certainly today's tragic accident near Charles de Gaulle Airport, it is highly that Concorde will be grounded for technical tests. But, at this point, the French Aviation Authority, has not ordered an automatic grounding. They are waiting to get more information, obviously, from the crash site. The investigation could take some time. I think we can expect to see that the Concorde will not be flying certainly for the foreseeable future, until everything has been absolutely checked very, very thoroughly -- Bill.
HEMMER: Peter, again, we reported about an hour ago, that British Airways actually grounded its fleet yesterday.
KAGAN: Grounded one of its planes.
HEMMER: One of its planes there after it picked up some problems on the wing. And Peter, before we talk about that, this is the latest videotape we have. Again, these picture appear to be not only closer to the scene, but possibly earlier, closer to the time the plane went down, those flames and the smoke that is billowing there seems to be a lot -- for lack of a better word -- a lot more fresh than what we had seen previously.
KAGAN: And that would explain the different reports we heard about whether it crashed into a hotel or crashed near it. It looks like it couldn't have been any closer without actually getting into that building. It makes you wonder if the pilot, at the last second, had any control over the plane, and averted what could have been even a greater tragedy.
Again, the numbers we hear, 100 people -- passengers onboard the plane, nine crew members. French Ministry saying, none of those people survived, and as they know so far, on the ground, four people, in addition to those onboard, have been killed as a result of this crash of the Concorde.
HEMMER: We don't know specifically what is smoldering there. We know it is the aircraft. But it could possibly also be a structure on the ground.
KAGAN: That is true.
HEMMER: There was a report about an hour ago that said an annex for that hotel was actually hit by that aircraft. But again, no one is certain at this point.
But, in addition, you were talking earlier about the tour, some new information here coming through the...
KAGAN: I think we have pictures of the boat they were supposed to get on.
HEMMER: We certainly do. In New York, they are expected to arrive, Daryn, you mentioned that 2:21 p.m. Eastern time. Expected to leave two days later, after a two-day stopover in New York, 2:00 Thursday onboard a sea cruise, the MS Deutscheland (ph), headed to Manta, Ecuador, where the tour would continue there.
Peter Humi reported earlier about a two-week tour expected there. And as we continue to watch these pictures, this is nothing short of devastation this morning in northern Paris.
KAGAN: Let's bring Peter back in again. Peter, again, this is a suburb known as Gonesse, and is this, as you know, the area, typical, some development but then some open fields too?
HUMI: That's right, yes. It's a small town, I think we can describe it as, sort of built up around Charles de Gaulle Airport. There's a few industries there. There is warehouses, certainly. It is an area that is, if you like, by and large, green fields. There is a small center there,
Gonesse is sign posted certainly as you are making your way up to Charles de Gaulle Airport from Paris, if I recall correctly, you don't actually pass it, you pass reasonably close to it on the way to the airport. What we were looking at there could, of course, have been the hotel that we've had reports was very close to where the Concorde impacted, and now there's...
KAGAN: Can we listen in to these eyewitness reports? can you translate these for us, Peter?
HUMI: I'll try my best.
I think -- I can't hear it too well. I think what this fellow is saying is that he certainly heard an explosion. He -- by the looks of his uniform, is probably works for a delivery company or even the French post office, he was working close by. He heard an explosion, saw the smoke and rushed out to the site of the crash.
Let me listen in just a little more.
HUMI: All right, no, I'm sorry I'm not really able to pick up too much more of that. There back to the graphic.
But just to return to Gonesse, it is a small town, it's in the -- sort of the outer satellites of Paris, to the north of Paris, and just to the south or southwest of Charles de Gaulle Airport itself.
KAGAN: How far would you say? from the airport?
HUMI: From the airport?
HUMI: I would say it's just a few kilometers, a few miles.
HUMI: It is an area that -- some flights do fly over arriving or landing at Charles de Gaulle, obviously depending on where they are coming from. They are used to having planes flying overhead. Charles de Gaulle is an extremely busy airport, one of the busiest in Europe, and certainly in these summer months, as there are more charter flights and holiday makers and tourism at its height in Europe, it is an area that is constantly over flown by airplanes.
HEMMER: Peter stand by there, going to give a little more information now on this tour that was expected -- anticipated by the 100 passengers onboard. Again, and we told you, they were supposed to land in New York City 2:21 p.m. Eastern time, which is about an hour and 35 minutes from now. That will not happen.
From there, the tour had been expected to leave on Thursday, heading down pretty much a luxury cruise, five-star cruise liner, carrying upwards of 500 people. The cruise had included stops in Nassau, in the Bahamas, Havana, Cuba, eventually working its way down through the Panama Canal, expected to arrive in Ecuador in the town of Manta on the 8th of August, that is a coastal city, west coast of Ecuador there. And if anybody is familiar with that part of the world, you know there is quite a bit to do in the country of Ecuador, including the world famous Galapagos Islands, just to the west there,
Again, the flight manifest, 100 people on board, nine crew members in addition to that, four on the ground, all reported dead as of today.
KAGAN: Let's get back to the safety issue of the Concorde. And for that, let's bring back in Lee Dickinson.
Lee, this is not a typical airline operation, so few planes, 13 or 14 in operation, and the care and the attention they are given, it is not your typical airline situation. However, up until today, this was one of the safest airplanes around, wasn't it? Lee, are you still with us?
DICKINSON: I am sorry, somebody interrupted, is that Daryn?
KAGAN: Yes, this is Daryn Kagan in Atlanta.
DICKINSON: I didn't hear your question, Daryn.
KAGAN: OK, we will start over. Talking about the safety of the Concorde, not your typical airline situation in that there are so few in operation, in the type of service and care and attention they are given, and yet up until today, one of the safest airplanes around?
DICKINSON: That's correct. You say not typical. It is typical in terms of they perform the same types of inspections and maintenance and the like that are required for all airplanes. I would say it is not typical in terms of the number of airplanes that are actually flying, 14 and now 13.
KAGAN: And yet there is this story yesterday, British Airways pulling one of its planes from operation, talking about cracks that it discovered in the wings, I believe?
DICKINSON: I was -- I heard that same report also. I don't know the specifics of that. What they found or even after they found whatever it was, why they made the decision to ground the airplane, if indeed the airplane was grounded. It may have been pulled out of service to do further checks, but that could be translated into being grounded. I am not sure.
KAGAN: And that is typical of the number of airliners. I mean, you can develop cracks, and you just have to be aware of whether they are growing or what kind of safety concern they are?
DICKINSON: Both, absolutely. Cracks could develop. If, indeed, they do, that is part of the maintenance checks. If they are found, then they need to be fixed. And again, that is not atypical.
What is correct, though, is that the inspections need to be done and the airplanes need to be thoroughly maintained.
HEMMER: Interesting you make that point, just getting word through the BBC out of London, British Airways now reviewing the safety of its entire fleet of seven Concorde supersonic jets, this in the wake of today's crash with Air France jet near Paris. Again, it has not grounded its fleet, but, indeed, it is taking a look at it.
Pretty par for the course in matters like these, Lee?
DICKINSON: Correct. When you have a situation, especially a day before an accident, apparently, if cracks were found or some problem was found, and to be followed by an accident. It may have absolutely nothing to do with what was found yesterday. This is extremely, in my opinion, the right thing to do, just to make sure.
HEMMER: Again, we continue to pick up bits of information, as we go along here, and we are at a geographical disadvantage here in Atlanta, Georgia. However, with our reporters around the world giving us information, we are just learned now that of the 100 people onboard, it has been reported through French television that 97 were adults, three were children.
In addition to that, again, I mentioned the nine crew members onboard, as well, and the people on the ground who have perished.
Again, we have videotape here that we've been running for the past 45 minutes or so. This is of the crash site. This is virtually what we know at this point. This is the videotape that is closest to the scene apparently, near that hotel, again just off the Charles de Gaulle Airport and the runway where that plane went down.
If you are just joining us, we'll recap for you now: it was about 4:45 local time in Paris; 10:45 a.m. Eastern time, when a Air France Concorde jet, leaving Charles de Gaulle Airport en route to New York City with 100 people onboard and 9 crew members, when it went down shortly after takeoff.
The eyewitness reports we have, through people on the scene, is that, of the four engines onboard this aircraft, one on the left-hand side started smoking immediately after takeoff. It was not but 200 feet off the ground when things went terribly wrong.
From there, flames were seen, and the plane crashed, as you see right here the aftermath of that crash on the ground there in Paris, France. KAGAN: Once again, 109 people onboard. As we understand from French officials, all have perished. Also four people on the ground dead as well.
This is what we know about the people who were onboard this flight. This was a chartered flight, Air France running the flight, but chartered by a group, Deilmann Group out of Germany. As we understand it, they were headed to New York City. They were supposed to arrive in New York around 2:00 p.m. And then, on Thursday, there were going to get on a cruise ship and go on what sounds like the vacation of a lifetime. The two-week cruise that would take them down to Ecuador and show them sites and a five-star luxury ship that most of us can only imagine what it would be like to go on a trip like that.
HEMMER: You're right. Indeed, it is first class, and it was first class from the very beginning, because you know you need a lot of money to go ahead and fly onboard these planes.
Sid Hare was an eyewitness in a hotel, a pilot himself, who with us a short time ago. We're trying to reestablish contact with him. He was a valuable source of information. But, as we try to make those efforts to reestablish contact with Sid Hare, let's take again with Lee Dickinson, the former official with the NTSB.
KAGAN: Lee, don't know if you are able to see the pictures that we have been watching. Are you watching along with us on CNN?
DICKINSON: I am.
KAGAN: Anything you are able to pick up by the pictures that you are seeing on our air?
DICKINSON: No, only, Daryn, to comment, to caution that, while there have been a number of eyewitnesses who apparently said that they saw smoke and then flame and possibly explosion on the left side, possibly the engine on the left side. One of the things that you don't want to do is focus too much on something on early information. Want to make sure that the investigation is thorough, there is no question that the engines will be checked, will be looked at. We want to make sure that the investigators don't focus too quickly and possibly forget something or miss something.
KAGAN: Lee, it looks like we heard reports of a fireball, a fire. Looks like there was intense heat involved in thus crash, how can that hurt investigation trying to figure out what happened and to prevent it from happening again?
DICKINSON: Well, we know, given this airplane had just taken off, so it was flying to the East Coast, so it was full of fuel. So the fact that their was a fireball is not surprising.
KAGAN: Not surprising?
DICKINSON: Not surprise, to have an airplane full of fuel. One of the things that will be checked out, again, the comments about the possible smoke, possible flames, possible explosion prior to any maneuvers, if you will, any comments about the airplane rolling or turning over. I heard a couple reports about that. That is something that would need to be looked at, in terms of the aerodynamics of the airplane.
If the situation does occur, what effect could it have on flying the airplane. That would be part of the analysis that I would assume that the French investigators will be undertaking.
HEMMER: Lee, what is the M.O. for an airline when they go ahead and talk to the public. Do we expect to hear from them soon? or is this something where they are trying to get all the facts together before they indeed go before reporters and microphones in Paris?
DICKINSON: Well, I would it would be somewhat of the latter. On the other hand, keep in mind, that this is now France, this is not the U.S. NTSB. In the United States, the National Transportation Safety Board would indeed be the spokesperson that would be providing information about the aircraft, about the accident itself, what's going on, who's there, what they are looking at, what they're finding and the like.
The airline itself would be providing information on the manifest, and that type of information. But...
HEMMER: Lee, I apologize, I want to continue your answer here, but just want to let our viewers know, these are the latest picture we now have, firefighters arriving on the scene first. That is the report we heard first about two hours and 10 minutes ago, this through French television.
Lee, continue with your answer, and if you could inform our viewers, have you ever had any contact with French officials when it comes to aviation here?
DICKINSON: I did when I was on the safety board a number of years ago. And they would be following or will be following the same types of procedures that the investigators here in the United States would be following.
KAGAN: Don't know if anybody was able to see those pictures, if we could see them again real quickly, as we bring in our Peter Humi, but it does appear that there was a structure that was burning that would appear to say that the plane did actually go into some kind of building.
It is time for us to turn over the reigns.
HEMMER: That it is.
KAGAN: We have put in a long day here. This story does continue and it continues to develop and we are getting more information in.
As we turn things over to Lou Waters and Natalie Allen, we are going to check in one more time with Peter Humi, who is following the story for us from Paris -- Peter.
HUMI: Daryn, not too much more information. We've been looking at these, obviously very dramatic, and at the same time, very sad pictures of the aftermath of the crash of the Concorde. As you say, it certainly does look as if a structure was struck on the ground, as the Concorde came down.
We've been listening to some eyewitnesses as well, people that work or were indeed lived close by to Gonesse, as you can see from some of the pictures, it is a fairly open area, a fairly green-field site. There are some warehouses and industries there.
And some talk of seeing flames from one or possibly more of the plane's engines, and hearing an explosion. Some talked of two explosions and the offices in which they were working, not too far from the crash site, the windows in those offices rattling.
The security services, as we understand, have sealed off the area. There are no reported survivors on the plane, 100 passengers and nine crew members, and at least four people so far, have been reported killed on the ground.
Now, the prime minister of France, Lionel Jospin, is on his way to the crash site. He wants to see it firsthand exactly what the situation is, to speak to rescue services and emergency services there, accompanying him the French transport minister.
I would like to add that this is really the first crash of the Concorde that has been operating with Air France now for about 25 years, 24. 25 years or so. The plane has been in existence for longer than that, 30 years, 31 years. And this is the most serious incident concerning the airplane.
British Airways reported that one of its Concordes, they had noticed cracks on one of their planes, and had grounded that. But Air France, at this point saying, too early to say what could have possibly caused this accident, and too early whether they will announce, whether they are going to ground the remainder of their Concorde fleet.
This was a chartered flight. The Concorde flies commercially every day to New York on a morning flight. This was an afternoon flight that took off shortly before quarter to 5:00 local time. It was a chartered flight with Germans onboard. All the passengers were German. They were due to fly to New York, where they were going join a cruiseship.
So, for right now, the rescue services still, we've been told, have brought the fire under control. Obviously, still a very heavy presence there, the investigation is due to begin as soon as officials can access the crash site, and the debris, and the remnants of the Concorde.
Back to Atlanta.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Peter Humi, thanks to you. And we continue to bring you developments in this Concorde disaster today from Atlanta, I'm Natalie Allen.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Lou Waters. So as not to startle you with the change in anchorship here. This is our normal time of day to start, and we are covering -- It's a very active news day. We are covering a major tragedy with a Concorde outside of Paris, major political decision today, and the collapse of the Middle East peace talks. So we are going to very busy this afternoon, and we might as well start at the top.
As though people are just joining us, which I am sure they are, and that is the crash of the Concorde, operated by Air France, and chartered by the Deilmann tour group, with a passenger load of 100, all of German descent, a tour to New York City.
Just before 11:00 Eastern time. the plane went down after taking off from Charles de Gaulle airport outside of Paris. The tour group was headed for a two-week cruise to Ecuador. They were to have landed in New York this afternoon, and to have boarded the craft for Ecuador sometime Thursday afternoon.
We have a report of all passengers and crew dead, 109 total there, four on the ground dead. An earlier report had indicated that the plane had crashed into a hotel. We're now getting indications it's near a hotel, four on the ground confirmed dead. It could be worse than that. We're continuing to follow the story, of course. And we're still, when you consider the scope of this tragedy, in the early stages of covering it.
ALLEN: Just yesterday, British Airways announced it had grounded one of its Concordes because of cracks on its wings. The airline says it discovered small cracks in the rear wings of its entire seven-plane Concorde fleet a few months ago. At first, airline officials thought there was no safety problem, but last week they discovered a crack on one of the planes had grown to more than 2 1/2 inches. That plane was grounded, but the other British Airways Concordes continue to fly.
There's no evidence at this point that the problems with the British Airways Concordes have any connection with today's Air France crash. Witnesses said of today's crash that the jetliner flamed out at an altitude of 200 feet with its nose up; that it apparently went down in a huge fireball and crashed in or near this hotel in the northern Paris suburb.
Another eyewitness -- and we're quoting -- said: "I saw the Concorde passing with its left engine on fire. It crashed a little later, about two minutes after takeoff."
WATERS: Joining us from Washington is a former chief of staff of the Federal Aviation Administration, Michael Goldfarb, who joins us at times like these, very critical times in the aviation industry.
Michael Goldfarb, from what you've heard -- and it has been said earlier on that the cracks that were discovered in the British fleet would -- it would be extremely rare for that to have had anything to do with this crash.
MICHAEL GOLDFARB, FORMER FAA CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, Lou, I think you said it a few minutes ago: It's so early in this stage that anything is possible. And the cracks that apparently were reported on both the Air France and the British Air Concordes the authorities felt were not safety-critical problems. There's so much conflicting information here: you know, the plane apparently stalled -- may have stalled nose up, the explosion and the smoke indicating engines as opposed to structure.
You know, the Concorde is the icon of modern, safe air travel. It's an amazing aircraft. Air France is a very good aviation company, the French authorities are very good in their oversight of their industry, so it's a real tragedy, quite baffling. And, you know, we're just unfortunately going to have to wait and see.
WATERS: Yes, one of the incidental aspects of this story is the aging of the supersonic fleet and the phasing out of the fleet. I've heard estimates of within 10 years. What are the problems associated with this very special airplane and getting parts for it and keeping it operating until it has fatigued in 10 years?
GOLDFARB: Well, actually, the Concorde is a world unto its own. And the suppliers are great and parts aren't so much a problem. But I think you bring up an interesting question about fatigue and structural aging of aircraft. I mean, aircraft can fly 30, 40, 50 years if they're properly maintained. And maintenance is really the key to make sure that those cracks or those small six-millimeter cracks they found on the British airplanes are, in fact, fixed. But this plane is approaching its life limits.
There hasn't been quite the market, as you know, for the supersonic that they originally envisioned, so it's questionable about the future life of the Concorde, whether they'll reinvest in it and keep it flying. But, once again, the first crash yet, it's a great aircraft, a safe aircraft and everybody's quite stunned by this.
WATERS: Have you ever flown the Concorde?
GOLDFARB: No, I've never had the privilege of flying the Concorde. I can never talk anybody into letting me do that. The price is prohibitive, as you're aware, and it doesn't hold that many people. And the ride, for people that do experience the Concorde, is not even as smooth as a 727 at 30,000 feet. You're really bumping around because you're at 55,000 feet. So it's quite an experience to transit so quickly over the Earth's surface.
WATERS: The stresses must be enormous in this aircraft. I read one part here where the fuselage actually expands eight inches during flight and ramp workers are then warned not the touch the aircraft after it lands because they could be severely burned.
GOLDFARB: Right, I mean, that's what I mean, Lou. It's a class unto itself. The maintenance procedures, the parts repair, that's a separate world. It's not the traditional civil aviation world where you out-source to different, you know, maintenance facilities and parts are supplied by lots of different providers. It's a very closely guarded -- it's almost like watching, you know, in the extreme, when the shuttle comes back, the kind of damage to the shuttle aircraft after each flight.
So given that kind of stress and G-force, the Concorde has quite a degree of stresses, but, once again, never had a safety problem before. And it's too early to really jump in anyway. You know, birds could have been ingested into the engines on takeoff, foreign object damage to the engines if the engines failed.
Losing one of four engines is not catastrophic. I mean, you can fly. It's not a good thing to happen on takeoff, but losing one of four engines is a manageable situation. But if that loss was so catastrophic that it disabled other systems, then you have a situation like, you know, this tragedy is unfortunately unveiling.
WATERS: What about the future of supersonic air travel? There doesn't seem to be any interest at all in companies ponying up the amount of money it would take to develop a new breed of this kind of aircraft.
GOLDFARB: Yes, they're really going the opposite direction. I think, lately, the Airbus Industrie group announced a super-super-747- type of aircraft that they would build, the A -- whatever it was -- XX -- XXX -- that would hold 550 passengers. So the industry is not going for that kind of speed of travel that we thought maybe 30 years ago was, you know, presage the Internet, so to speak, and that was the way modern air travel would go. It hasn't gone that way and there hasn't been that kind of investment and return to make it profitable.
WATERS: All right, Michael Goldfarb, if you would hang with us, we're going to turn it over to Natalie, who has more on this breaking story.
ALLEN: Let's go to Peter Humi, our Paris bureau chief, for more information on this crash today -- Peter.
HUMI: Just a little bit more information, Natalie, that's came through in the last minutes. According to Air France, the Concorde which crashed today has been in service with the airline company since October, 1980. So that's almost 20 years. I think we've reported fairly extensively that the Concorde has been flying since 1969. I think that was its maiden test flight. And it's certainly been in service with British Airways and Air France since the mid-'70s -- 1976, I believe.
So this plane was almost 20 years old. It first entered service, I'm just reading, in October 1980. And that's according to a spokesman for Air France.
As to -- and we're still looking at pictures, I believe, aerials of the crash site. Those picture now about an hour or so old, I'm estimating. The fire has, according to rescue services, now been brought under control and almost extinguished. On the ground will be Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and transport minister -- his transport minister will be accompanying him. Just to recap: All the passengers on board -- and it was a chartered flight -- were German. It had been charted by a German tourist operator. The Concorde was due to fly to New York where the passengers on board the Concorde were due to continue a holiday and get onto a cruise ship.
We have not had an update on the casualty toll. It remains 100 passengers on board, nine crew members and four on the ground, making a total, which has to remain provisional at this point, of 113 people killed in the crash, which happened at about a quarter to five in the afternoon local Paris time, the Concorde coming down at the small town of Gonesse, just a mile or two away from Charles de Gaulle Airport, which, in it's turn, is about 10 miles or 15 kilometers or so to the north of Paris. It is Paris' main international airport -- Natalie.
ALLEN: Peter, has anyone said how many trips or how often one Concorde airliner would take during a day or cross the Atlantic? How busy is each individual...?
HUMI: I haven't seen -- I think that's a good point, Natalie. My understanding is that there's -- Air France, at least, operates a daily flight in the morning, late morning, to New York. And that plane then, if you like, does a shuttle. But my understanding is that, on their regular, scheduled passenger services, there are just two flights: from Paris to New York, and the return, New York to Paris.
However, this is the holiday season and, of course, there are far more tourist at this time of year. And Concorde has traditionally been chartered out to companies, private businesses, associations, what have you, that because of the number of Concordes in the fleet, Air France and British Airways, to some extent, have enough planes usually to be able to charter them out for a price, obviously. It's a very expensive proposition to charter the Concorde, but really because of the reputation that the Concorde has built.
And I should emphasize, this is the first fatal incident involving the supersonic jet. There have been technical problems over the years, some very recently. British Airways noticed that one of its Concorde had some minor cracks and grounded that aircraft.
The French civil aviation authorities, likely to ground the Air France Concorde, but for the time being, it's saying that, well, they're not going to rush into taking any decision about that. But they will certainly be inspecting those planes -- Natalie.
ALLEN: And Peter, thank you for that. We keep seeing this big white structure as we look at the video. And you had reported that the plane just missed some apartments and may have crashed into or near a hotel. Do you know which structure is that white building?
HUMI: I can't say for sure, Natalie, I'm afraid. The various French media reports indicate that the plane, the Concorde, crashed very close to a hotel. I've seen several reports giving different names for the hotel. So at this point I really can't confirm that information. But it certainly did come down near a structure and the French Ministry of Interior has confirmed that four people, at least, on the ground were killed following the impact of the Concorde. So at this point I can't really tell you what this structure is there.
It does look very -- it's certainly an open field, as I mentioned earlier. Gonesse is an area that has really grown up with the airport at Charles de Gaulle. There are some small industries there, warehouses, that sort of thing. But the plane does appear to have come down very close to a structure amongst the open fields.
ALLEN: And in between two roads. Peter Humi, we'll continue to talk with you this afternoon. Thank you.
WATERS: And this crash today is Concorde's first fatal accident after more than two decades of flying high-paying, often VIP passengers daily across the Atlantic. And coincidentally it was on Monday of this week that Air France and British Airways both said that they had detected microscopic cracks in the wings of Concorde aircraft. But Air France said there was no danger to passengers.
Michael Goldfarb, the former FAA chief of staff, remains with us. What does Air France and British Airways do about this now? Michael, this is a heavy public relations problem, among other things.
GOLDFARB: Well, you know, once, again, Lou, we're not faced with thousands of 737s in the fleet that would create a different kind of transportation problem. We have a very limited number of Concorde aircraft. I would imagine just guessing that prudence would indicate certainly a halt to operations, simply because of this kind of crash with no information at this stage.
The past history of the cracks, as we discussed, don't necessarily mean anything from a safety standpoint. It is coincidental that both Air France and British Air found that problem. So I would imagine the authorities are going to be cautious. As was reported, this plane makes only one flight and a return each day. It's not a heavy-use short haul kind of flight. So I would think there's going to be quite a degree of caution until we have more information to know what the cause was.
WATERS: It's my understanding that one of the British Concorde fleet already has been grounded because of the discovery of some cracks which were apparently wider cracks than could have been tolerated.
GOLDFARB: Yes, I mean, you go back to the public relations aspect of this, and this high profile crash. Once again, I think from a safety standpoint there are going to err on the side of safety here until they have more information.
You know, a couple of things, the Concorde's always a widely photographed aircraft upon its departure or landing at an air field. They're going to look for people who may have taken pictures or other pictures of the aircraft. Obviously, the onboard avionics, voice recorders, cockpit voice recorder, flight data recorders, I mean, all of that will follow once that get to aircraft and begin the process of -- since there's no rescue here unfortunately, begin the process of air frame recovery. And the investigation begins in earnest.
WATERS: Do the Europeans basically approach this process similarly to the Americans?
GOLDFARB: Yes, they do, the French, if I remember correctly, have a very good technical NTSB type of board that's well-regarded around the world, high quality technical experts. So yes, they do, they vary somewhat in terms of their governmental form of regulatory oversight. But it's a small community in aviation. And all of the authorities, the FAA, the DGAC, the French director general organization, as well as -- you know, one other point.
The chartering or the contracting out or leasing out of aircraft has become a concern only because you're asking a third party to take over responsibility for safe operations. And that's going to mean the authorities are going to look at the relationship of Air France to the German concern, the group that was operating this aircraft. The qualification of the pilots, the qualification of its abilities to handle the aircraft safely.
So any time you involve somebody else in a charter or in maintaining aircraft, a third party, it makes things a little more complex in terms of finding out who might have been responsible.
WATERS: Our video coverage of this crash scene becomes more intense as the minutes pass. These are new pictures just arriving. This might be a good point just to touch on the subject of the investigation with Lee Dickerson, who I understand is on the line from Virginia, a former NTSB official.
Mr. Dickerson, what can you tell us about the French process of investigating a crash of this magnitude?
DICKINSON: Well, Lou, it's Lee Dickinson.
WATERS: I'm sorry.
DICKINSON: But that's all right, that's OK.
What Mike, Mike Goldfarb initially said, is -- he's right on target, that is true. The French are well know, they follow procedures very similar to the United States National Transportation Safety Board. They will have the groups develop just like the NTSB would. And they would go and start collecting data, get witness information or witness statements, find out as much as they can on the ground. As Mike indicated, cockpit voice recorders, flight data recorders, that's very important information in terms of what the airplane was doing, and also what the crew may have been doing, who the crew was talking to. That information becomes very important to develop the foundation on which the analysis would then be based to determine the cause of the accident.
WATERS: And I would imagine, because, as Mr. Goldfarb points out, the uniqueness of this aircraft, only 13 of them in the world, that the amateur photographers must have been going at it when the plane took off. How much weight is given to that kind of evidence?
DICKINSON: That's a very good point, Lou. What -- sometimes what happens and sometimes the investigators get lucky that sometimes an amateur photographer or videographer or whatever may be taking photographs. And those people will be interviewed and their videos and 35 millimeter stills will be looked at and it may be able to provide a little more evidence or a little more information about not only what happened but why the accident occurred.
WATERS: All right, Mr. Dickinson, I'm sorry about the mispronunciation. Lee Dickinson, former NTSB official on the line from Virginia today, helping us understand a little bit more about the process of investigating the Concorde tragedy today in Paris.
ALLEN: Michael Goldfarb, I would like to ask you if that Concorde pilot is taking off and if he were to notice that there was engine trouble, how much time does he have, obviously, not very much, and what decisions does he have to make if that were the case?
GOLDFARB: Well, once again, loss of one engine on a four-engine aircraft is not necessarily something that's going to cause a crash. But it's less reaction time than he has, certainly, en route at 30,000 feet. He's at a critical point in his roll down the runway at the decision point about whether or not to take that aircraft up or to abort.
We don't know yet, there was a report, I guess, of some smoke, even in the acceleration down the runway. So we don't know yet at what point he or she was at taking that aircraft up. But at that critical juncture it can be difficult to recover from catastrophic loss of an engine, especially if that engine, you know, in some way effected other parts of the aircraft, it's difficult.
ALLEN: It would -- if he had become airborne -- like one of the witnesses said, it just seemed like he was trying to get altitude. That would be extremely important.
GOLDFARB: Right, and it was some reports, I guess, that -- with the nose up, maybe indicating a stall, and that the plane actually flipped over. So some attempt to gain altitude, and losing aerodynamic ability to fly, because it was not enough speed -- not enough ground speed or not enough air speed to keep the plane in the air.
I mean, once again, we just don't know. They're trained, certainly, what to do with a loss of an engine. But, you know, it's become so routine. Flying an aircraft, many pilots go through their entire careers never experiencing an engine out. They do in the simulators, but in real life, today's pilots often never have that kind of experience. And sometimes those piloting skills atrophy, in the sense that they really don't have to touch the aircraft too much.
And that's been a concern in aviation, the human factors part of having so much advanced automation. So much technology like we have with our home computers, that there's little for the pilot to do. And especially in an emergency situation, you know, landing and take off, the two most critical aspects of flight. It's something certainly authorities will look at.
ALLEN: That's an interesting point. What about the engines on the Concorde as opposed to airplanes that most of us fly every day? It has an afterburner. How much more quickly does that plane get up in the air, typically? how does the afterburner differentiate the Concorde from others?
GOLDFARB: I -- Lee Dickinson, if he's still on the line, may know the technical answer to the afterburner. I really don't. But certainly, the thrust is greater given the altitude it has to achieve and maintain. So it's a much more rapid ascent than a slow roll.
You know, oftentimes, if you've been on a small airplane for a while, then you go on a big heavy, a big jumbo, you're on the runway and you almost feel as if, you know, is this plane going to get off the ground because it rolls so slowly down the runway with so much -- so much that it has to lift.
The Concorde is a much smaller aircraft and capable of much greater lift.
ALLEN: Mr. Dickinson, do you have anything to add to that?
DICKINSON: Only to the extent that Mike is correct. The airplane does indeed accelerate, if you will, and ascend -- can ascend faster than other types of airplane. But keep in mind it has to fly subsonically until it gets out of the area of land. It cannot fly supersonically over land.
When the afterburners -- and I mentioned, as you did, Natalie, the comment that most military fighter jets, if you will, have afterburners and they are indeed high-speed aircraft. As we indicated before, this plane gets up to about Mach 2, somewhere around 1,300- 1,400 miles per hour depending on its altitude. So, that's when the afterburners are used. And it gets into cruise, and you're flying at that altitude. And obviously, then, that allows you to make the trip from the west to east or the east to the west in three or 3 1/2 hours.
WATERS: All right. We have now on the line Jim Bittermann, CNN correspondent, who is at the scene of the crash.
Jim, paint a picture for us.
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically, the French fire department is still pouring a lot of water onto the scene of this crash. There still is -- there's still white smoke billowing up from a very large debris field -- I would say about 100 yards in diameter or more.
The plane crashed very close, within probably 25 or 30 yards of the hotel. Apparently it also did some damage to some houses or perhaps another hotel on the ground. From my vantage point, I cannot see exactly what else may have been damaged. But we are told at least four people have been killed on the ground. As you've been reporting, 109 people were onboard the aircraft. They are believed to -- all to be dead. The police have cordoned off a large area. This is basically rolling countryside in the outskirts of Paris, the suburbs of Paris. I should point out we're directly under the departure path for Charles de Gaulle. Airport. There are planes constantly passing over our heads. So this plane was coming straight off the end of runway, the Concorde was coming straight off the end of the runway when this accident occurred.
I also should say that we're within about a mile of Le Bourget (ph) Airport, and it could well be that the pilot may have had in his mind an attempt to head toward Le Bourget, which is an alternative spot about 5 miles away from Charles de Gaulle, where planes can also land.
In any case, the accident obviously happened right after takeoff. Witnesses have told us that the left side, left rear of the airplane was on fire as the plane took off. We don't know whether it was actually on fire on the ground or after it left the ground.
The aviation experts we've been hearing this afternoon have been saying that in this kind of circumstance, if indeed the engine was on fire, as one of the engines was on fire as the plane was taking off, the pilot would have an indication of the fire in his cockpit. There's an indicator that -- monitor that takes -- take account of all four of the engines on the Concorde. And if there's any flame detected, the pilot would have been warned about the fire on his -- onboard his aircraft.
The aviation experts are also saying that in this kind of circumstance you could well have one engine catch on fire and perhaps explode, causing damage to other engines or control facilities on the aircraft.
So in any case, we are about, the scene of the crash, about 3 miles off the end of the runway at Charles de Gaulle, about one mile from Le Bourget Airport, very close to some hotels and some constructions on the ground, but basically in an area of mostly open fields.
And smoke still rising from the crash and firemen continuing to pour water on, trying to put out the fire.
WATERS: Are French investigators already on the scene doing their job, Jim?
BITTERMANN: Indeed. Yes, they were right after this crash. I mean, because it was so close to Le Bourget and Charles de Gaulle, Charles de Gaulle, this is exactly where the French investigators have their headquarters. So in fact, it took them no time at all to get over to this area. And they are also a number of police investigators.
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin appeared at the scene -- just at the scene just a few minutes ago, and he was -- looked over the crash site and then left, and spoke about the condolences to the victims of the crash. So it is quite a sad scene. A lot of people have come out to take a look at the scene of the crash. The police are trying to keep them away from coming too close to the scene. But there's not a whole lot to see.
I can see from this vantage point that there are also several cars on the ground that seem -- seem to be burned up. So there may have been some cars involved in this, too. It's right alongside a road, or perhaps some of the wreckage may be actually on a road that passes very close to the village of Gonesse, a suburban village of about 8,000 or 10,000 people.
WATERS: So do I have this correct now. You're about 3 miles from the end of the Charles de Gaulle runway. This is in the normal flight path that that plane would have taken on a flight to New York.
BITTERMANN: Right, absolutely. We're right off the end of the runway. In fact, planes are continuing to pass right over our heads as aircraft operations continue at Charles de Gaulle.
This, of course, did not have any baring on any of the other aircraft operations, because it's far enough away, far enough removed from the -- from the runways here.
But it is quite close to the airport. The plane could not have had too much altitude at the time of the crash, at the time the engines caught fire, as the eyewitnesses are reporting.
WATERS: You may not know this, Jim, because we have not yet heard from Air France. But do you have any idea what Air France might do about the rest of the Concorde fleet?
BITTERMANN: Well, I think this is going to cause some great concern about the Concorde fleet. I heard coming in -- I heard a report that in fact British Airways is doing some looking at their Concordes this afternoon in light of this crash.
The Concorde fleet, as you know, is somewhat aged, and there have been a number of incidents, not a crash, but there have been a number of very dramatic incidents along the years here. And I think that this will call into question to some extent the safety of the fleet.
These are very high-performance machines. They're very good at high altitude. They are not so good at takeoff and landing. They have more delicate phases of their flight operations. They have to take off at quite high speeds. They need all the thrust they can to get off the ground.
Having said that, aircraft experts tell us that in fact with one engine out this Concorde could very well have continued flying. But we don't know exactly what happened, whether the engine -- whether we had one engine out or more than one engine, or whether there was an explosion, which may have damaged control surfaces, or something like that. So there's a lot of variables here we don't know about. But I think that there will be a great deal of concern about the rest of the fleet and a great deal of inspection. WATERS: And I imagine they will have to, both British and French companies, will have to make their decision quite rapidly sometime today.
BITTERMANN: I would think so, because there are, generally speaking, if I'm not mistaken, I think there are two flights -- two Concorde flights a day from Charles de Gaulle here, and at least that many and probably more from Heathrow at London. So -- and plus, there is a lot of activity like this activity. This was a chartered aircraft, and these Concordes are often chartered by tour groups and by other kinds of groups so that they, in fact, they're in the air a lot, they're in use a lot. And they're -- in addition to the scheduled flights, there's a lot of chartered flight I'm sure they'll be concerned about.
But my guess would be that they would -- they would want to take a close look at and try to get a fast look at what may have caused this crash.
One of the high priorities here will be that black box, because they'll then be able to see at what point the pilot was getting signals in the cockpit about fire, what may have caused the fire. They will have a lot of parameters that they'll be able to look -- to be able to look at and perhaps decided what it was that may have caused the crash.
WATERS: All right, Jim Bittermann, keeping watch at the crash site, 3 miles from Charles de Gaulle Airport, the scene of a Concorde air tragedy today: 109 dead aboard. Passengers and crew included in that number. Four on the ground. The story continues to develop.
ALLEN: The crash happened at 10:44 a.m. at Eastern Time. An airline spokeswoman said there was fire in the left engine.
Witnesses also said the jetliner flames out at an altitude of just 200 feet. One of the witnesses said that the plane should have been much, much higher at the vantage point where he saw it after takeoff. That was from a Federal Express pilot who witnessed this crash.
That same pilot said: "It was a sickening sight when it hit. I saw the Concorde passing with its left engine on fire. It crashed a little later, about two minutes after takeoff."
Here is an account from an eyewitness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It was really, really low. Very, very low because very, very low since between the two explosions, one in the air and one on the ground, there wasn't even one second. It was very quick.
QUESTION (through translator): You mean two distinct explosions?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Two distinct explosions, definitely. One very strong and a second even stronger where the windows shook and the doors shook, it's true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: An eyewitness, one of the ones we will be hearing from this afternoon, as many people saw what happened there in Paris, just outside of Paris today, from Charles de Gaulle Airport.
We have with us as well. another correspondent on this story today, we have many here in Atlanta with us is Miles O'Brien, who covers NASA. He is also a pilot, and he has got a stack of books with him, as we joins us with more.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Trying to be a quick study, Natalie, There, of course, are many pilots who have loved the opportunity, would love the opportunity to flight the Concorde. Not a very big fleet, and thus the people who have had the opportunity to fly it, you could call it a rarefied set, indeed, perhaps approaching the numbers that have had an opportunity to fly the space shuttle for that matter.
One of the people who has had an opportunity to fly one of the simulators, and there are only two simulators for the Concorde, this is one of them in Bristol, England is aviation writer and airline pilot, check (ph) airman as well, John Wiley. He joins us on the line right now.
He recently wrote an article in the trade publication "Business and Commercial Aviation," describing his experiences flying that Concorde simulator.
Mr. Wiley, thanks for being with us.
JOHN WILEY, AIRLINE PILOT: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: First of all, you have flown, obviously, more conventional airliners over the years, what was the biggest difference in your mind when you got behind the controls of the Concorde?
WILEY: Well, my short time in the simulator, 2.5 hours in the simulator, maybe not the best indicator of how the airplane flies. But my impressions, in flying with the chief pilot of British Airways, is that the Concorde was not an especially difficult airplane to fly, but it was one that required considerable attention to detail and considerable attention to procedures.
O'BRIEN: You talk at length about the fact that there are no less than 13 fuel tanks all throughout the Concorde and throughout the course of a flight profile, the fuel is constantly being shifted around to change the balance of the aircraft or center of gravity, you use the pilot term. How complicated is that?
WILEY: Well, it's a procedure that has to be followed, obviously, to keep the aircraft in balance so that there is no drag at the high speeds of Mach 2.0. At the initial takeoff, this is not being followed. This procedure does not begin, the fuel transfer, until later in the flight and climbing out. O'BRIEN: All right, the initial takeoff. Every pilot knows there are specific speeds which are critical along the way. As we look at some statistics on the Concorde, the takeoff speed about 250 miles an hour, cruising speed of 1300 miles an hour, landing about 180 miles an hour. I'm going to shift into knots because that is more conventionally used by people who fly airplane, there is a speed called V-1. Why don't you explain that to a lay audience, V-1 and what does that mean?
WILEY: On takeoff, there are three speeds that are computered for every takeoff: V-1, all these are velocity, velocity one. Anything that happens prior to velocity one, V-1, you will reject or abort the takeover. The closer you get to this V-1 speed, the more of a major failure is being looked at. For example, if we had a minor failure as a low speed, we might go ahead and reject, but as we get closer to this V-1 speed, this V-1 velocity, we are less likely to reject because of the difficulty in arresting this inertia, this mass of an airplane that could be travelling as close to 200 miles an hour.
O'BRIEN: Can we back up just for a moment? When you say reject, what you are essentially saying is hit the brakes and try to not leave the ground, correct?
WILEY: Correct, you want to keep the airplane on the runway and reject the takeoff.
O'BRIEN: All right, and what you are talking about is you roll down the runway in any plane, Concorde or Cessna, is there is a constant decision-making process that the pilot, the flight crew, is making, as to how much speed I have now, whether I can fly with or without an engine or two. So when you hit V-1, and according to your article, that is about 195 knots, or 31 second after you have firewalled those throttles.
What does that mean? That means you are going to fly if you lose an engine essentially?
WILEY: Well, actually, because the process takes into a short amount of time of decision-making, many airlines go ahead and call the speed actually a few knots earlier. So that, at the moment that you reach that speed, your decision has been made. You are going to go unless there is some catastrophic failure that is going to inhibit the airplane from flying.
O'BRIEN: All right, so at V-1, you are starting to think about going into what is called VR. I don't want to get too many technical terms in here, but that's rotating the airplane, essentially pulling back on the control column, sending the aircraft upward. And what decision-making process is going on at that point among the crew?
WILEY: Well, the only thing is that there are two slightly different pitch attitudes that you are going to park the nose at. You have a normal pitch attitude that you are going to try to put the nose at for all-engine takeoff, and a slightly reduced pitch obviously you are going to have reduced performance with an engine failure. O'BRIEN: I know you went through a very abbreviated course on flying the Concorde, but I am sure you an opportunity to be briefed on what happens if you lose an engine or two engines during the takeoff portion of the profile of a flight. Is the Concorde able to climb out typically, if it loses, say, two engines on one side?
WILEY: We did not sample duel-engine failures. The problem that you have got with possibility of a dual-engine failure is Concorde's engines are seated in a housing close to each other. Most airplanes, if you look at them, a la the 737, 767, a couple of the other airplanes, those engines are mounted on pods beneath the wings.
There were a couple of aircrafts, Concorde being one of them, where the engines are placed side-by-side. Now, to prevent the possibility of one engine failure causing a second engine failure, Concorde has an in-canal steel wall between those engines. So the likelihood is fairly remote that one engine failure could have created a second engine failure.
O'BRIEN: All right, John Wiley, aviation writer, airline pilot, check airman, recently wrote an article on flying the Concorde simulator for "Business and Commercial Aviation," thanks for being with us on CNN -- Lou.
WATERS: All right, Miles.
Our breaking news story, in case you just tuned in, we know many of you probably just did, a Concorde jet, operated by Air France and chartered by a German tour group, crashed at 10:44 Eastern time. The story continues to develop, 109 dead confirmed. The French Ministry reporting 113 dead. Among the number of those killed are people on the ground, who were either killed or injured.
Peter Humi, our Paris bureau chef, apparently has more information on that subject -- Peter.
HUMI: Yes, Lou, thank you.
According to -- we have heard from the prime minister, Lionel Jospin, who rushed to the site of the crash, at Gonesse, close to Charles de Gaulle Airport, north of Paris.
According to Lionel Jospin, who was interviewed by French media on site, he said that there are survivors. He said, quote, "There are some injured. They were inside the hotel." We don't have any more information on the numbers of those that were inside the hotel. Jospin did add that their condition is good. To use his words exactly, their medical condition is good.
So no indication as to the numbers of those that may have survived. Certainly, there were other people inside of the hotel at the time the Concorde crashed. Four of those people on the ground, either in the hotel buildings or close to the hotel, were killed. But, according to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, there are some survivors at least of the crash on the ground. One other bit of news that has come in in the last few minutes, is that according to the head of Air France, Jean Selse Pineta (ph), he does not attribute the crash to any of the cracks that have been noticed in other Concorde airlines, notably the British Airways Concorde that was grounded earlier this week, yesterday I believe, because of some very small cracks that had been detected on the fuselage and also on the wings.
He said, it was a problem of the engine. So, according to the Air France president, it does appear to be an engine problem. Now, this may be borne out by some of the eyewitness accounts we have heard from people that saw the plane shortly before it crashed. There appeared to be flames coming out from one of its -- or possibly two of its rear engines shortly before it went down in Gonesse. So two bits of additional information there.
Obviously, we will continue monitoring the situation. But just to bring everybody back up to date, there appears to be 113 dead, 100 passengers, all said the German nationals, on the plane; Nine Concorde crew members; and four people who where killed in a hotel close to which Concorde crashed, about three hours ago now, just to the north of Paris -- Lou.
WATERS: Peter, have you heard what, if anything, the French government, or Air France, are doing to keep the families of these German tourists informed.
HUMI: Well, a transport minister who was interviewed, again, by the French media said that, obviously, one of their principal aims beyond an investigation that will discover the causes of the crash is to provide whatever help, support they can to the families and of the victims. The victims, the passengers on the plane were all German nationals. We can expect to see, I think, family members, friends of those on board the plane coming to Paris. They will need considerable amount of support, possibly some counseling for what is obviously an extremely difficult moment for them.
The transport minister said that, in addition to the technical inquiry, there will also be a judicial inquiry under French law. Of course, any -- if there are any deaths involved, an accident of any sort, there's also a judicial inquiry and possible inquiry into who might be responsible for the crash.
And just to recap the latest information that we have, Lionel Jospin, the prime minister of France, is on the site and he told French reporters that there are some survivors believed to be in not a serious condition in the hotel close to which the Concorde crashed. And the president of Air France, which had chartered the plane to a German travel company, says that he believes the cause was an engine problem, although, of course he adds, too early to determine exactly what that problem may have been -- Lou.
WATERS: All right, our man Peter Humi keeping watch in Paris.
We do understand that the German government is helping to keep German families informed. And we have a telephone number for you, for the German embassy help line in case you have any doubts about a loved one who may have been aboard the Air France Concorde jet. The number's on your screen there: (33) 1 53 83 45 00. If you're calling from the United States, that will require you to get in touch with the international operator by dialing 011 -- Natalie.
ALLEN: We are also are covering this story from New York City. That is where the Concorde was scheduled to land at JFK Airport. It would have landed at just after 2:00 p.m. Eastern time, at 2:21 p.m. Eastern.
CNN's Frank Buckley is there and he's got more about where this group that chartered the Concorde was set to go after landing at JFK -- Frank.
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Natalie. We have learned that the group of tourists that were headed to New York were, in fact, bound for a ship cruise, a cruise aboard the M.S. Deutschland, which is right now moored at Pier 88 in New York off Manhattan. That ship arrived here yesterday. It is set to depart Thursday at 2:00 p.m. Eastern bound for Ecuador. It was to arrive in Ecuador on August 8 after a cruise through the Caribbean that would have included a cruise through the Panama Canal. That ship with a capacity of 520 passengers.
Right now, that ship is moored there at Pier 88. And it isn't clear yet, we don't have any information as to whether or not that cruise will continue.
The Concorde that was to arrive here at JFK would have arrived at Terminal 1, which is one of the international terminals here at JFK. I just returned from Terminal 1 to just see what was happening there. There are, as far as we could see, there are no relatives or friends or anyone like that here to greet the airplane that was to arrive at this airport. And, in fact, Port Authority officials say they think it's unlikely that there will be those kinds of people here to greet passengers who are going to be alighting from that Concorde because of the fact that these were passengers who were boarded -- planning to board a cruise ship and then move on from here.
Right now, we can tell you that the Port Authority has told us that they are planning to have a news conference here at building 14, which is the press room here at JFK, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. That's about 15 minutes from now.
So we are awaiting word from the Port Authority and possibly from Air France at a news conference here in about 15 minutes -- Natalie.
ALLEN: Frank, do you know if this Concorde was set to pick up new passengers in New York and fly back to Paris?
BUCKLEY: That's a good question, Natalie, and that's one of the questions that we'll be asking when the news conference gets under way at 2:00.
ALLEN: All right, Frank Buckley in New York, we'll keep in close contact with you as well. WATERS: Michael Goldfarb remains with us from Washington. He's the former chief of staff of the Federal Aviation Administration.
You've been listening along. And as adverse as we are to getting instant answers in a tragedy such as this, you heard Air France saying that the crash was not attributed to the report of cracks found in the Concorde fleet earlier on, but to an engine failure.
GOLDFARB: Well, Lou, there's no way they could know that. You know, he did say -- cautioned about jumping to conclusions. We don't know if the engines were the cause or the consequence of something else that happened on that aircraft. So to go to engines at this state, even though it's obvious there was -- appeared to be fire coming out of the engine, it's just too early. You know, crashes are so rare, thankfully, it's always a series of events coming together heretofore unforeseen.
You know, if there's any good news -- and there's never good news in a crash -- but what's doubly bad is when you can never find out cause. And I know we've certainly felt that for four years with the TWA 800 crash off the coast of Long Island. In this case, we'll come, hopefully, pretty rapidly to the cause. It's on the airfield, they'll hopefully recover, it's not over water, they'll recover the black boxes, lots of witnesses. And in that sense, we should, you know, hope for a fairly rapid resolution to what did cause it.
But at this stage, for anybody, Air France official or French government official, no one's on the scene yet, they haven't even begun that part of the investigation. We just don't know.
WATERS: We also have Lee Dickinson, who remains on the line with us from Virginia, former NTSB official.
You've heard all that's been said since we last spoke, Mr. Dickinson. What do you make of any or all of it, if you do at all?
DICKINSON: Well, I would want to second what Mike just said. It is much, much too early to speculate on the cause of an accident. I agree, if some of the witnesses are saying they saw smoke or even flames from an engine on the left side, that may have been something to do with it. It also may have been the result of something else going on.
I stress to your audience that, typically in these investigations, what happens is it's not a single event that causes an accident. Typically, it's numerous things, several things going on pretty much simultaneously. If that's the case, that will be determined through the investigation. So I caution everybody. There is a need to want to find answers right away. The best way to find answers and determine a cause is to let the folks do their work, collect the data that they need so that they have factual data and not fiction, therefore, then they can determine the cause of the accident.
WATERS: Have you ever flown a Concorde, Mr. Dickinson?
DICKINSON: I have never flown. I've been on a Concorde. I have not flown one.
WATERS: You've been on the Concorde.
WATERS: So take us inside. What is it like for a passenger? We were just talking about how the fuselage expands some eight inches during flight. There's some particular dynamic qualities built into a plane like this that most of us will never experience.
DICKINSON: Let me mention that -- you've mentioned that a couple times about the expansion of eight inches. Planes are designed, especially this airplane flying at that altitude and that speed, there's a lot of heat that's developed, especially on the outside surface of the airplane itself. You want that airplane to expand and contract. What you don't want it to do is break. So, therefore, in the design process, the airplane is doing what it's designed to do. That's the first part of it.
The second part of that is, indeed, in the passenger cargo, if you will, the passenger area itself, it is somewhat cramped. Typically, it holds about 100 passengers. That's what you're -- have been identifying today, 100 passengers on board. While I cannot comment on the flight itself, just looking at the passenger area, it is not a -- it's a confined area, if you will. And I'm short so I could probably fit OK in the four seats. Typically, there's two seats, an aisle and then two seats. But someone that's larger, they may not have -- may not be as comfortable.
But, again, we're talking about technology that is more than 30 years old now, especially in terms of the interior compartment itself. So it's not something that -- while I've heard a number of people say that anywhere from $6,000 to $9,000 per round-trip flight, that is a lot of money. That's about all I can say in terms of the carriage, if you will, or the interior compartment itself.
WATERS: I had heard upwards of $12,000 for some of the ticket prices. So that rather shocks me to hear you use a word like cramped.
DICKINSON: Well, when I say cramped, again, it's -- if you are able to talk to some people who have actually flown on it -- and I think a couple of your previous people that have commented or answered some of your questions have indeed been able to fly on the airplane -- they would say the same thing. And, matter of fact, I think one person did indeed use that word. I have just seen it. I have been on it while it's on the ground. I have not flown on it, but that's my observations.
WATERS: All right, Michael Goldfarb, anything to add?
GOLDFARB: Just to echo what Lee said about caution, Lou, in terms of jumping to any conclusions at this stage.
One other point, perhaps, on what the French government might do, they should probably over-react here and keep the fleet on the ground until they have some more information about this in light of some of the other problems that have been reported. So I wouldn't be surprised to see that they would temporarily hold that fleet until at least the investigators have a chance to look at what caused the tragedy.
WATERS: How much is public relations involved in making a decision like this by British and Air France -- which Jim Bittermann said earlier, probably a decision will have to be made quite soon.
GOLDFARB: Are you talking to me, Lou?
GOLDFARB: Yes, I think there is two different types of public relations. I mean, the airlines are in the commercial business of selling tickets to passengers, and so they have a different interest in making people believe -- or having people comfortable in flying their aircraft. The government has a different kind of problem. They certainly want to calm the public, and say it's safe to fly, if it is safe to fly. And if it isn't safe to fly, they need to say that too, and not waffle on that issue.
And so that's when I said overreact -- it would an overreaction to ground the fleet, but it may be an appropriate public reaction to do just that until we know -- given the series of problems we have been having -- and then this tragic crash itself.
WATERS: I don't know if you are familiar with the legal aspects, but is there a legal element to these kinds of decisions?
GOLDFARB: Well, I'm sure already the lawyers are trying to figure out, you know, who has the deepest pockets here and who to blame. And hopefully, they can, as Lee suggested, let's keep that at bay. Let the investigators get on site. Let them begin their investigation before we start -- we have a culture of blame. We want to quickly blame somebody. And somehow we think, if we put the blame there, that we can control our fate or our future when we fly.
And we have to got to get away from that for now. This is a tragedy for the families and the victims. It's a tragedy for aviation. And let the investigators do their job.
WATERS: All right. I believe I asked you, Michael, I don't know if I asked you, Mr. Dickinson, if the investigation process is similar to that which we've seen so often here in the United States.
DICKINSON: Lou, it is. They follow very similar procedures to the United States NTSB. And it would not surprise me if, given the fact it is the first fatal accident of a Concorde, that the -- that France may indeed ask the U.S. NTSB -- at least some of the people within the Safety Board -- to assist them with this accident investigation.
WATERS: Why would they do that?
DICKINSON: Only because -- to help -- if there's anything that we can learn from this tragic event -- as Mike indicated, this is something that -- we try to talk how aviation, how safe aviation actually is -- it's difficult to say that in terms of an accident where you have just lost 109 or 113 people. However, one of the things that we try to do in terms of the outcome of these investigations is to learn, so that whatever recommendations can be made can be put into place, so that you will not witness this similar type of event in the future.
So, therefore, it may be from an educational standpoint -- it could be from an expertise standpoint -- that France may invite other countries, especially the United States, to help with this investigation.
WATERS: Lee Dickinson, Michael Goldfarb -- now to Natalie Allen.
ALLEN: And we will continue to bring you developments in this story.
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