The Germanwings plane that crashed Tuesday is the deadliest in France's history since 1981, when 180 people on board a Yugoslavian flight died as the plane failed to properly touch down at a Corsica airport. But the last plane to crash in France before Germanwings was a Concorde back in 2000. All 109 people on board the Air France flight, as well as four people on the ground, were killed.
On July 25, 2000, Air France flight 4590 was on schedule to fly from Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Most of the passengers on the Concorde were German tourists who were traveling to New York to board the cruise MS Deutschland. There were also an American, an Australian, and two Danes on the flight.
As the world's first supersonic passenger plane, the Concorde was considered an historic and revolutionary aircraft when it launched in 1976. It was the first plane to have engine air intakes controlled by computers. The Concorde also boasted carbon-fiber brakes and could slow down air to keep its engines from blowing apart. That advanced technology, however, couldn't stop the disastrous accident from happening.
On that July day, a Continental Airlines aircraft that took off just minutes before the Concorde had a metal piece fall off its body and onto the runway. As the Concorde prepared for its departure, it ran over the debris, which cut a tire and hit the bottom of a wing. A ruptured fuel tank caused gas to leak and catch on fire as the plane took off. The Concorde lifted into the air but was unable to successfully climb. With airspeed falling, the Concorde crashed into the Hotelissimo Les Relais Hotel located near the airport.
Investigators determined that the plane was at or carrying more than the maximum weight allowed. A part that kept the left landing gear aligned also was not replaced after recent maintenance work. Still, investigators determined neither factor caused the accident.
In 2010 — that would be 10 years after the Concorde disaster — a Parisian court found Continental Airlines and maintenance worker John Taylor criminally responsible for the crash, the catalyst being the fallen aircraft piece. The convictions, however, were overturned in November 2012. Both Continental and Taylor were cleared of their criminal charges.
The Concorde crash helped contribute to the demise of the famed plane, once considered a technological aviation feat and one of the world's safest planes. Though the Air France crash was the Concorde's only fatal accident in its 27-year history, the plane was discontinued in 2003.
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