France Marks Concorde Crash Anniversary

One year ago, an ailing Air France Concorde, leaking fuel, plowed into a hotel in Gonnesse, France, killing 113 people — including everyone aboard.

In France today, ceremonies took place to honor the victims of the crash.

A simple wreath-laying ceremony took place at the accident site in the industrial suburb of Paris, while Air France prepared to receive families of the victims at Paris' Saint-Sulpice church on the Left Bank.

Meanwhile, France's Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot sounded a positive note on the future of the 12 remaining Concordes, grounded after the tragedy was blamed on a design flaw.

They might be able to fly again soon, if redesign work goes according to plan, he told Le Figaro newspaper. He added: "The day when it returns to the skies, I will be the first passenger to climb aboard."

Deadly Consequences of a Slashed Tire

The only two operators of "the Big White Bird," British Airways and Air France, announced this week that they hoped to resume normal service in September and October respectively.

Investigators have largely finished their probe of the crash, blaming it on a stray piece of metal, which slashed the sleek aircraft's tires on takeoff and prompted a deadly chain of events that culminated in a fiery disaster.

The bursting tires sent rubber debris smashing into fuel tanks, causing a fuel leak and fire — which corrupted the engines and brought down the plane.

To ensure such an accident never happens again, engineers have designed a new, tougher tire, and strengthened protective lining around the fuel tanks and wiring.

Gallic Pride

Although many people perceived the Concorde as plaything for the privileged, and others attack it for being noisy and polluting, there has been strong support in France for its return.

One recent opinion poll in France showed that 95 percent of those questioned wanted to see it fly again.

Le Figaro said in an editorial: "Concorde is unique and for that reason it should continue to flirt with the stratosphere. For the sake of glory and the force of the myth."

Even the woman whose hotel was destroyed in last year's inferno wants Concorde back, reported Reuters.

"For me, Concorde is still an emblem of French success," she said.

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