An Air France Concorde jet crashes upon takeoff in Paris on this day in 2000, killing everyone onboard as well as four people on the ground. The Concorde, the world’s fastest commercial jet, had enjoyed an exemplary safety record up to that point, with no crashes in the plane’s 31-year history.
Air France Flight 4590 left DeGaulle Airport for New York carrying nine crew members and 96 German tourists who were planning to take a cruise to Ecuador. Almost immediately after takeoff, however, the plane plunged to the ground near a hotel in Gonesse, France. A huge fireball erupted and all 105 people on the plane were killed immediately.
The Concorde fleet was grounded in the wake of this disaster while the cause was investigated. The Concorde, powered by four Rolls Royce turbojets, was able to cross the Atlantic Ocean in less than three-and-a-half hours, reaching speeds of 1,350 miles per hour, which is more than twice the speed of sound. The July 25 incident, though, was not related to the Concorde’s engine construction or speed.
The investigation revealed that the plane that took off just prior to Flight 4590 had dropped a piece of metal onto the runway. When the Concorde jet ran over it, its tire was shredded and thrown into one of the engines and fuel tanks, causing a disabling fire.
Concorde jets went back into service in November 2001, but a series of minor problems prompted both Air France and British Airways to end Concorde service permanently in October 2003.