x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Continental Airlines fined for Concorde crash

A French court has found the American airline and one of its mechanics guilty of criminal wrongdoing in the Concorde crash near Paris a decade ago that killed 113 people.

Air France Concorde flight 4590 takes off with fire trailing from its engine on the left wing from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, in this July 25, 2000 photo.  The plane crashed shortly after take-off, killing all the 109 people aboard and four others on the ground.
Air France Concorde flight 4590 takes off with fire trailing from its engine on the left wing from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, in this July 25, 2000 photo. The plane crashed shortly after take-off, killing all the 109 people aboard and four others on the ground.

A French court fined Continental Airlines today over the 2000 Concorde crash in which 113 died, but did not jail anyone for the disaster that effectively ended commercial supersonic air travel.

The court found the US airline criminally responsible for the Paris crash, caused by a piece of metal that fell from a Continental DC-10 and later shredded the supersonic jet’s tyre, which led to a fire in the fuel tank.

Continental was ordered to pay a fine of 200,000 (Dh975,000) for the crash and to pay Concorde’s operator Air France a million euros in damages.

The judge gave Continental employee John Taylor a 15-month suspended jail sentence for having incorrectly manufactured and installed the titanium strip.

His supervisor Stanley Ford, accused of approving Taylor’s work without checking it, was acquitted, as were three French aviation officials, including the former head of the Concorde programme, Henri Perrier.

Mr Perrier - who directed the Concorde programme at Aerospatiale, now part of EADS, from 1978 to 1994 - had been accused of ignoring warning signs from a string of incidents on Concorde planes before the accident outside Paris.

Flight 4590 to New York smashed into a hotel in a ball of fire just after take-off from Charles de Gaulle airport on July 25, 2000, killing 100 mostly German passengers and nine crew on board and four people on the ground.

The court said the officials were guilty of “no serious misconduct” after being accused of failing to draw lessons from exploding tyre incidents that dogged Concorde from 1979 to when the fleet was permanently grounded in 2003.

The officials had made design changes to strengthen the supersonic jet’s tyres but not the fuel tanks.

While clearing the aviation officials of criminal charges, the court ruled that EADS bears some civil responsibility and should pay 30 per cent of any compensation to victims’ families.

Most of the families of the people who died in the crash agreed not to take legal action in exchange for undisclosed levels of compensation from Air France, EADS, Continental and Goodyear tyre maker.

Continental had denied that the titanium strip triggered the disaster by shredding Concorde’s tyres, with lawyer Olivier Metzner insisting the supersonic jet had already been on fire for 700 metres (yards) of runway.

Mr Metzner swiftly said the US airline would appeal the verdict, and the ruling “only protects French interests”.

“Justice in France must be handed down in the name of the French people,” Mr Metzner told journalists. “This morning it was handed down in the name of French patriotism.”