Tags: Continental | Air | Welder | Guilty | Concorde | Crash | Trial

Continental Air, Welder Guilty in Concorde Crash Trial

Monday, 06 Dec 2010 09:20 AM

A French court on Monday found Continental Airlines and a mechanic at the airline guilty of involuntary manslaughter for their part in the 2000 Concorde crash that spelled the end of the supersonic airliner.

In a ruling that could affect the way planes are maintained and inspected, the court said the U.S. airline and a welder were to blame for a small metal strip that dropped off a Continental aircraft onto the runway and ruptured a tire on the Concorde, triggering the crash that killed 113 people.

The airline, now United Continental Holdings following a merger, and aerospace group EADS must split 70-30 any damages payable to families of victims, it said.

The verdict exposes Continental and EADS to damages claims that could run to tens of millions of euros if insurance companies seek reimbursement for sums already paid to relatives.

Continental was fined 200,000 euros by the court and welder John Taylor was given a 15-month suspended prison sentence for having gone against industry norms and used titanium to forge the piece that dropped off the plane.

Continental Airlines said it would appeal what it called an "absurd" verdict. Taylor's lawyer said he would also appeal.

"I do not understand how my client could be considered to have sole responsibility for the Concorde crash," lawyer Francois Esclatine told French iTele television.

The court said EADS, which now owns the French factories which partly built the Concorde airliners, had some civil liability in the crash, which hastened the end of an era of glamorous supersonic travel between London, Paris and New York.

EADS lawyer Simon Ndiaye said the company was still deciding whether to appeal.

The Air France Concorde, carrying mostly German tourists bound for a Caribbean cruise, was taking off from Paris on July 25, 2000 when an engine caught fire. Trailing a plume of flames, it crashed into a hotel near Charles de Gaulle airport.

All 109 passengers and four people on the ground died.

CONCERN OVER CRASH TRIALS

The trial has led to warnings in the aviation industry that taking crash investigations out of the hands of regulators and placing them in the courts could discourage workers from coming forward with information needed to prevent future accidents.

"Criminal trials are the wrong response to accidents because they are counterproductive when it comes to advancing safety and preventing accidents in the first place," said Kenneth Quinn, a former Federal Aviation Administration chief counsel.

"Regardless of the trial's outcome, the fact it is merely taking place already takes us down a slippery slope to more 'criminalized' crash probes, worldwide," he said in comments circulated before the Paris court gave its decision.

The court in the town of Pontoise north of Paris blamed substandard maintenance practices for the fact that a 44 cm-long strip of titanium dropped off a Continental plane taking off before the Concorde and punctured its tires, sending debris into the Concorde's fuel tanks and sparking a fatal fire.

The crash heralded the demise of Concorde as safety concerns dented passenger numbers. Its two operators, Air France and British Airways, took the plane out of service in 2003.

The court found three French aviation officials not guilty.

© 2017 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

 
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A French court on Monday found Continental Airlines and a mechanic at the airline guilty of involuntary manslaughter for their part in the 2000 Concorde crash that spelled the end of the supersonic airliner. In a ruling that could affect the way planes are maintained and...
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2010-20-06
Monday, 06 Dec 2010 09:20 AM
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