French Court Finds Continental Airlines Liable For Concorde Disaster

A French Court has ruled that  Continental Airlines was responsible for the 2000 disaster that killed 113 people.

Lawyers for Concorde contended that one of the jet’s tyres was punctured by a small piece of metal that fell minutes earlier from a Continental Airlines flight.  The Court found that a 44cm strip of Titanium debris on the runaway punctured the tyre causing bits of rubber to be propelled into fuel tanks igniting a fire.

The French Court found Continental Airlines Inc. was “criminally responsible” for leaving a piece of metal piece of metal on the runway of Charles de Gaulle airport as the flight took off.  Use was made during the proceedings of a 2003 report by French authorities which had previously found that the debris caused a fuel tank rupture causing the jet to catch fire.

The Concorde was retired in 2003.  Continental Airlines have criticised the verdict and are planning an appeal. Continental Airlines is  based in Houston, and is now owned by United Airlines.

One of its mechanics has been ordered by the Court  to pay a $265,000 fine, along with $1.43 million to Air France to offset a $120 million compensation package the airline paid out to relatives of those killed in the catastrophe. Aviation analysts have commented that there is a well known tendency of French courts to criminalize airplane disasters. By comparison the United States justice system rarely attributes to criminal responsibility for airline accidents.

Continental was ordered to pay Concorde’s operator Air France a million euros in damages, whilst a 15 month suspended sentence was imposed on a Continental employee welder for allowing titanium to be used in the first place.  United Continental Holdings which has since taken over Continental will bear 70% of the loss whilst EADS will pay the other 30% percent.

Only 20 Concordes were ever built, and today these are on display at aviation museums worldwide.

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