Court clean chit to US airline

November 30, 2012 - 4:47:51 am

VERSAILLES, France: A French court yesterday cleared Continental Airlines of any crime over the July 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde but upheld a ruling that the US airline bore civil responsibility for the disaster.

The US airline had been convicted of involuntary homicide in 2010 on the basis of expert testimony that the crash of the supersonic jet was caused by a piece of metal that fell from one of its planes on to the runway at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle 


The conviction and an associated 200,000-euro fine were overturned on appeal yesterday, as was the conviction for criminal negligence of John Taylor, the Continental engineer whose maintenance work had been blamed for the strip of metal falling off a DC10 airliner.

But the court upheld the first trial’s conclusion that Continental should bear civil responsibility and pay Air France ¤1m for the damage done to it reputation by the disaster which left 113 people dead and eventually led to Concorde being taken out of service.

Experts had testified in the first trial that the piece of metal burst the Concorde’s tyre, causing it to damage the fuel tank and, in turn, triggering a leak which caused the explosion which resulted in the plane plunging into a hotel shortly after take-off.

Appeal court judge Michele Luga accepted that explanation of the tragedy but ruled that the circumstances did not warrant criminal charges being brought against Continental.

Taylor was given a 15-month suspended sentence in 2010 having been found to have used an inappropriate metal, titanium, to repair the metal strip.

The decision to uphold the finding of Continental’s civil responsibility clears the way for Air France to pursue its suit for ¤15m of damages in a civil case that has been suspended pending yesterday’s verdict.

The appeal court yesterday also rejected prosecution requests for Claude Frantzen, 75, the former head of France’s civil aviation authority, and Taylor’s supervisor, to be convicted of negligence.