A French court has found US airline Continental to blame for the Concorde crash ten years ago which ended the era of supersonic travel.
Judges upheld the expert view that a strip of metal left by a Continental jet punctured the Concorde’s tyre as it took off. Debris got into the fuel tank, causing a catastrophic fire.
It is a damning verdict and exposes Continental to tens of millions of euros in damages if insurance companies seek reimbursal for compensation already paid out. Any costs must be split 70-30 between Continental and European aerospace group EADS.
A Continental mechanic was also judged criminally responsible and given a 15 month suspended sentence. For the company’s lawyer, Olivier Metzner, the verdict is a whitewash. The court’s aim was to protect French interests and was not justice, he said. Continental says it will appeal.
Fernand Garnault, a lawyer for Air France, said the judgement seemed in keeping with the facts that the company had always maintained.
The issue here was about who, if anyone, was ultimately responsible. Compensation has already been paid.
Nonetheless, Roland Rappapor, the lawyer for the families, was in court. He said he could not see how an engineer could be held to account for not foreseeing the consequences of bursting a tyre, while the manufacturer and the French authorities were simply considered negligent.
The Air France Concorde, carrying mostly German tourists en route to a Caribbean cruise, burst into flames and crashed as it took off from Charles de Gaulle airport in July 2000. All 109 passengers and crew died, along with four people on the ground.