Continental Airlines and five individuals are to stand trial in France over the Concorde crash that killed 113 people and hastened the end of the supersonic aircraft.
The Air France Concorde crashed in July 2000 while taking off from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. The defendants will be tried for involuntary manslaughter.
Continental Airlines is charged with failing to maintain its fleet. It has denied responsibility and pledged to fight the the indictments, describing them as “outrageous and unjustified”. Two employees of Continental have been charged, along with two former members of the team that manufactured Concorde and a former French civil aviation official.
Air safety experts warned the charges could hinder future air accident investigations and compromise safety by discouraging those involved from supplying information.
An inquiry into the crash blamed a piece of metal on the runway dropped from the engine of a Continental Airlines aircraft that departed minutes before. Investigators concluded this caused a tyre blow out on the Corcorde, with debris slamming into a fuel tank and causing a rupture. The escaping fuel then ignited.
The investigators judged that a metal strip on the Continental aircraft had been incorrectly fitted and was of the wrong material. A judicial report on the crash also found that Concorde manufacturer Aerospatiale, now part of Airbus-parent company EADS, had failed to alter the design of Concorde despite more than 70 reports of incidents involving the aircraft’s tyres.
Air France and British Airways temporarily grounded their Concorde fleets following the crash and removed them from service in 2003.
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