French Court Convicts US Airlines And Its Mechanic For Paris Concorde Crash
Monday, December 06, 2010 4:08 PM

French court found US based Continental airlines and one of its mechanic responsible for Paris Concorde crash. The court imposed a penalty of 200,000 euros on the airlines and announced 15 months suspended-prison sentence to welder John Taylor, in its verdict. 

The Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde is a supersonic passenger airliner powered by Turbojet. The airplane came into existence by combined efforts of French manufacturer 'Aérospatiale' and the British Aircraft Corporation. It took its first flight in 1969. Concorde started providing service from 1976 and continued commercial flights for 27 years.

On 25 July, 2000, French local time (1500 GMT), Concorde crashed just after a few minutes it took off. The accident killed 109 individuals on-board and four persons on the ground. The aircraft crashed onto a hotel in Gonesse, near Paris.

During the proceedings, the prosecutors said that an aircraft from Continental airlines dropped a piece of titanium metal on the runway which took off just before the Air France Concorde ran on the same path. The metal strip gashed the tyre of the Air France Concorde and spread bits of rubber in fuel tank igniting a fire inside it. Most of the tourists travelling in the airplane were German.

The court has held Continental Airlines and John Taylor guilty for the carelessness and safety failures on a DC10 aircraft. The court has ordered Continental, now named United Continental Holdings after a merger, to pay Air France €1m (£846,946), and Taylor has to give a fine of €2,000. The court has assigned 15-months suspended prison sentence to Taylor, in addition to the fine. The court acquitted Taylor's supervisor and two European officials. The court at Pontoise, near Paris, ruled that the European aerospace group EADS will have to consider its responsibility for the accident and must pay 30% of any damages to victims' families.

Earlier, the charges were levied against French officials for not able to detect shortcomings on the Concorde after national aviation authority determined that plane's fuel tanks were not having sufficient protection.

Fenvac, a French association representing victims of accidents, said before the jury that it was shocking to see the defendants were determined to avoid any responsibility citing various reasons.

During the case proceedings, a prosecutor had demanded to fine Continental €175,000 and sought 18-month suspended prison sentences for both Taylor and his presently-retired supervisor, Stanley Ford. The prosecution had also demanded a two-year suspension for Henri Perrier, the former head of the Concorde programme at Aérospatiale.

From the defendants' side, Continental lawyers had counted some points in favour of the airlines saying that the plane was on fire before it hit the metal strip and hence the airlines should not be held responsible. Continental is now part of United Continental Holdings (UAL) following an airline merger completed in August.

UK-based Continental spokesman Nick Britton said in an emailed statement to Reuters "While we agree with the court's decision that Stanley Ford was innocent of the charges he faced and we share his relief that his decade-long nightmare is over, we strongly disagree with the court's verdict regarding Continental Airlines and John Taylor and will of course appeal this absurd finding." Britton said that the verdict reflects the determination of French authorities to divert attention from responsibilities of Air France, operating and maintaining the aircraft, and was a government entity at the time of Crash.



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