Concorde crash: US mechanic and Continental guilty, says French court
Continental Airlines and an American mechanic were convicted of manslaughter and fined for the 2000 Concorde crash. But none of the French defendants were found guilty.
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Continental spokesman Nick Britton, in a statement, echoed that sentiment, and said the airline disagreed with the "absurd finding" against it and Taylor.
"Portraying the metal strip as the cause of the accident and Continental and one of its employees as the sole guilty parties shows the determination of the
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French authorities to shift attention and blame away from Air France," he said, noting that Air France was state-run at the time.
Roland Rappaport, a lawyer for the family of Concorde pilot Christian Marty and a pilots union, said the verdict was "incomprehensible" and asked why blame was heaped on Continental mechanics when French officials were aware of weaknesses on the Concorde around two decades before the crash.
"This trial made clear that the Concorde, this superb plane, suffered from severe technical insufficiencies, problems with the fuel tanks that were known since '79," he said outside the courtroom.
The fine delivered against Continental surpassed the euro 175,000 ($231,000) fine sought by a state prosecutor, who had requested 18-month suspended prison sentences for both Taylor and Ford.
The prosecution also requested a two-year suspended sentence for Henri Perrier, former head of the Concorde program at former plane maker Aerospatiale. It argued for acquitting French engineer Jacques Herubel and Claude Frantzen, former chief of France's civil aviation authority.
While France's aviation authority concluded the crash could not have been foreseen, a judicial inquiry said the plane's fuel tanks lacked sufficient protection from shock and said officials had known about the problem for more than 20 years.
The families of most victims were compensated years ago, so financial claims were not the trial's focus – the main goal was to assign responsibility. It is not uncommon for such cases to take years to reach trial in France.
Continental is now part of Chicago-based United Continental Holdings Inc., which was formed in October as the holding company owner of United and Continental airlines, which will eventually be combined into a single airline.
In France, unlike in many other countries, plane crashes routinely lead to trials to assign criminal responsibility. It is common for cases to drag on for years.
In 2009, France's highest court finally confirmed the acquittal of all those originally accused of responsibility in an Air Inter crash that killed 87 people in 1992 – 17 years earlier.
Kirsten Grieshaber contributed to this report from Berlin.