Business, Economics and Jobs

Continental Airlines cleared of criminal responsibility for Concorde crash


A file picture taken on July 26, 2000 in Gonesse, northern Paris, shows part of the nose cone after an Air France Concorde crashed during take-off, killing 113 people.



Continental Airlines is not criminally responsible for the Air France Concorde crash that killed 113 people in July 2000, a French appeals court has ruled.

Agence France Presse reported that the court today overturned Continental's 2010 conviction for involuntary homicide over the crash, which experts said was caused by a piece of metal that fell from one of the US airline's planes on to a runway.

The Continental mechanic blamed for the faulty part was also convicted of criminal negligence, but that verdict was overturned today,

The court upheld a ruling, however, that said Continental should bear civil responsibility. That decision means the airline will still have to pay damages of €1 million ($1.3 million) to Air France.

The sum is to compensate damage to the French airline's image, according to the New York Times. Air France has paid out $150 million to families of the crash victims, and originally sought nearly $20 million from Continental to help cover its losses.

Investigators said that one of Continental's mechanics improperly carried out a repair on one of its DC-10s, which took off from the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris minutes before the fated Concorde, the Associated Press reported.

The piece fell from the DC-10 onto the runway, puncturing the Concorde's tire as it took off. Rubber entered the fuel tanks and started a fire that caused the aircraft to crash shortly afterwards, killing all 109 people on board and four on the ground.

According to the AP, Continental's lawyers originally argued that it was being made a scapegoat for failures by French air safety regulators who should have spotted weaknesses in Concorde's design.

Neither Continental (now United Continental) nor Air France say that they accept responsibility for the crash, according to the Financial Times.

The accident helped hasten the demise of Concorde, the FT said. The supersonic plane, which was already struggling commercially, had its flights suspended for 16 months and was eventually taken out of service for good in 2003.