Continental Airlines to face charges over Air France Concorde disaster

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

United States air carrier Continental Airlines and two of their employees have been charged over the crash of Air France Flight 4590. The disaster involved a Concorde crash on July 25, 2000 near Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Paris, France that killed all 109 on board and four more on the ground. It was carrying mostly German tourists to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

The crash occurred after a metal strip detached from a Continental DC-10 that departed before the Concorde and was left behind on the runway. When Concorde took off afterwards it hit the strip, which punctured a tyre. As the tyre disintegrated a piece of debris punctured a fuel tank, triggering a large fire as the jet took off. The badly damaged aircraft crashed into a hotel before it was able to perform an emergency landing. The final report was not released until 2004.

One Continental employee, mechanic John Taylor, is being charged over making and installing the non-standard strip. Head of maintenance Stanley Ford is being charged for allowing the part to be modified by Taylor without clearing the changes properly, and the airline is charged for allowing the widebodied passenger jet back into the air and having failed to maintain it adequately. It is also claimed the titanium strip should have been made of softer aluminium, which had a lower risk of damaging tyres.

Three further individuals have been charged as well. Henri Perrier, head of the initial Concorde programme at Aerospatiale, Jacques Herubel, Concorde chief engineer at the time and Claude Frantzen, ex-head of technical services at the French civil aviation authority are all facing charges. The charges are primarily for involuntary manslaughter.

As a result of the Concorde disaster the aircraft was grounded pending emergency modifications. It was official removed from service in 2003 by its only two operators, British Airways and Air France. The model's first commercial flight was in 1976, and it was the world's first supersonic airliner. It was developed as a collaboration between Britain and France.