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French Court Blames Continental Mechanic, Airline for Concorde Crash

Concorde
A British Airways Concorde arrives at Oshkosh ‘85

December 9, 2010 —A French judicial panel has found Continental Airlines and one of its mechanics, John Taylor, guilty of criminal negligence in the crash of an Air France Concorde jet in 2000. The crash that killed 113 people was found to have been caused by a strip of titanium that was left on the runway from a Continental jet that had departed prior to the Concorde. The court ruled that the mechanic incorrectly manufactured and installed the part and assigned 70 percent of the blame to Continental and Taylor. The crash occurred on the first day of AirVenture 2000, a year a Concorde jet was slated to visit Oshkosh.

An investigation found that the metal piece from the Continental DC-10 ruptured a tire on the Concorde’s main gear, causing rubber pieces to pierce the fuel tanks and start a fire. The investigation also noted that Concorde’s manufacturer, Aerospatiale, ignored more than 70 warnings about tire bursts and fuel tank weakness.

“We strongly disagree with the court’s verdict regarding Continental Airlines and John Taylor,” Continental said in a statement. “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 French authorities to shift attention and blame away from Air France.”

Along with the convictions for involuntary manslaughter, Continental was fined $265,000 and ordered to pay Air France $1.5 million for damaging its reputation. Mechanic John Taylor was given a 15-month suspended sentence and a $3,100 fine. Taylor’s supervisor, two Concorde program engineers, and a former French Aviation official were acquitted. The court found that Aerospatiale, which is now part of EADS, bore some responsibility and was required to pay 30 percent of the damages.

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