With the potential of creating far-ranging consequences to a devastating accident more than a decade ago, the stage was set in a French court last Thursday to overturn the verdict against Continental Airlines in the July 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde supersonic transport (SST) in Paris. Opening arguments were heard in an appeals court in Versailles to consider the U.S. carrier’s request to purge its 2010 involuntary manslaughter verdict, as well as that of one of its mechanics. A number of French defendants originally found not guilty may be retried as well.
In 2010, the French Court in Pontoise blamed Continental for the crash after the SST, Air France Flight 4570, rolled over a 16-inch piece of titanium that had fallen off a Continental DC-10, which had departed just ahead. Continental labeled the original verdict absurd. Sources said Continental is expected to highlight, as it did in the first trial, that the Concorde was already on fire early in the takeoff roll.
The French court believed the metal strip initiated the chain of events that ruptured one of the SST’s fuel tanks, igniting a fire that left the aircraft unable to climb more than a few hundred feet after takeoff from Charles de Gaulle Airport. The stricken Concorde crashed moments later into a hotel near Le Bourget, killing 113 people (100 passengers, nine crewmembers and four people on the ground).