A French appeals court has overturned the manslaughter verdict against Continental Airlines resulting from the July 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde soon after takeoff from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). The initial ruling held Continental liable for the accident on the grounds that maintenance errors caused a 16-inch piece of titanium to fall from one of the U.S. airline’s DC10s during its takeoff roll just moments before the Concorde's.
The supersonic airliner burst a tire after striking the metal fragment, quickly leading to an in-flight fire and loss of control by the Air France crew.
The November 29 appeal ruling found that even though some Continental mechanics did make mistakes in repairing the DC10, these were not sufficient grounds to lay complete responsibility for the crash on the airline. One hundred and thirteen people lost their lives in the accident, including four people on the ground.
“We’re very pleased that courts are recognizing that professional human error does not amount to criminal conduct, even where it can lead to catastrophic consequences,” said Flight Safety Foundation general counsel Ken Quinn. “The tragedy of this accident and others is only compounded by decades-long efforts to find someone to ‘blame,’ rather than focus on human factors, training and technology to make sure that the tragedy does not reoccur.”