Court Rules Continental Airlines Responsible For Concorde Crash

 

 
 
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Court Rules Continental Airlines Responsible For Concorde Crash

By
Shane Nolan
 

December 7, 2010 - A French court has ruled that the cause of Air France Concorde Flight 4590 crash was a result of fragments dropped by a departing Continental Airlines DC10 aircraft onto the runway of the Concorde.

The court holds Continental Airlines and John Taylor, a mechanic responsible for the crash and deaths of 109 passengers and crew and 10 people on the ground. 

Air France Flight 4590 was a Concorde flight from Charles de Gaulle International Airport near Paris, France, to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, New York, and operated by Air France. On 25 July 2000 it crashed in Gonesse, France. All one hundred passengers and nine crew on board the flight perished.

During takeoff from runway 26 right at Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport, shortly before rotation (take-off speed), the front right tire (tire No 2) of the left landing gear ran over a strip of metal, which came from the thrust reverser cowl door of the number 3 engine of a Continental Airlines DC-10 that had taken off from the runway several minutes before.

This strip was installed in violation of the manufacturer's rules. Debris was thrown against the wing structure leading to a rupture of tank 5. A major fire, fuelled by the leak, broke out almost immediately under the left wing. Problems appeared shortly afterwards on engine 2 and for a brief period on engine 1. The aircraft took off. The crew shut down engine 2, then only operating at near idle power, following an engine fire alarm.

They noticed that the landing gear would not retract. The aircraft flew for around a minute at a speed of 200 KTS and at a radio altitude of 200 feet, but was unable to gain height or speed. Engine 1 then lost thrust, the aircraft’s angle of attack and bank increased sharply. The thrust on engines 3 and 4 fell suddenly. The aircraft crashed onto a hotel. 

Aborting the take-off would have led to a high-speed runway excursion and collapse of the landing gear, which also would have caused the aircraft to crash. While two of the engines had problems and one of them was shut down, the damage to the plane's structure was so severe that the crash would have been inevitable, even with the engines operating normally.

 

On 10 March 2005 French authorities began a criminal investigation of Continental Airlines. On 12 March 2008, Bernard Farret, a deputy prosecutor in Pontoise, outside Paris, asked judges to bring manslaughter charges against Continental Airlines and four individuals; John Taylor, a Continental mechanic, Stanley Ford, a Continental maintenance manager, Henri Perrier of Aerospatiale, Claude Frantzen, a former employee of the French airline regulator.

Lawyers for Continental denyed the charges, suggested that the Concorde was already on fire when it passed over the titanium strip and the airline was not to blame for the crash. Charges against Jacques Herubel were reported to have been dropped, but on 3 July 2008, confirmation of the trial, including Herubel, was published. The trial started on February 2, 2010. The court found Continental Airlines and John Taylor guilty of involuntary manslaughter for safety failures on the Continental Airlines DC10 aircraft that left debris on the runway. Continental was ordered to pay Air France €1m (£846,946), and Taylor was fined €2,000. 

 
   

Continental Airlines’ mechanic John Taylor was also given a 15-month suspended prison sentence. Taylor’s supervisor and two European officials were acquitted. Four months earlier, Pontoise, north-west of Paris court ruled that the European aerospace group EADS held some civil liability for the crash and was ordered to pay 30% of any damages to the victims' families. 

The prosecution requested a two-year suspended sentence for Henri Perrier, the former head of the Concorde program at the plane maker Aérospatiale, and the acquittal of a French engineer, Jacques Herubel, and Claude Frantzen, the former chief of France's civil aviation authority. On 06 December 2010, Continental Airlines were officially blamed for the crash of Air France Concorde Flight 4590. (see BEA Final Accident Report Published)
 

 

 
 
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