Continental to stand trial for 2000 Concorde crash UPDATE


Cergy, France (Thomson Financial) - US Continental Airlines and two of its employees are to stand trial for manslaughter over the crash of an Air France Concorde in 2000 that killed 113 people, judicial officials said Thursday.

A former French civil aviation official and two senior members of the Concorde programme are to be tried on the same charge, with proceedings expected to start early next year, the officials said. The Concorde crashed in a ball of fire shortly after takeoff from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport on July 25, 2000, killing all 109 people on board and four workers on the ground. A French accident inquiry concluded in December 2004 that the disaster was partly caused by a strip of metal that fell on the runway from a Continental plane that took off just before the supersonic airliner.

The Concorde ran over the superhard titanium strip, which shredded one of its tyres, causing a blowout and sending debris flying into an engine and a fuel tank. Continental had pledged to fight any charges in the case. A successful prosecution is expected to result in millions of euros (dollars) in damages against the airline. The two Continental employees charged along with the company are John Taylor, a mechanic who allegedly fitted the non-standard strip, and the airline's chief of maintenance Stanley Ford.

Also to face trial are Henri Perrier, the director of the first Concorde programme at Aerospatiale, now part of the the EADS aerospace group, from 1978 to 1994, and Concorde's former chief engineer Jacques Herubel. The fifth person ordered to stand trial is Claude Frantzen, former director of technical services at the civil aviation authority DGAC. The three Frenchmen are charged in connection with an alleged flaw in Concorde's wing, which investigators also found to have been part of the problem that led to the crash.

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