Continental takes aim at French Concorde verdict

London
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Continental Airlines is to appeal against a French court's decision to hold the US carrier and one of its mechanics guilty of actions that led to the July 2000 crash of a BAC-Aerospatiale Concorde on the ouskirts of Paris.

The long-running legal saga took its latest twist when the court at Pontoise, close to where the supersonic airliner crashed, found both the airline and mechanic John Taylor guilty of "involuntary manslaughter".

Taylor and his supervisor, maintenance chief Stanley Ford, were charged with ignoring proper engineering procedures in preparing a strip of titanium needed for a repair to an engine intake on one of the carrier's McDonnell Douglas DC-10s.

The DC-10 took off from the same runway just before Concorde. According to the technical investigation into the crash, the strip detached, burst Concorde's tyres and fragments penetrated the airliner's fuel tanks, causing a major fire and eventual loss of control, with the deaths of all 109 on board. Four people died on the ground.

Three French personnel working for Aerospatiale and the country's aviation authority, the DGAC, were also charged in connection with the crash.

The Frenchmen and Ford were cleared, but Taylor was given a 15-month suspended sentence and fined €2,000 ($2,660). Continental was fined €200,000.

Continental immediately denounced the verdict, describing it as "absurd" and an attempt to shift the blame away from the French parties involved. In a strongly worded statement, the US carrier says: "To find that any crime was committed in this tragic accident is not supported either by the evidence at trial or by aviation authorities and experts around the world.

"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, which was government-owned at the time and operated and maintained the aircraft, as well as from the French authorities responsible for the Concorde's airworthiness and safety."

Continental welcomed the decision to clear Ford and shared his relief that his "decade-long nightmare" was now over.