Fiery Concorde death crash goes to court
Nearly 10 years after the fiery Air France crash that killed 113 people and spelt the end of Concorde, five men and a US airline stand trial today accused of responsibility for the disaster.
Prosecutors at Pontoise, near Paris, will argue that three elderly French aviation officials, including one of the "fathers" of Concorde, had known for two decades that the aircraft was flawed but failed to take action.
Two employees of Continental Airlines are accused over a 17in titanium strip that fell off their DC10 airliner. It caused the sequence of mishaps that set the Air France Concorde jet ablaze as it was taking off from Charles de Gaulle airport on July 25, 2000, according to the crash inquiry.
Continental, also charged as a company, says that the DC10 component played no role in the crash, which killed all 109 people on the aircraft and four hotel workers on the ground.
Its lawyers will apply for the charges to be dropped because the investigating judge did not question witnesses backing its version of events.
The defendants could face up to five years in prison on the charge of involuntary homicide when the trial ends in May.
John Taylor (41), a mechanic with Continental, is accused of using non-standard parts. He did not go to France for questioning and is to be tried in his absence. Stanley Ford (70), his supervisor, is accused of approving his work.
The most eminent of the accused is Henri Perrier (80), a senior member of the team that built and flew the prototype in the 1960s and who headed the programme until 1994.
Along with Jacques Herubel, a 74-year-old colleague, he is accused of failing to carry out modifications after dozens of tyre blow-outs that led to wing damage. Claude Frantzen (72), a former official with the French civil aviation authority, is accused of failing to order reinforcement of the wing tanks, a step that was only carried out after the crash.
Roland Rappaport, who represents the family of pilot Christian Marty, said that the accident should have been avoided. "Concorde's weaknesses had been known about for more than 20 years," he said. (© The Times, London)