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Airline to dispute Concorde crash cause

American airline Continental will challenge the cause of the Concorde crash which killed 113 people in 2000, when it faces manslaughter charges next month.

The airline, two of its staff and three others are due to stand trial in France on February 2 over the disaster near Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris. Investigators have concluded that a titanium strip left on the runway from a Continental plane cause the crash.

It is thought the 17in (43.5cm) 'wear strip' attached to the interior casing of an engine shredded a tyre on the Air France Concorde as it was taking off. Tyre fragments then punctured the supersonic aircraft's fuel tanks, with the plane bursting into flames and crashing, investigators believe.

The German-chartered Concorde had taken off just after a Continental DC10 departed for Houston. Yesterday, Continental said it had evidence corroborated by 28 witnesses, including pilots and firemen, to show that "neither Continental nor its employees were responsible for the accident.

"It will show that there was a fire on the Concorde before it reached the point on the runway where it supposedly rolled over the wear strip, and that a series of issues relating to the Concorde itself and its abnormal operation that day made the accident unavoidable".

A source close to the inquiry said the witnesses cited by Continental had already been questioned and their version of events rejected by many other witnesses. The investigation was, according to the prosecution, based on indisputable technical evidence.

Continental's lawyer, Olivier Metzner, said: "The version of these witnesses was troubling.

"The fire on the Concorde began eight seconds before it met this (metal) strip on the runway, 700 metres before contact with this part," he alleged.

He claimed the plane's tyre may have burst due to an uneven runway.

Among those facing manslaughter charges are a mechanic and maintenance official with Continental Airlines, two Concorde officials working for Aerospatiale and a former member of the French civil aviation authority. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent