French court to deliver final ruling on Concorde crash
A French court will Thursday deliver a final verdict on who was to blame for the July, 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde that left 113 people dead and led to the supersonic jet being taken out of service.
The ruling, expected after 1200 GMT, follows a three-month appeal hearing earlier this year in which US carrier Continental, now merged with United Airlines, attempted to overturn its conviction for having caused the crash.
Continental was convicted of involuntary homicide in 2010 on the basis of evidence that the crash was caused by a sliver of metal falling from one of its DC10s onto a runway at Paris's Charles-de-Gaulle airport.
Experts testified that the piece of metal burst the Concorde's tyre, causing it to damage the fuel tank and, in turn, triggering a leak which caused the explosion which resulted in the plane crashing into a hotel shortly after take-off.
Continental engineer John Taylor was convicted of negligence for having used titanium -- an inappropriate metal -- to repair the defective metal strip that fell from the DC10.
Taylor was given a 15-month suspended sentence but is expected to be exonerated on Thursday in line with a recommendation by the prosecution.
At the first trial, Continental was ordered to pay a fine of 200,000 euros and one million euros $1.3 billion) in damages to Air France.
The French airline is separately seeking 15 million euros of damages from Continental in a civil case that has been suspended pending Thursday's verdict.
The appeal court will also rule on whether Claude Frantzen, 75, the former head of France's civil aviation authority should be convicted on a count of negligence for what the prosecution described as 15 years of turning a blind eye to lapses in safety procedures related to Concorde.
Continental's lawyers argued during the appeal trial that Air France was primarily responsible for the crash and that the plane would never have taken off on the fateful day if all necessary safety precautions had been taken.
The victims of the crash were 100 passengers, most of them German, nine crew members and four people on the ground in the Paris suburb of Gonesse, where the burning wreckage smashed into a hotel.
Concorde, which had been operated jointly by Air France and British Airways, was taken out of service in 2003.
The two companies blamed falling passenger numbers in the aftermath of the crash and rising operating costs for a plane that was considered a triumph of engineering that was never translated to commercial success.
© 2012 AFP