Concorde: The Pride of France

The Concorde Trial and the July 2000 Crash

Money is not a major issue, since the victims’ families accepted settlements long ago. The plane’s airworthiness is not at stake: The jet was retired by both Air France and British Airways in 2003.

The trial starts tomorrow, and most likely will continue until May. If convicted, Continental Airlines may get fined $500,000 and two of its employees will face up to three years of prison, as well as designers of the plane, who prosecutors say knew that the plane’s fuel tanks could be susceptible to damage from foreign objects,

Indeed the plane was fragile. Seven blown out tires from 1979 through 1981 including two incidents causing severe engine damage-same failure mode as the fatal crash.  However, prosecutors are determined to pin the blame on the titanium strip that fell off the Continental DC-10 which was found 20 feet ahead and 90 feet to the right of where the tire blew out. Continental officials were frustrated by the lack of cooperation from the French, including an unwillingness to share data and the immediate resurfacing of the Concorde’s takeoff runway after the crash.  Ten years later, the trial seems less about justice than assuaging national pride.

Update: The opening day of the trial included this from the lawyer for the  pilot’s family: “There are always ‘foreign bodies’ [on runways], he said. If a strip like that caused the crash, air transport should be stopped altogether”.


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