The Concorde crash lawsuit

Almost ten years after the crash of the Air France supersonic "Concorde", the case of this air disaster has come before the court. The accident, which occurred on July 25, 2000, claimed the lives of 113 people (100 passengers, 9 crew members and 4 people on the ground) and expedited the Franco-British plane's retirement.

Air France and British Airways definitively stopped the Concorde flights on October 24, 2003 after reporting several other incidents sustained by their aircrafts.

A metal strip, main cause of the Concorde crash

Photo credit: AP / Toshihiko Sato

According to the official thesis, a metal strip left behind on the runway by a plane belonging to the American company Continental Airlines, which had taken off minutes before the Concorde, was the cause of the crash. The metal strip caused the tire to blow up sending debris straight to the aircraft's reservoir, which triggered a fire. The aircraft crashed two minutes after its takeoff.

If this thesis is confirmed, Continental airlines may have to disburse a bill that could amount to several hundreds of millions of dollars.

Another scenario, advocated by Continental Airlines, blames the plane overload, as well as maintenance failure. This thesis has been supported by testimonies reporting that fire had broken out underneath the Concorde aircraft before its tyre hit the metal strip.

The Concorde crash lawsuit

Six accused are facing charges: three staff members of Continental Airlines (two technicians and one company representative), two officers in Concorde's program and one representative of the general civil aviation authority. They will be tried before the criminal court of Pontoise for manslaughter. They will be liable for a maximum five-year prison sentence and a 75 000 EUR (102 882 USD) fine. The companies incriminated risk, on their part, a maximum fine of 375 000 EUR (514 414 USD).
The Concorde program officers and those of the general civil aviation authority is prosecuted for having underestimated the seriousness of the incidents having affected the aircraft before.

However, Air France, which decided to press charges, has not been indicted in this case. Its penal liability has been ruled out on January 15, 2002 by the investigation and analysis bureau (BEA).
The French company is, therefore, eligible to claim compensation as it incurred image and financial damage, especially as the accident triggered the end of operations for the supersonic aircraft after 27 years of service.

Image provided to Microsoft by iStockphoto. Used with permission from Microsoft The big absentees of the trial are the passengers' relatives. They chose not to press charges, less than a year after the disaster, accepting a comprehensive compensation settlement, brokered namely with Air France insurers. Nearly 115 million EUR (157 million USD) have been paid to the 700 persons entitled, according to their degree of kinship to the victim and to the financial damages they sustained.
The relatives of four other victims on the ground, who have not yet received compensation, and the family of the Concorde captain, which refused any financial settlement with Air France, have pressed charges and are awaiting repair.

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