Nearly ten years after the Air France Concorde crash that killed 113 people and spelt the end of supersonic plane, five men and Continental Airlines are to stand trial in Paris, accused of responsibility for the disaster.
The four-month trial in Cergy-Pontoise will seek to find why the Air France Concorde crashed whilst taking off from Charles de Gaulle airport on 25 July 2000.
French prosecutors will argue that an 18-inch scrap of titanium on the runway caused the accident. A Continental Airlines DC-10 shed the “wear strip” on the runway shortly before takeoff, shredding the Concorde’s tyre and splattering pieces of rubber into the fuel tanks, which caused a fire, they will say.
Continental Airways is accused of using titanium, despite it not being allowed for temporary repairs on aircraft.
Continental’s lawyer will argue that a key part of the undercarriage had been accidentally left out by Air France ground staff, causing too much weight to bear on the tyres, one of which exploded when it hit a bump in the runway.
Air France and the French investigators admit that the Concorde’s undercarriage was not properly repaired, but insist this would not have caused the tyre to burst.
The trial will also examine whether the jet was dogged by design weaknesses which were systematically ignored to prevent it being grounded.
In the 24 years of Concorde flights prior to the accident, there were 65 incidents of burst tyres, six of which led to the perforation of fuel tanks.
If convicted, Continental Airways faces a maximum fine of 375,000 euros (£328,000), and the five individual defendants face up to five years in jail and a fine of up to 75,000 euros (£66,000).
Concorde was decommissioned in 2003.