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Continental Workers Among Five To Stand Trial Over Concorde Accident

Others Include French Aviation Representative, Concorde Project Engineer

Continental Airlines is among the entities that will stand trial in a Paris court for the 2000 downing on takeoff of an Air France Concorde, French officials declared Thursday.

Two employees with the airline will face the judge, according to BBC News, along with two employees at Aerospatiale, builder of the supersonic transport. The fifth person is a member of France's civil aviation authority.

Flight 4590 took off on July 25, 2000 for what was supposed to be a routine trip across the Atlantic to New York's JFK International. The aircraft caught fire on the runway at CDG, however, and crashed shortly after takeoff into a nearby hotel. All 100 passengers and nine crew onboard the plane were killed, as were four people on the ground, in the only fatal accident involving the SST.

Investigators later determined the Concorde's tires were punctured by a piece of metal on the runway, that had fallen from a Continental Airlines DC-10 that had taken off prior to Flight 4590. A large chunk of a left maingear tire impacted the underside of the SST's wing, piercing a fuel tank and causing flames to erupt.

The Concorde's flight crew detected the fire and shut down the number two engine in response, but continued with the takeoff as the aircraft had already passed V1. The plane was not able to gain altitude on the three remaining engines, however.

As ANN reported, a 2004 French accident inquiry determined the strip of metal shed by the Continental DC-10 was a titanium wear strip from one of the engine nacelles. Investigators allege that piece should have been fabricated from aluminum, which is much softer... and, presumably, would not have caused the same level of damage to the Concorde.

The five accused are Continental mechanic John Taylor, who allegedly fitted the metal strip to the DC-10, and Stanley Ford, a Continental maintenance official from the airline; Henri Perrier, former head of the Concorde division at Aerospatiale, which is now part of the aerospace company EADS; Jacques Herubel, the former chief engineer for the Concorde program; and Claude Frantzen, a former member of France's civil aviation oversight board.

Continental says it will vehemently fight any charges in the case. The trial is expected to start in 2009, and may last as long as three months.

FMI: www.continental.com, www.eads.com

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