A French appeals court has ruled that neither Continental nor mechanic John Taylor bears criminal responsibility for the 2000 Air France Concorde crash outside Paris:
According to the original ruling, mechanic John Taylor fitted the wrong metal strip on a Continental DC-10. The piece ultimately fell off on the runway in Paris, puncturing the Concorde's tire. The burst tire sent bits of rubber flying, puncturing the fuel tanks, which started the fire that brought down the plane.
On Thursday, Judge Michele Luga overturned the 2010 manslaughter conviction of Continental and the mechanic, saying their mistakes didn't make them criminally responsible for the deaths.
Even if Taylor knew that the metal strip could become detached, "he could never have imagined a scenario where this simple titanium blade could cause such a disaster," Luga said in court.
The French court that convicted Continental and the mechanic in 2010 for the crash imposed about €2 m in damages and fines on the carrier. The appeals court upheld Continental's civil responsibility and ordered it to pay Air France €1 m in damages and interests.
I'm not sure I understand how the trial court came to convict Taylor in the first place. One small piece of debris on a runway should not cause a transport-class airplane to burst into flames. I don't know enough about French law to speculate about the trial judge, however. I do know that in the French system the trial judge has a much more active role than in the Anglo-American system, and can even act as prosecutor.
Anyway, this has to be a relief for Taylor, and for United Continental. It also marks the end of the Concorde's story.