The Concorde in Versailles – Within 3 months, judgment in appeal of the July 2000 accident.

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Dura lex sed lex. In exactly three months, the Concorde will come again in front of the judges. Or more precisely Continental Airlines, which became in the meantime United-Continental: the judgment in appeal will take place at the Court of Appeals of Versailles and will last for three months, from March 8 to May 30.
The least we can say is that it is difficult to justify this new episode but that it is unavoidable: there has been a trial, there is an appeal and one should simply comply with the law. It is inconceivable to derogate from the rules in spite of the nature rather peculiar of this sad epilogue of the Franco-British supersonic transport ‘s saga.
Last year, in front of the Pontoise high court’s judges, Continental executives and their lawyers have expended desperate strengths to stir up doubt about the primary causes of the Paris-New York flight accident that, just taking off, crashed on a hotel in Gonesse. They tried to give credence to another scenario, which is that the sequence of events that led to the crash had been started before the passage of the left leg of the landing gear on a lamella in titanium dropped from a DC-10 of the U.S. carrier.
Some experts have tried to make this hypothesis believable, failing to do so. Consequently there is no doubt as to the verdict, Continental, legal entity, John Taylor, natural person, a maintenance employee in Houston, being held as responsible for the crash. While at it, the judges imposed fines, proportionally quite low, not matching the demands of the civil parties claiming for damages, even if the disaster ended in 113 victims. One would have preferred to stop there but Continental did not want it like that. Its French lawyer, Olivier Metzer, did not wait for long and when the judgment was released he announced the deeply thought and prepared decision to lodge an appeal. And, in the spirit of the times, he found in the verdict the expression of a new style French protectionism.
What may expect Continental ? Certainly nothing more, nothing less than the 2011 decision. The BEA’s final report – the French authority responsible for carrying out accident investigations – does not leave any doubt about the causes and circumstances of the accident. Therefore, it would be difficult for the Versailles judges to contradict their Pontoise colleagues. This will be very probably all for naught and with the only result to highlight again some and others’ efforts not to be manipulated. In addition there is no real challenge since the Concorde has been reigning for almost 9 years in aviation museums. The matter is not to formulate any recommendation susceptible to improve the air transport safety.
It is not too soon to think about it: this judgment in appeal, whatever are the expectations of the U.S. party, could be more interesting if the debates might prove that technicians and lawyers are beginning to get closer and to have common objectives. The ultimate goal is cooperative work, to avoid a hostile situation, noted rightfully and a posteriori judge Dominique Andréassier, who has led the debates all along the 4 months of the 2011 trial.
At a conference organised in Aix-en-Provence by the Institute of University Training for air transportation, Christophe Régnard, while evoking the difficult cohabitation between the aviation and judicial fields, spoke about a cultures shock. And he added that it would be preferable to take a fresh look at a dichotomy expressing a wish for progress by means of reconsiderations. In this state of mind, provided it is not too late – meaning starting right now – the Versailles rendez-vous next March would undoubtedly gain interest, value and usefulness.
Pierre Sparaco – AeroMorning
(Translated by Pascale Defarge)

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