PARIS - A decade after a Concorde supersonic jet crashed in a fiery wreck outside Paris soon after takeoff, killing 113 people, a French court is to rule Monday on who, if anyone, is to blame.
The trial that began in February in Pontoise, northwest of Paris, reopened questions over whether European engineers - or a U.S. company, Continental Airlines - was responsible for the July 2000 crash of the European jet that once symbolized elegance in transatlantic air travel.
In the years it took French judicial investigators to work their way to trial, amassing 80,000 pages of court documents, the fleet of Concordes was revamped, retired, and finally sent to museums.
But victims' families will be watching the verdict closely, along with aviation experts. Some in the industry think the high-profile trial will discourage aviation officials from freely sharing safety information, fearing that what they disclose might one day be used to prosecute them.
Most of the families were compensated years ago, and settling financial claims is not the main focus of the trial. Assigning blame is.
French investigators concluded that a Continental Airlines DC-10 dropped debris onto the runway at Charles de Gaulle airport before the Air France Concorde took off. The metal gashed a tire on the Concorde and sent pieces of rubber flying into its fuel tanks, causing a fire.
Continental contested that chain of events in court, calling witnesses who testified that the fire broke out before the plane reached the debris.
Houston-based Continental Airlines Inc. and two of its U.S. employees are on trial for manslaughter. Three former French officials also face the same charge.