Concorde Exec Quizzed On Crash

The last British Air Concorde flight to land at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport comes in for a landing Thursday, Oct. 23, 2003. British Air is retiring the Concord and the last flight will leave for London on Friday.
French authorities have opened a manslaughter case against the former head of the Concorde program in connection with a deadly crash of the supersonic jet, judicial officials said Tuesday.

Henri Perrier was placed under investigation — a step short of formal charges — late Monday for manslaughter and involuntary injury, the officials said on condition of anonymity because French law bars the disclosure of information from judicial investigations.

He is accused of knowing faults in the jet, but doing nothing to correct them, the BBC reports.

Perrier, chief engineer on the plane's first test flight in 1969 and head of the Concorde program in the 1980s and early 1990s, is the first person targeted in legal action over the crash. He was questioned by officials for nearly 12 hours on Monday and into early Tuesday.

He is the first of four former executives of Aerospatiale — a French plane maker now part of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. — summoned by investigating judge Christophe Regnard in the case. Two others are to be heard later this week. Three officials from France's civil aviation agency, DGAC, have also been called.

An Air France Concorde burst into flames just after takeoff from Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport on July 25, 2000, killing 109 people on board — mostly German tourists — and four people on the ground.

Two investigations — one by France's accident office, the other ordered by the prosecutors' office — concluded that a titanium "wear strip" that fell from a Continental Airlines DC-10 onto the runway had caused a Concorde tire to burst, propelling rubber debris that perforated the supersonic plane's fuel tanks.