France (search) opened a manslaughter case against the former head of the Concorde (search) program in connection with the 2000 crash of the supersonic jet at Charles de Gaulle (search) airport in Paris, judicial officials said Tuesday.
Henri Perrier (search) is the first of four former executives of Aerospatiale (search) — a French plane maker now part of the European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. — summoned by investigating judge Christophe Regnard.
Three other officials from France's civil aviation agency have also been called.
Perrier served as chief engineer on the Concorde's first test flight in 1969 and directed the Concorde program in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Investigators questioned Perrier for nearly 12 hours starting Monday and extending into early Tuesday in connection with the crash that killed 113 people.
The Air France Concorde burst into flames just after takeoff 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 (search) onto the runway caused a Concorde tire to burst, propelling rubber debris that perforated the supersonic plane's fuel tanks.
Continental was placed under investigation in March for alleged manslaughter and involuntary injury. French prosecutors contended that the carrier violated U.S. aviation rules by using titanium in a part of the plane that normally called for use of aluminum, which is softer.
However, the judicial inquiry, made public last year, also determined that the jet's fuel tanks lacked sufficient protection from shock — a risk known since 1979. The planes flown commercially by Air France (search) and British Airways (search) — were finally retired in 2003.