The carrier says it will fight any ensuing criminal charges after a French judge ruled it shared responsible for the disaster which killed 113 people.

The plane burst into flames shortly after take-off from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport.

The 109 passengers and crew on board died as well as four on the ground.

All Concorde jets were grounded for more than a year in the wake of the crash before the jet was finally grounded in 2003.

Judge Christophe Regnard said a metal strip that fell onto the runway from a Continental plane played a “direct” role in the accident.

Chief Executive Officer Gordon Bethune and President and Chief Operating Officer Larry Kellner have been summoned for questioning by Judge Regnard, who is conducting a separate manslaughter probe into the disaster.

Under French law, they can be heard simply as witnesses or be placed under investigation after a hearing with the judge.

“We strongly disagree that anything Continental did was the cause of the Concorde accident and we are outraged that media reports have said criminal charges may be made against our company and its employees,” said Continental spokeswoman Rahsaan Johnson.

“We are confident that there is no basis for a criminal action and we will defend any charges in the appropriate courts.”

By laying part of the blame at the door of Continental, Tuesday’s long-awaited report exposes the carrier to possible criminal charges and compensation claims.

The 237-page report concluded a titanium metal shard that came off a Continental DC-10 jet that used the runway just minutes before the Concorde, shredded one of the Concorde’s tyres.

Rubber fragments from the tyre then punctured a wing fuel tank, prompting a violent mid-air explosion.

But the report also criticised the design of Concorde’s thin fuel tanks, calling it an “important defect”.

It also cleared the plane’s pilots of blame for the crash

The report was handed to families of those killed in the disaster, mostly German tourists on the first leg of a planned Caribbean cruise vacation.

Separately, Reuters news agency reports that some Concorde families have decided to seek compensation in the United States and are to drop out of further legal action in France.

Air France, which operated the ill-fated Concorde, in 2001 agreed a US$120m compensation package with relatives of those killed in the catastrophe.