Airbus SE and Air France-KLM could face charges of involuntary manslaughter over
the deadly crash of a Paris-bound plane off the Brazilian coast over a decade ago.
The crash in which 228 people including five British passengers died.
After a 12-year fight for justice by families of those who lost their
lives in the worst air disaster in French history.
Flight AF447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris plunged into the Atlantic Ocean on
June 1, 2009, after pilots lost control when ice blocked its airspeed sensor during
a storm. It took two years to find the wreckage of the Airbus A330 at a depth of
13,000 feet (3,900 meters).
An enquiry led to investigators concluding that the crash was caused by Air France
pilot error, and technical problems with the Airbus.
But in 2019, judges dismissed the manslaughter case against both the airline and
the plane manufacturer. Wednesday’s ruling by a Paris court overturns the decision
not to press charges against either company over the tragedy, which killed everyone
Airbus and Air France both said they planned to file appeals against the ruling
before a higher court.
‘The court decision that has just been announced does not reflect in any way
the conclusions of the investigation,’ Airbus said.
meanwhile, Air France said it ‘maintains that it committed no criminal fault at
the root of this tragic accident’.
Prosecutors accused Air France of failing to provide sufficient training in how pilots
should react in case of malfunction of the Pitot tubes, which enable pilots to monitor
their speed. France’s BEA crash investigation agency said pilots reacted incorrectly
when the plane stalled after the speed sensors froze over. Commands from the
controls of the 32-year-old junior pilot on board showed they pulled the nose
up as the aircraft became unstable and generated an audible stall warning.
This action went against the normal procedures which call for the nose to be
lowered in response to an alert that the plane was about to lose lift or,
in technical parlance, ‘stall’. Before today’s ruling, Daniele Lamy,
a campaigner for victims’ families, said:
‘We are not seeking revenge but justice for the dignity of families and victims.’
Ms Lamy said that ‘impunity for those responsible ‘may lead to another catastrophe.’