Prosecution refrains from seeking a conviction against Airbus and Air France for AF447 crash

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The prosecution in the trial for the 2009 crash of flight AF447 between Rio de Janeiro and Paris refrained Wednesday from seeking a conviction against the manufacturer Airbus and the airline Air France, a position that outraged the victims’ families.

On June 1, 2009, an Air France Airbus A330 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean, almost four hours after takeoff from Rio de Janeiro. Its 216 passengers and 12 crew members lost their lives in this tragedy.

The guilt of the companies “seems to us impossible to prove. We know that this position will be inaudible to the civil parties, but we cannot ask for the conviction of Air France and Airbus,” said prosecutor Marie Duffourc.

After these words, the relatives clapped ironically to express their reprobation.

“I am ashamed to be French! What is justice for?” reacted one woman in a packed courtroom, a message echoed by other family members present at the trial.

An American Eagle’s pilot died after fainting during take off from Chicago O’Hare Airport.

The prosecutor’s words came after more than five hours of a plea in which they described as “an incomparable drama” the crash of AF447, the most serious in Air France’s history, AFP reported.

“Your court will have to bring out the truth, the truth of justice, which will have to bring out or not the criminal responsibility of Air France and Airbus,” the prosecutor had said earlier.

Although the investigating judges dismissed the case in 2019, the families of the victims and the pilots’ unions appealed and, in May 2021, Justice sent both companies to trial for involuntary manslaughter.

The second prosecutor, Pierre Arnaudin, detailed the “contributing factors” to the accident, in order to determine whether Airbus and Air France made mistakes linked to the tragedy.

Both companies face a fine of 225,000 euros (about $230,000) each.

According to expert reports, the freezing of the Pitot speed probes caused a disturbance in the Airbus A330’s speed measurements, which disoriented the pilots until they lost control of the aircraft.

For the appeals court, which reversed the dismissal of the case, Air France did not provide “appropriate training” or the “information” necessary for the pilots to “react” to the technical failure.

Airbus is being prosecuted for “underestimating the seriousness” of the speed probe failures, for not taking the necessary measures to inform the crews as a matter of urgency and for failing to train them effectively.

The prosecution considered, however, that these elements gathered by the Paris Court of Appeal, which ordered this trial last year, were not substantiated.

According to her, the defendants did not underestimate the seriousness of the deficiencies in the Pitot probes, which had multiplied during the months leading up to the accident.

“There had never been a loss of control of the plane before,” Arnaudin said.

“We have a prosecutor who should defend the people, but who finally defended the multinational Airbus,” complained Danièle Lamy, the president of a victims’ association, in front of the courtroom.