French court to rule on Air France, Airbus trial over Rio-Paris crash

Paris (AFP) –


A French court will rule Wednesday whether Air France and Airbus should stand trial over the 2009 crash of a Rio de Janeiro to Paris flight that killed all 228 people on board.

Flight AF447 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean during a storm on June 1, 2009, the deadliest crash in Air France's history.

It took two years to find the wreckage of the Airbus A330 jet, which was eventually located by remote-controlled submarines at a depth of 3,900 metres (13,000 feet).

Investigators determined the crash was caused by pilot errors, who were disorientated by faulty speed monitoring equipment.

The general prosecutor's office is seeking a manslaughter trial against both Air France and Airbus, going beyond the Paris prosecutor's initial demand that only Air France face manslaughter charges.

Both prosecuting teams contest a 2019 decision to drop the charges by the two investigating magistrates assigned to the case, who said they could not ascribe fault to the companies in what appeared to be a case of pilot error.

But prosecutors accuse Air France of indirectly causing the tragedy by providing insufficient training on how to react in case of malfunction of the Pitot tubes, which enable pilots to monitor their speed.

The pilots reacted incorrectly when the plane stalled after the speed sensors froze over.

The Paris appeals court decision Wednesday over whether the companies should stand trial is much awaited by victims' families.

"We are not seeking revenge but justice for the dignity of families and victims," Daniele Lamy, president of an association of victims' families, told AFP.

"A certain form of impunity may lead to another catastrophe," she added.

Since the disaster, pilot training on dealing with unforeseen circumstances has been stepped up in France and several other countries.