Airbus and Air France cleared of charges over 2009 crash that killed 228 people

Airbus and Air France cleared of charges over 2009 crash that killed 228 people

Air France and Airbus were cleared of all charges related to the 2009 Rio-Paris flight crash which resulted in the death of 228 people.

The two companies were being prosecuted for unintentional manslaughter charges.

However, the Paris correctional tribunal declared on Monday (April 17) that a “certain link of causality… could be proven” between errors that happened and the death.

Air France and Airbus both denied the charges in the case, which lasted from October 10th to December 8th, 2022.

Flight AF442 crash explained

The crash of Flight AF447 was the deadliest in French airline history, killing 216 passengers and 12 crew, comprising people of 33 nationalities, including 72 French and 58 Brazilian individuals.

The court case focused on the aircraft's Pitot tubes, which measure speed. Technical experts used data from the plane's black boxes - recovered 2 years after the crash from the depths of the ocean - to demonstrate that they malfunctioned during flight according to AFP reports.

On June 1, 2009, during a storm in a particularly difficult weather area over the Atlantic, the tubes became blocked by air crystals, causing the autopilot function to be switched off and alarms to sound in the cockpit.

One of the co-pilots then turned the plane into a climb, resulting in a loss of altitude due to a lack of upward lift.

In the chaos, the other pilots were unable to change the plane's trajectory in time to save it. The plane then took four minutes and twenty-three seconds to crash into the ocean.

Court Verdict

Both companies asserted that the crash was due to a pilot mistake and not a result of an error on the airline's part or any mechanical malfunction.

The lawyers representing the families of the deceased alleged that both Air France and Airbus were aware of the potential Pitot tube hazard and had failed to replace them on certain plane models. Also, they did not communicate helpful information to flight operators about the tubes.

The lawyers claimed that the pilots lacked the necessary training to handle the emergency situation.

The court found that there was not enough of a "causal" link between this and the accident to find the companies guilty of criminal fault.

Yet, it was said that Airbus had committed "four counts of carelessness and negligence" for not replacing the tubes and that Air France had committed "two counts" for not communicating the issue effectively to its pilots.

Following the crash, all applicable Airbus models had their Pitot tubes replaced and pilots & airspeed sensors were given new training protocols worldwide.

The companies faced fines of €225,000 each if found guilty. Air France has already compensated the families of those killed.

In 2012, the France BEA (Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses) released a crash report and found that technical faults and human errors were both contributing factors in the tragic accident.

Image by Dylan Agbagni from Pixabay