Air France and Airbus are to face charges of involuntary manslaughter 12 years after a plane crashed into the Atlantic killing 228 people.

The ruling was made by a Paris court which overturned a ruling made two years ago and backed recommendations from prosecutors. Flight AF447 from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to Paris went down on 1 June 2009, killing everyone on board. Although wreckage from A330 was found on the ocean’s surface, it took two years to find the plane on the seabed.

Investigators found the pilots had lost control in a storm when air-speed sensors froze. The disappearance of Flight AF447 was the worst crash in Air France’s history. French investigators concluded that the crash was due to a combination of technical failure involving the plane’s Pitot sensors during the storm and the pilots’ inability to react to the plane stalling, which led to it plunging into the sea at a speed of 11,000ft (3,352m) per minute.

Crash site found two years later

The pilots had become confused by faulty air-speed readings and mistakenly pointed the nose of the plane upwards when it stalled instead of down. Since the crash, pilot training has been improved and the speed sensors replaced. The crash site was eventually located by remote-controlled submarines in 2011, after a search of 10,000 sq km (3,860 sq miles) of ocean floor.

The BBC reports both the families of those who died and pilots’ unions had campaigned for years for a trial. Magistrates initially charged both the airline and manufacturer with manslaughter but the Paris prosecutor recommended that only Air France should go on trial. In September 2019 charges against both the airline and manufacturer were dropped, because there were not enough grounds to prosecute.

Both the general and the Paris prosecutor challenged the decision with the Paris appeals court deciding both the airline and Airbus should stand trial. Both the airline and manufacturer plan to appeal.


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