A dismissal, contested by the families of the victims and the prosecution, had been granted in 2019 to the company Air France and the manufacturer Airbus in the investigation into the disaster of flight AF447, on June 1, 2009 in the middle of the Atlantic. . All passengers and crew, 228 people of 34 nationalities, were killed in this accident, the deadliest in the history of the French company.
The validity of this dismissal, returned after ten years of proceedings marked by a battle over expert opinions, was debated this Thursday behind closed doors for more than five hours before the investigating chamber of the court of appeal. At the hearing, the public prosecutor’s office confirmed his written requisitions in favor of the holding of a trial for “manslaughter” against Air France and Airbus.
“We need a trial”
“We are not asking for revenge, but for justice for the dignity of families and victims,” said Danièle Lamy, president of the Entraide et Solidarité AF447 association, after the hearing. “There needs to be a trial to allow a public debate that will shed light on the wrongdoing and negligence in the chain of responsibility,” she added.
In August 2019, the investigating judges had not followed the requisitions of the Paris prosecutor’s office, which requested a trial against the only company, for “negligence and recklessness” in the training of pilots. Two and a half years later, the general prosecutor, hierarchical superior of the prosecutor’s office, also asks to retain the responsibility of the aircraft manufacturer, considering that he underestimated “the dangerousness of the anemometric incidents consecutive to the icing of the probes”.
Icing of the probes causing the accident
The accident was caused by icing of the Pitot speed probes. The incident had led to a disruption of the speed measurements of the Airbus A330 and disoriented the pilots until the fatal stall of the aircraft.
A first report in 2012 concluded that crew failures, technical problems and a lack of information from pilots on probe icing. Then a second opinion, requested by the manufacturer, had pointed to an “inappropriate reaction of the crew” and the shortcomings of Air France.
The civil parties had obtained the cancellation of this second expertise and the reopening of the investigation. But a third and final assessment, in 2017, also focused on “unsuitable manual piloting actions” by the crew and tended to clear Airbus.
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