A French court cleared national flag carrier Air France and aircraft manufacturer Airbus of involuntary manslaughter on Monday, nearly 14 years after the deadly crash of flight AF447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in 2009 after it plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean.
The verdict did not come as a surprise, and even public prosecutors had called for the court to acquit the two companies because, they argued, there simply wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute the crime in the first place.
The lengthy trial took place after a lower case first dismissed proceedings in 2019, only for an appeals court to overturn the decision and order a trial two years later. Both Air France and Airbus maintained their innocence throughout the proceedings.
Air France flight AF447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009, after the Airbus A330 aircraft stalled in mid-air. All 228 passengers and crew died when the plane hit the ocean surface in what is the most deadly accident in the history of Air France.
A report by leading French accident investigators published in 2012 concluded that the accident was caused by the pitot tubes (which measure airspeed) icing over mid-flight.
With the pitot tubes no longer working properly, the airliner went into a mid-air stall which the pilots were not fully trained to deal with.
The criminal trial for involuntary corporate manslaughter was the first such case to be prosecuted in France, although no individuals would have been held accountable if a guilty verdict had been reached.
Instead, both Air France and Airbus had faced a maximum penalty of just €225,000 each.
Although the first bodies from the plane were found just days after the accident, it took two years for search personnel to locate the wreckage.
On Monday, the Paris criminal court said both Air France and Airbus has been responsible for several acts of negligence but that these fell short of establishing a link with the accident.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.