Court clears Air France, Airbus over 2009 Rio-Paris crash

A French court has cleared European plane manufacturer Airbus and Air France of “involuntary manslaughter,” almost 14 years after an aircraft ploughed into the Atlantic en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, killing everyone on board.

The ruling follows a historic public trial over the disappearance of AF447 in an equatorial storm on June 1, 2009, with families for the 228 victims demanding justice but Paris prosecutors acknowledging that formal blame could not be proved.

The verdict followed France’s first trial for corporate involuntary manslaughter, for which the maximum fine is €225,000 ($368,282).

After a two-year search for the A330’s black boxes using remote submarines, investigators found pilots had responded clumsily to a problem involving iced-up speed sensors and lurched into a freefall without responding to stall alerts.

But the trial also highlighted earlier discussions between Air France and Airbus about growing problems with external “pitot probes” that generate the speed readings.

Both companies had pleaded not guilty.

Announcing the verdict, the Paris criminal court judge listed several acts of negligence by both companies but said these fell short of the certainty needed to establish firm liability for France’s worst air disaster.

“A probable causal link isn’t sufficient to characterise an offence,” the judge told the packed courtroom.


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