After a criminal trial concerning the 2009 crash of an Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, which resulted in the death of 228 passengers and crew, both Air France and Airbus have been cleared of any charges of involuntary homicide.
The national carrier and the aircraft manufacturer had been accused of contributing to the tragedy, following the abandonment of a previous investigation in 2019. The Paris prosecutor’s office has released a summary of the court’s decision, confirming the acquittal of both defendants.
According to BFMTV, state prosecutors made an unprecedented move by acknowledging in court that they were unable to assign fault to either Air France or Airbus in relation to the plane crash. This admission was reportedly made during the trial proceedings.
“Looking at the science at the time, no criminal liability seems to me to be applicable,” one of the magistrates said, according to CNN affiliate BFMTV.
Despite the acquittal of both Air France and Airbus on the charge of involuntary homicide, the court found certain practices of the two companies to be negligent or reckless. One such issue was Airbus’ failure to replace defective pitot tubes, which are crucial sensors for determining altitude and speed. Similar problems had occurred with Airbus planes before.
On the other hand, the court held Air France responsible for not appropriately alerting pilots to past incidents related to these tubes. As a consequence, both companies will be held liable for civil damages. A follow-up hearing is scheduled for September 4th.
David Koubbi, who represents some of the crash victims’ families, expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling, as it does not address the claims for which his clients are seeking compensation.
“That is the part of the decision that we cannot — we do not — know how to be satisfied by, because nothing in our world, in our age, can justify that 228 people took a flight leaving Rio for Paris and never landed,” Koubbi said.
Airbus said in a statement that it “reaffirms the full commitment of the company and all its employees to keep prioritizing a safety-first culture across the company and the aviation sector.”
An Air France spokesperson said the company “wishes to reaffirm its continued trust in all of its pilots and flight crews and reiterates that the safety of its customers and crews is its absolute priority.”