Air France and Airbus face manslaughter trial over deadly 2009 crash

Air France and Airbus face manslaughter trial over 2009 Rio to Paris crash that killed 228 including five Britons

  • AF447 plunged into the Atlantic in June 2009 after pilots panicked in a storm
  • Investigators concluded it was caused by pilot error and technical problems
  • But judges dismissed the case against the airline and manufacturer in 2009
  • The decision has now been reversed and the companies will go on trial 

Air France and Airbus are to face a manslaughter trial for the 2009 Rio to Paris crash in which 228 people including five British passengers died, Appeal Court judges ruled today. 

The decision on Wednesday follows a 12-year fight for justice by families of those who lost their lives in the worst air disaster in French history.

Flight AF447 plunged into the Atlantic on June 1, 2009, after pilots panicked and failed to deal with malfunctioning equipment during a storm.

Air France and Airbus are to face a manslaughter trial for the 2009 Rio to Paris crash in which 228 people including five British passengers died. Pictured: rescuers retrieve debris from the jet in the Atlantic Ocean


Prosecutors accused Air France of failing to provide sufficient training in how pilots should react in case of malfunction. Pictured, Captain Marc Dubois (left), and co-pilot Pierre-Cedric Bonin 

Undersea equipment including remote controlled submarines took two years to find the full wreckage of the Airbus A330 at a depth of 13,000 feet.

An inquiry led to investigators concluding that the crash was caused by Air France pilot error, and technical problems with the Airbus.

Despite this, judges initially dismissed the case against both the airline and the plane manufacturer in August 2019.

‘This decision was reversed today,’ said a legal source at the Paris Appeal Court. ‘Subject to another appeal, the companies will go on trial for negligence and recklessness leading to manslaughter.’

Since the ruling, Airbus has indicated it will appeal. 

Flight AF447 plunged into the Atlantic on June 1, 2009, after pilots panicked and failed to deal with malfunctioning equipment during a storm

The decision on Wednesday follows a 12-year fight for justice by families of those who lost their lives in the worst air disaster in French history. Pictured: Air France memorial

Prosecutors accused Air France of failing to provide sufficient training in how pilots should react in case of malfunction of the Pitot tubes, which enable pilots to monitor their speed.

The pilots provably reacted incorrectly when the plane stalled after the speed sensors froze over.

Before today’s ruling, Daniele Lamy, a campaigner for victims’ families, said: ‘We are not seeking revenge but justice for the dignity of families and victims.’

Ms Lamy said that ‘impunity’ for those responsible ‘may lead to another catastrophe.’

France’s BEA crash investigation agency said in a detailed chronology of the crash that commands from the controls of the 32-year-old junior pilot on board had pulled the nose up as the aircraft became unstable and generated an audible stall warning.


Among those who died on the Airbus was Graham Gardner, an oil worker from Gourock, in Renfrewshire (left), and Arthur Coakley, an engineer from Whitby in North Yorkshire (right)

This action went against the normal procedures which call for the nose to be lowered in response to an alert that the plane was about to lose lift or ‘stall’.

Among those who died on the Airbus was Graham Gardner, an oil worker from Gourock, in Renfrewshire, and Arthur Coakley, an engineer from Whitby in North Yorkshire.

Alexander Bjoroy, an 11-year-old boarder at Clifton College in Bristol, died, as did PR executive Neil Warrior.

Other victims included three young Irish doctors, returning from a two-week holiday in Brazil.

Since the disaster, pilot training on dealing with technical breakdown is said to have been stepped up by Air France. 

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