The horrific last minutes of Air France flight From Rio de Janeiro to Paris that went into a free fall and plunged into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009, killing all 228 people on board, it will be examined as a landmark experiment begins in Paris on Monday.
Two heavy companies in the aviation industry – Air Aviation Company Franceand aircraft maker Airbus – are on trial for manslaughter in what was the worst plane crash in the history of the French airline.
This is the first time that French companies have been directly prosecuted after a plane crash, rather than individuals, and lawyers for the families have struggled for years to take the case to court.
The June 1, 2009 plane crash shook the world of air travel when Flight AF477 disappeared from radars as it crossed the night sky during a storm over the Atlantic between Brazil and Senegal. Airbus A330 disappeared without a distress sign.
Days later, wreckage was found in the ocean, but it took nearly two years to locate the bulk of the fuselage and recover the “black box” flight recorders. like never before French research effort It involved combing 17,000 square kilometers of the ocean floor at depths of up to 4,000 meters for more than 22 months.
The plane was carrying 12 crew members and 216 passengers of 33 different nationalities, all of whom were killing.
Airplanes often crash on the ground, and the AF477 ocean crash has come to be seen as one of the few accidents that changed aviation. This led to changes in safety regulations, pilot training, and the use of airspeed sensors.
The experience will hear intense detail from the deadly final minutes in the cockpit as the captain and his co-pilots battled to control the plane.
As the plane approached the equator on its way to Paris, it entered the so-called “intertropical convergence zone” that often produces choppy storms with heavy rain. When a storm hit the plane, ice crystals at high altitudes disabled the plane’s airspeed sensors, blocking speed and altitude information. The autopilot functions have stopped working.
The 205-ton aircraft entered an aerodynamic stall and then crashed.
One of the co-pilots is heard saying in the flight recordings, “We lost our speed,” before other indicators mistakenly display a loss of altitude, and a series of alert messages appear on the cockpit screens. “I don’t know what’s going on,” said one of the pilots.
The landmark trial will look at the role of airspeed sensors and pilots.
Daniel Lamy, head of the victims group Entraide et Solidarité, told AFP: “We expect an impartial and exemplary trial so that this does not happen again, as a result of which the two defendants will prioritize safety rather than just profitability.”
Air France and Airbus They face potential fines of up to €225,000 – a fraction of their annual revenue – but could suffer reputational damage if they are found criminally responsible.
Both companies have denied any criminal negligence, and investigative judges overseeing the case dropped the charges in 2019, attributing the accident primarily to pilot error.
This decision angered the victims’ families, and in 2021 an appeals court in Paris ruled that there was sufficient evidence to allow the trial to proceed.
“Air France … will continue to prove that it did not commit any criminal negligence that caused this incident and will seek acquittal,” Air France said in a statement to AFP.
Airbus, which makes the A330 that entered service just four years before the crash, has not commented before trial but has denied any criminal negligence.
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