2009 Air France AF447 Crash: Trial Opens After Thirteen Years

Air France and Airbus face trial in Paris over the crash that tragically killed 228 people thirteen years ago this month.

A devastating tragedy

The disastrous event of 2009, in which the crash of the AF447 flight left everyone onboard dead, has hit the headlines more than ten years after the incident. On June 1st that year, a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris came down in what has since been described as the ‘worst crash in Air France’s history.’ One of the causes of the accident has been pinned to the technical issues surrounding the Pitot sensors as the plane flew through a storm causing the pilots to lose control of the aircraft. As well as this, problems with the plane’s air-speed readings led to the pilots becoming confused and pointing the plane upwards (rather than down) before stalling and plummeting towards the sea.

Seeking closure

Despite the court’s previous dismissal of the case in 2019, the families of the victims will be relieved at the decision to try both Air France and Airbus on the charges of “involuntary manslaughter” as of this Monday. After years of court proceedings and challenges, last Wednesday saw the Paris appeals court declare that the airline and manufacturer should stand trial for the tragedy that claimed so many lives. The 476 civil parties will finally be able to gain closure for what they believe to be a situation involving negligence and malfunctions from Air France and Airbus.

Skewed readings

Unearthing the aircraft’s black boxes (containing instrumental recordings of flight details in the lead-up to a crash) has allowed investigators to understand what actually happened. Despite finding this in the wreckage two years after the incident, they discovered that frost forming on the Pitot sensors had led to skewed readings on the aircraft’s speed. This, in turn, caused massive confusion in the cockpit.

Wreckage of the 2009 crash found in the Atlantic Ocean
Wreckage of the crash on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean | © Forca Aerea Brasileira

Taking accountability

With the beginning of the trial this week, Airbus is predicted to place all blame for the crash on pilot error in order to distance itself from any responsibility relating to the accident. However, Jean-Claude Guidicelli, the father of Clara Amado, one of the flight attendants on the plane, has spoken out.

“The trial is being held for the dead, who cannot defend themselves…But in the hierarchy of responsibility, there is first Airbus, which should have changed the pitot probes.” Even more alarming is that the French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (responsible for investigating civil aviation incidents) stated that Air France had previously voiced its concern about potential faulty pitot probes and yet decided not to replace them with those of another manufacturer.

At the time of the flight, the pilots were also said to have not received enough training regarding how to deal with such a situation. Consequently, their response (which would have been logical given that the data provided by the probes had been correct) proved fatal.

The AF447 trial, set to last nine weeks until December 8th, will see the victim’s families have to endure many painful memories as Air France and Airbus continue to refuse accountability for the event that destroyed so many lives.

Do you think that Air France and Airbus should both take accountability for this tragic incident? Let us know in the comments.

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