Air France and Airbus have today been cleared of all wrongdoing in a plane crash that killed 228 people, including British and Irish passengers – meaning the plane’s ‘sleeping pilots’ were entirely responsible.
Judges at the Paris Criminal Court ruled on Monday that the companies involved in the crash of flight AF447 were not guilty of manslaughter.
The plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009 during a flight from Rio to Paris after three Air France pilots panicked and were unable to deal with faulty equipment on an Airbus 330 during a storm.
The company’s guilt was “impossible to prove,” the verdict reads, as investigators found no “guilty breach by Airbus or Air France related to pilot error at the origin of the accident.”
Devastated relatives of those who died on the flight could be heard shouting “shame on you” from the public gallery as Air France’s director-general Anne Rigail, 54, and Guillaume Faury, 54-year-old Chief Executive Officer of Airbus, offered their condolences .
Judges at the Paris Criminal Court ruled on Monday that the companies involved in the crash of flight AF447 were not guilty of manslaughter. Pictured: The Brazilian Navy is repairing parts of the Air France A330 aircraft
The plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009 on a flight from Rio to Paris after three Air France pilots panicked and could not deal with faulty equipment on an Airbus 330 during a storm
The ruling effectively means that pilots Marc Dubois, 58, David Robert, 37, and Pierre-Cedric Bonin, 32, were fully responsible.
During the investigation, it turned out that two of them had fallen asleep in a row when they were supposed to fly the plane.
It was revealed that Dubois’ fatigue was likely related to being up all night the night before with his lover – an off-duty hostess and opera singer, who died on the plane.
According to company sources, this ‘pilot culture within Air France’ has now been reformed.
Families and friends of the victims fought for justice for almost 14 years, and many of them were disgusted by the “not guilty” pleas of the two companies involved at the beginning of the criminal trial.
‘You should be ashamed!’ and ‘Too little, too late!’ were shouted from the public gallery as Air France Director General Anne Rigail, 54, and Guillaume Faury, 54-year-old Chief Executive Officer of Airbus, offered their condolences.
This was followed by the names of all 228 people who died on board on a screen, as they were read out one by one.
They included Graham Gardner, a 52-year-old oil worker from Gourock, in Renfrewshire, and Arthur Coakley, 61, an engineer from Whitby, North Yorkshire.
Alexander Bjoroy, an 11-year-old boarder at Bristol’s Clifton College, has died, as has PR manager Neil Warrior, aged 48.
Other victims included three young Irish doctors, returning from a two-week vacation in Brazil.
Eithne Walls, 29, worked at the Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin and was traveling with Aisling Butler, 26, and Jane Deasy, 27. All had been friends since they were students at Trinity College Dublin.
Families representing all 33 nationalities on board thronged the Paris courtroom.
Both companies were charged with ‘involuntary manslaughter’, but there were no real people in the dock – just the companies.
This had enraged families, as had the maximum possible fine of just €225,000 – just under £200,000.
Prosecutors accused Air France of not having enough training on how pilots should react in the event of failure of the pitot tubes, which monitor speed.
The pilots demonstrably misreacted when the plane came to a stop after the speed sensors froze.
France’s BEA crash investigation agency, in a detailed chronology of the crash, said control commands Bonin, the 32-year-old junior pilot on board, had raised the nose when the plane became unstable and generated an audible stall warning.
This action was against normal nose-down procedures in response to a warning that the aircraft was about to lose lift or, in technical parlance, ‘stall’.