French judges drop case against Air France for 2009 crash

Victims’ groups and France’s main pilots’ union plan to appeal.

  • Thursday, September 5, 2019 3:10pm
  • Business

By Sylvie Corbet / Associated Press

PARIS — French judges dropped a decade-long investigation into Air France and planemaker Airbus over the 2009 crash of a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, which killed all 228 people aboard and led to new aircraft safety regulations.

The decision infuriated victims’ groups in France and Brazil that have pushed to bring the case to trial, and believe the airline and jet manufacturer are at least partially responsible.

They plan to appeal, as does France’s main pilots’ union. The judges’ decision not to pursue manslaughter charges against Air France and Airbus was not made public, but suggests they believe the pilots alone were at fault.

Victims’ association FENVAC on Thursday announced the ruling, which was confirmed by a French judicial official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk about the case.

Air France Flight 447 left Rio for Paris but crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009. Later, one of history’s most ambitious and costly undersea search operations managed to find the plane’s flight recorders in the Atlantic depths.

The French accident investigation bureau, the BEA, found that external speed sensors were frozen and produced irregular readings on the aircraft, which went into an aerodynamic stall. The captain also wasn’t in the cockpit, one of multiple problems identified at the time of the crash.

Meanwhile, French investigators were working in parallel to the BEA to determine whether to send anyone to trial.

The judges’ decision to drop the case goes against the request of French prosecutors, who wanted Air France to stand trial for manslaughter but had asked to drop the case against Airbus for lack of sufficient evidence.

“We are very angry,” FENVAC director Sophia Seco told The Associated Press, calling the decision to drop the investigation “inexplicable.”

“How dare French justice settle the case of Air France’s deadliest air crash in this way?”

Nelson Marinho, whose 40-year-old son Nelson Marinho Jr. died in the accident, called it “absurd, just absurd” to blame pilots for the tragedy. Speaking to the AP from Rio, Marinho said his victims’ association will take action in response to the judges’ decision, but did not elaborate.

The crash and its fallout rattled the French government, a key shareholder in France’s flagship carrier. Victims’ groups also raised questions about Air France’s relationship with France-based Airbus, in which the French government also has a shareholding.

The crash led to new air safety rules regarding the speed sensors, known as pitot tubes.

An Associated Press investigation in 2009 found that Airbus knew since at least 2002 about problems with the type of speed sensor that malfunctioned on Flight 447, but air safety authorities did not order their replacement until after the crash.

Airbus insists that the plane was airworthy. Critics say the planemaker and airline didn’t take the pitot tubes problems seriously enough.

Airbus and Air France would not comment on the judges’ decision pending an eventual appeal.

More in Business

Kent’s Blue Origin celebrates 19th year

Headquarters opened in 2000

It’s time to prepare for flu season: Bartell’s offers immunizations

The key to protection from the flu is getting the immunization at… Continue reading

3No Networking mixer comes to the Best Western on Thursday, Sept. 12

Business leaders and guests are invited to a 3No Networking mixer at… Continue reading

Retail job fair arrives at Westfield Southcenter on Sept. 13

Port Jobs’ Center for Onboarding and Advancement in Retail (COAR) hosts a… Continue reading

French judges drop case against Air France for 2009 crash

Victims’ groups and France’s main pilots’ union plan to appeal.

King Council Council passes ordinance, streamlining process to correct property tax errors

The King County Council on Wednesday passed Ordinance 2019-0268, sponsored by Councilmember… Continue reading

Sumner-Pacific Manufacturing Industrial Center wins Vision 2040 Award

Sumner and Pacific have won 2019 Vision 2040 Awards from the Puget… Continue reading

Angelica Roberts, owner of Blast and Dash, demonstrates how a skilled hand should hold a Nerf gun. ROBERT WHALE, Auburn Reporter
Auburn woman’s mobile business delights young and old with Nerf-gun mayhem

Angelica Roberts has seen it happen over and over since she launched… Continue reading

Entrepreneurship alternative to military spouse employment

By Jeremy Field, regional administrator, Pacific Northwest, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)… Continue reading

State’s labor market continued to improve in July

Washington’s economy gained 13,400 jobs in July and the state’s seasonally adjusted… Continue reading

REPORTER PHOTO
Crane over Auburn

The foundation takes shape for Teutsch Partners’ residential apartment project at 1st… Continue reading

Property valuation notices are in the mail; values rose 3.8% in Algona, Pacific

The King County Assessor’s Office has begun the annual process of mailing… Continue reading