French Court: Airbus and Air France Not to Blame for Crash

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus and airline Air France are not to blame for a plane crash in 2009, a French court ruled on Monday. In June 2009, an Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashed into the Atlantic Ocean after being caught in a storm.

Relatives of the 12 crew members and 216 passengers, all of whom died in the crash, had sued Airbus and Air France for involuntary manslaughter. So-called Pitot speed control tubes froze, preventing the pilots from getting precise speed readings. As a result, they lost speed but did not notice it in time. The families of the victims and some aviation experts claim that the pilots were insufficiently trained to cope with the loss of speed.

Before the crash, other pilots had already reported the problem of freezing the Pitot tubes on Airbus A330 aircraft. In the months following the accident, these tubes were replaced worldwide. The crash also prompted a review of pilot training protocols.

The judge found that both companies had been negligent on some points. But those cases were not severe enough for a conviction. “A probable causal relationship is not enough,” the judges said.

It was the first time that companies had been tried for involuntary manslaughter. The maximum penalty for this is a fine of 225,000 euros.

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