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PLANE CRASH

Rio-Paris crash caused by ‘stressed pilots’ error’

The 2009 Air France plane crash that killed all 228 people on board was caused by stressed pilots making an "inappropriate response" to an equipment malfunction, a new experts' report has concluded.

Rio-Paris crash caused by 'stressed pilots' error'
Part of the Air France plane that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009. A new report says it was caused by a mistake by "stressed out" pilots. Photo: AFP

An "inappropriate response" from stressed pilots was responsible for the 2009 crash into the Atlantic of an Air France plane flying from Rio to Paris that killed all 228 people on board, a new experts' report said.

The report, seen by AFP on Tuesday, was ordered by investigators. It said there was "an inappropriate response from the crew" after the plane's speed sensors malfunctioned.

The five experts said the "predominance of human factors in causing the accident and acting as contributory factors had been clearly established."

The crash "could have been avoided if the crew had taken appropriate action," they said.

In a 2012 report by France's BEA authority responsible for safety investigations into accidents or incidents in civil aviation, the June 1, 2009 crash was blamed on a mix of technical faults and human error.

Investigators had ordered the latest report, which was filed by the experts on April 30, following the BEA report.

The experts also fingered Air France, saying the pilots were not adequately trained to handle unusual situations like that when the speed sensors known as pitots malfunctioned.

"The distribution of tasks in the cockpit was not rigorously applied," they said.

A lawyer representing the families of victims said the latest report was "full of contradictions"

"The experts are just happy blaming the pilots while avoiding the key issue of technical failure," Yassine Bouzrou told AFP.

The Airbus A330 vanished at night during a storm. The black boxes were located by robot submarines after a search spanning nearly two years and costing millions of euros.

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AIR FRANCE

Air France, Hop! to cut 7,580 jobs

Air France management said Friday it planned to eliminate 7,580 jobs at the airline and its regional unit Hop! by the end of 2022 because of the coronavirus crisis.

Air France, Hop! to cut 7,580 jobs
An Air France plane lands at JFK airport in New York. Image: STAN HONDA / AFP

The carrier wants to get rid of 6,560 positions of the 41,000 at Air France, and 1,020 positions of the 2,420 at Hop!, according to a statement issued after meetings between managers and staff representatives.

“For three months, Air France's activity and turnover have plummeted 95 percent, and at the height of the crisis, the company lost 15 million euros a day,” said the group, which anticipated a “very slow” recovery.

The aviation industry has been hammered by the travel restrictions imposed to contain the virus outbreak, with firms worldwide still uncertain when they will be able to get grounded planes back into the air.

Air France said it wanted to begin a “transformation that rests mainly on changing the model of its domestic activity, reorganising its support functions and pursuing the reduction of its external and internal costs”.

The planned job cuts amount to 16 percent of Air France's staff and 40 percent of those at Hop!

With the focus on short-haul flights, management is counting mainly on the non-replacement of retiring workers or voluntary departures and increasing geographic mobility.

However, unions warn that Air France may resort to layoffs for the first time, if not enough staff agree to leave or move to other locations. 

'Crisis is brutal'

Shaken heavily by the coronavirus crisis, like the entire aviation sector, the Air France group launched a reconstruction plan aiming to reduce its loss-making French network by 40 percent through the end of 2021.

“The crisis is brutal and these measures are on an unprecedented scale,” CEO Anne Rigail conceded in a message to employees, a copy of which AFP obtained. They also include, she said, “salary curbs with a freeze on general and individual increases (outside seniority and promotions) for all in 2021 and 2022,” including executives of Air France.

The airline told AFP earlier this week that: “The lasting drop in activity and the economic context due to the COVID-19 crisis require the acceleration of Air France's transformation.”

Air France-KLM posted a loss of 1.8 billion euros in the first quarter alone, and has warned it could be years before operations return to pre-coronavirus levels.

Air France has been offered seven billion euros in emergency loans from the French state or backed by it, while the Dutch government approved a 3.4 billion euro package of bailout loans for KLM last week.

The group joins a long list of airlines that have announced job cuts in recent weeks.

Lufthansa is to slash 22,000 jobs, British Airways 12,000, Delta Air Lines 10,000 and Qantas 6,000.

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