Air France ‘should face trial’ over 2009 crash in which 228 people died

French prosecutors have recommended that Air France face trial for negligence over the 2009 crash of a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in which 228 people died, judicial sources told AFP.

Air France 'should face trial' over 2009 crash in which 228 people died
Wreckage from the Air France flight from Rio to Paris. Photo: AFP

They concluded that Air France was aware of technical problems with a key speed-measuring instrument on its planes, but had failed to inform or train pilots on how to resolve the issue, according to an investigation document seen by AFP.

On June 1, 2009 the plane travelling from Rio to Paris stalled shortly after take off and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 228 passengers and crew on board.

Flight AF447 plunged into the Atlantic during a storm on June 1, 2009, with a defect with the plane's Pitot tubes – which enable pilots to monitor their speed – found to be the cause of the crash. 

It took two years to find the wreckage of the plane off Brazil which was eventually located by remote-controlled submarines at a depth of 3,900 metres.

The prosecutors recommended dropping the case against Airbus, despite demands from the families of victims that the aircraft manufacturer should also be held accountable for the crash.

Both companies had been charged with manslaughter in 2011. 

In a legal case that is now into its 10th year, investigating magistrates who are in charge of the case must now decide whether to follow the recommendations of prosecutors and bring the case to trial.

Air France will also be able to appeal any decision to bring the case to court.

A report from French air crash investigator BEA in 2012 concluded that the ill-prepared crew had failed to react correctly when their Airbus stalled and lost altitude after the speed sensors froze up.

Aircraft safety has been in the spotlight this year after two crashes involving the 737 MAX plane from US aircraft manufacturer Boeing, which has led to the global fleet of the aircraft being grounded as a result.

Member comments

  1. “a defect with the plane’s Pitot tubes – which enable pilots to monitor their speed – found to be the cause of the crash.” Too simplistic: it was one element in the chain of events leading to the accident, but it did not lead by itself to the crash. Freezing up of Pitot tubes is not rare and is normally handled by setting the aircraft at the right plane and speed until the freezing incident passes. The pilots failed to follow the standard protocol for loss of airspeed measurement, “reacted incorrectly and ultimately caused the aircraft to enter an aerodynamic stall, from which it did not recover.” (BEA report into accident, 2012).

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French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts

A French court has ordered Twitter to give activists full access to all its documents relating to efforts to combat racism, sexism and other forms of hate speech on the social network.

French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts
Photo: Alastair Pike | AFP

Six anti-discrimination groups had taken Twitter to court in France last year, accusing the US social media giant of “long-term and persistent” failures in blocking hateful comments from the site.

The Paris court ordered Twitter to grant the campaign groups full access to all documents relating to the company’s efforts to combat hate speech since May 2020. The ruling applies to Twitter’s global operation, not just France.

Twitter must hand over “all administrative, contractual, technical or commercial documents” detailing the resources it has assigned to fighting homophobic, racist and sexist discourse on the site, as well as “condoning crimes against humanity”.

The San Francisco-based company was given two months to comply with the ruling, which also said it must reveal how many moderators it employs in France to examine posts flagged as hateful, and data on the posts they process.

The ruling was welcomed by the Union of French Jewish Students (UEJF), one of the groups that had taken the social media giant to court.

“Twitter will finally have to take responsibility, stop equivocating and put ethics before profit and international expansion,” the UEJF said in a statement on its website.

Twitter’s hateful conduct policy bans users from promoting violence, or threatening or attacking people based on their race, religion, gender identity or disability, among other forms of discrimination.

Like other social media businesses it allows users to report posts they believe are hateful, and employs moderators to vet the content.

But anti-discrimination groups have long complained that holes in the policy allow hateful comments to stay online in many cases.

French prosecutors on Tuesday said they have opened an investigation into a wave of racist comments posted on Twitter aimed at members of the country’s national football team.

The comments, notably targeting Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, were posted after France was eliminated from the Euro 2020 tournament last week.

France has also been having a wider public debate over how to balance the right to free speech with preventing hate speech, in the wake of the controversial case of a teenager known as Mila.

The 18-year-old sparked a furore last year when her videos, criticising Islam in vulgar terms, went viral on social media.

Thirteen people are on trial accused of subjecting her to such vicious harassment that she was forced to leave school and was placed under police protection.

While President Emmanuel Macron is among those who have defended her right to blaspheme, left-wing critics say her original remarks amounted to hate speech against Muslims.