After the three magistrates of the court on Wednesday, Pascal Weil, former chief pilot and instructor, faces questions from the parties on Thursday, starting with those of the civil parties.
“Does Air France assume any responsibility for the occurrence of this tragedy?” Me Alain Jakubowicz, lawyer for the association Entraide et Solidarité AF447, reformulates, insists.
“Looking at the chronology of things (…) we did what we thought we had to do at the time”, answers Mr. Weil who, in his dark suit, expresses himself with the hands and in great detail.
“We plead that we are not guilty, the court will obviously judge,” adds Mr. Weil. “We strongly deny any fault, our position has been consistent”.
After the Pitot probes measuring the plane’s speed suddenly iced up, the pilots of flight AF447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris lost control of the plane, which hit the ocean at 2:14 a.m. (universal time) on June 1, 2009. 228 people died.
Air France is sued for not having sufficiently trained its pilots on the freezing of the probes and, above all, on its consequences in the cockpit, while similar breakdowns had multiplied during the months preceding the disaster.
Me Jakubowicz continues: Airbus, tried with Air France for manslaughter, attributes the disaster to “pilot errors”. What does the company think?
“For us, what led the crew to act as they acted remains largely mysterious,” said Mr. Weil, detailing the last minutes of the flight. “I can’t call them mistakes as I can’t explain them.”
– “Binary alternative” –
“We are in a binary alternative”, supports Me Jakubowicz. “Either the pilots were bad” or “there was a hole in the racket in their formation”.
“Thank you for putting me before an impossible choice”, declares Pascal Weil, rejecting the “two branches of the alternative” for a “third way, that of doubt”.
For him, it is the “model” of training, as it existed throughout the aeronautical industry, which is in question because it “ignored human factors, individual variability”.
“Have you considered going into politics? That’s the question that your non-response inspires in me”, squeaks the lawyer, who then questions him: if he himself had been at the controls of AF447, “the plane fall or it does not fall? Is there this lawsuit or not?
“I don’t know, because I don’t know what led colleagues to act this way,” says Weil.
Several lawyers follow, some question him hollow on the responsibility of Airbus, as for the design of the plane or the treatment of the incidents. Each time, Mr. Weil kicks in touch, claiming to want to stick to “facts” and not “theories”.
Over the questions, he repeats that Air France has “well” trained its pilots, “beyond” the standards. That they were also “informed” of this breakdown via “six” different channels: lockers, display, knowledge check session…
For him, the risk was correctly assessed in view of the knowledge of the time.
The nine incidents reported within the company did not “indicate a loss of control” and Air France was not aware of damage of the same type in other companies.
The prosecution asks “a few quick and technical questions”, the Air France lawyers only one, in the form of precision. Then comes the turn of Airbus advice: a handful of questions, without putting Mr. Weil in difficulty.
The manufacturer’s representative is expected on Monday afternoon, in his place.
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