This trial, heavy with stakes for the European aircraft manufacturer, the French company, the families of the victims but also for the world air transport, must last until December 8 at the Paris Criminal Court.

Flight AF447 between Rio de Janeiro and Paris crashed in the middle of the night, a few hours after takeoff, killing its 216 passengers and 12 crew members. This is the deadliest disaster in the history of Air France.

The first debris from the A330 as well as the bodies were quickly found, but the wreckage and the black boxes were not found until two years later, fished out from a depth of 3,900 meters after five phases of underwater searches.

The investigations showed that the pilots, disoriented by the icing of the Pitot speed probes in the unstable meteorological zone of the Doldrums, were unable to recover from the stall of the aircraft, which took place in less than five minutes.

After a succession of highly technical expertise, the investigating judges finally dismissed the case in 2019.

The prosecution, the relatives of victims and the pilots’ unions appealed and, in 2021, the investigating chamber ruled in the opposite direction, ordering a trial for the two companies.

At the end of a “judicial fight” and a “chaotic” investigation, “we expect this trial to be the trial of Airbus and Air France” and not “that of the pilots”, declared to AFP Danièle Lamy, president of the association of relatives of victims Entraide et Solidarité AF447.

“We expect an impartial, exemplary trial, so that this does not happen again and that, through this trial, the two defendants put air safety at the center of their concerns rather than only profitability,” she added.

Air France “keeps in mind the memory of the victims of this terrible accident and expresses its deepest sympathy to all of their loved ones”, according to a press release from the company.

“Air France, which had benefited from a dismissal at the end of the investigation, will continue to demonstrate that it did not commit any criminal fault at the origin of the accident and will plead for release”, notably sued the company.

Airbus, which did not want to speak before the trial, also disputes any criminal fault.

– Sensor failure –

In the A330 registered F-GZCP were people of 33 different nationalities, including 72 French (61 passengers and 11 crew members). According to two associations of families of victims, 58 Brazilians and 26 Germans lost their lives.

A total of 476 relatives of victims have joined as civil parties. Five half-days will be devoted to those wishing to testify.

But the debates will above all be very technical: the court will indeed have to determine whether Airbus and Air France, which incur a fine of 225,000 euros, have committed fault in a certain connection with the accident.

In its judgment for reference, the Court of Appeal considered that there were sufficient charges against the manufacturer for having “underestimated the seriousness of the failures” of the Pitot probes “equipping the A330 aircraft, by not taking all the necessary arrangements to urgently inform the crews of the operating companies and contribute to their effective training”.

The company was fired for failing “to implement appropriate training (and) the information of the crews which was essential” in the face of the icing of the probes used to measure the speed of the plane, “which prevented the pilots from reacting as necessary”.

“We want to put them face to face with their responsibilities,” said Me Sébastien Busy, lawyer for Entraide et Solidarité. “We sell you a plane telling you that it is great when everything is going well. The problem is that everything should be done to ensure maximum safety when everything is going badly”.

Probe failures had multiplied in the months preceding the accident. After the disaster, the affected model was replaced worldwide.

The tragedy also led to other technical modifications in the aeronautical field and reinforced training in aircraft stalling and crew stress.