Airbus and Air France have again been told to stand trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter over their role in a plane crash that killed 228 people in 2009.
A French court of appeals in Paris reportedly ruled on Wednesday that the two companies should stand trial for their shortcomings that contributed to the accident, overruling a decision that was made in 2019 not to prosecute either company over the accident.
Airbus and Air France have said they will seek to get the ruling overturned at France’s highest appeals court, the Cour de Cassation.
“The court decision that has just been announced does not reflect in any way the conclusions of the investigation,” Airbus said in an statement.
A spokesperson for Air France said the carrier “maintains that it committed no criminal fault at the root of this tragic accident”.
It comes four months after a French public prosecutor similarly requested that the European planemaker and French flag carrier stand trial for manslaughter over the incident.
At that time, the Parisian prosecutor stated that there were “blameworthy infringements” on the part of Air France in relation to insufficient crew training, as well as Airbus, reportedly underestimating the risks posed by ice on the plane’s instruments.
The case involves the crash of Air France flight AF447, an Airbus A330 (registration F-GZCP) bound for Paris from Rio de Janeiro, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on 1 June 2009, killing all passengers and crew onboard.
The crash occurred three hours and 45 minutes after it took off from Brazil, and is believed to have been brought on after the plane entered icy weather conditions, which affected the aircraft’s instrumentation.
French investigators found the crew of AF447 mishandled the loss of speed readings from sensors blocked with ice from the storm, and caused the aircraft to stall by holding its nose too high.
The plane never recovered from the stall and crashed into the ocean.
Since 2011, both Air France and Airbus have been investigated on criminal charges for the event.
In July 2019, judges in France dropped charges against Airbus, while continuing to pursue Air France for manslaughter and negligence, stating “the airline was aware of technical problems with a key airspeed monitoring instrument on its planes but failed to train pilots to resolve them”.
However, the case against Air France was dropped later that year when magistrates said “there were not enough grounds to prosecute”.
Since then, French prosecutors have continued to push for both companies to stand trial for what is considered to be Air France’s failings in its crew training and Airbus’ underestimation of the dangerous effect of weather on its instruments.