(Paris) Nearly 14 years after the crash of the Rio-Paris flight which caused the death of 228 people in 2009, the Paris court acquitted Airbus and Air France on Monday, tried for manslaughter.

Regarding this accident, which is the deadliest in the history of French companies, the Paris Criminal Court exonerated the two companies, ruling that, if “faults” had been committed, “no certain causal link” with the accident had “not been demonstrated”.

Shortly after 1:30 p.m., the large courtroom was filled with relatives of the victims, Air France and Airbus crews and journalists. When the release was announced, some civil parties stood up as if amazed, before sitting down again, while the president continued to read in a heavy silence.

“We were expecting an impartial judgment, it was not the case. We are disgusted,” reacted Danièle Lamy, president of the association Entraide et Solidarité AF447. “All that remains of these 14 years of waiting is despair, dismay and anger.”

“We are told: ‘responsible but not guilty’. And it’s true that we were waiting for the word “guilty”, “said Me Alain Jakubowicz, one of their lawyers.

Air France “takes note of the judgment”, according to a press release. “The company will always remember the victims of this terrible accident and expresses its deepest sympathy to all of their loved ones.”

Airbus considered that this decision was “consistent” with the dismissal pronounced at the end of the instruction in 2019. The group also “expresses” its “compassion” to the relatives of the victims, and “reaffirms [its] total commitment […] in terms of aviation safety”.

On June 1, 2009, flight AF447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashed in the middle of the night in the Atlantic, a few hours after takeoff, resulting in the death of its 216 passengers and 12 crew members.

On board the A330 registered F-GZCP were people of 33 nationalities, including 72 French and 58 Brazilians.

At the end of a marathon procedure marked by contradictory assessments by magistrates, this decision was eagerly awaited. At the end of the trial, which took place from October 10 to December 8, the prosecution had requested the release of the two companies, considering that their guilt was “impossible to demonstrate”.

The first debris of AF447 and the bodies were found in the days following the crash. But the wreckage was only located two years later, after a long search, at 3900 meters deep.

The black boxes confirmed the starting point of the accident: icing of the Pitot airspeed probes as the aircraft flew at high altitude in the harsh weather “Doldrums” area near the equator.

Destabilized by the consequences of this breakdown, one of the co-pilots adopted an upward trajectory and, in the incomprehension, the three pilots failed to regain control of the plane, which stalled and hit the ocean. 4 minutes and 23 seconds later.

The aircraft manufacturer, Airbus, did commit “four imprudences or negligence”, in particular not having replaced a model of Pitot probes, which seemed to freeze more often, on the A330-A340 fleet, given the multiplication of incidents in the months preceding the accident.

Airbus has also shown “a form of withholding information” in relation to the airlines, and should have updated its stall procedure, also believes the court, which also points to the absence of display of a message indicating the failure of the probes on the main screen of the A330s.

Air France has committed “wrongful recklessness”, continued President Sylvie Daunis, linked to the methods of disseminating a prevention note on the freezing of probes, which was sent to its pilots.

Nevertheless, on the criminal level, “a certain causal link” with the accident, and not only a “loss of chance”, must be demonstrated, explained the president. “In the present case, with regard to the faults, no certain causal link could be demonstrated with the accident”.

After a decade of battle of experts, the prosecution had requested the referral to court of the only company Air France, but the investigating judges had dismissed the case in 2019.

This dismissal had been appealed and the public prosecutor’s office had then demanded the dismissal of the two companies: in 2021, the investigating chamber had followed it, ordering the trial.