PARIS – A French court on Wednesday ordered Air France and plane maker Airbus to stand trial for manslaughter in the 2009 crash into the Atlantic Ocean of a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, which killed all 228 people aboard.
The two companies said they would appeal the decision, which overturns a 2019 ruling. Groups representing relatives of victims in France and Brazil had pressed for a trial, maintaining the companies were at least partially responsible for the Air France Flight 447 crash.
In Brazil, the father of one of those killed said a trial, if it happens, "will be a triumph" for the victims' association he leads.
"We have fought 12 years for that,” said Nelson Marinho, president of the AF447 Victims Association. His son Nelson Marinho Jr. died at age 40 aboard the flight.
“We want Airbus and Air France to be punished," he said. “Lives do not return, but it will bring relief for us, family members, and for all families who are going to travel by plane in the future.”
Air France said it would appeal the decision to France’s highest court, the Court of Cassation. The carrier said it “maintains that it did not commit a criminal offense in this tragic accident."
Airbus said the decision “does not reflect in any way the conclusions of the investigation that led to the dismissal of the case in favor of Airbus.”
But France's National Union of Airline Pilots welcomed the court ruling as “a major step" and a "fundamental decision for air transport safety.”
French judges in 2019 had dropped a decade-long investigation into the crash.
The plane left Rio for Paris but crashed into the Atlantic on June 1, 2009. Later, one of history’s most ambitious and costly undersea search operations managed to find the plane’s flight recorders in the ocean's depths.
The French accident investigation bureau found that external speed sensors had been frozen and produced irregular readings on the aircraft, which went into an aerodynamic stall. The captain also wasn’t in the cockpit, one of multiple problems identified at the time of the crash.