‘We tried everything’, repeated pilots before Air France plane crashed in 2009

The trial of the airline Air France and the company Airbus for the plane crash that caused the death of 228 people traveling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in 2009 began last week in France, more than 13 years after the tragedy. This Monday, the 17th, the last four minutes of audio from the aircraft’s cabin were heard during the process, in a court in Paris.

“We heard the voices from beyond the grave. It was a terrifying moment because we heard the pilots, who at various points (say): ‘We tried everything’. They did not understand what was about to happen,” he told the news agency. AFP one of the lawyers of the association Entraide et Solidarité AF447 (Cooperation and Solidarity AF447), Alain Jakubowicz.

Hearing the audio recorded by the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) caused emotion in the families of the victims. “I dreaded this moment and it was even stronger than I could have imagined,” said Corinne Soulas, who lost her daughter in the plane crash.

An Airbus spokesperson told the French news agency that it was a defining moment for everyone in the courtroom. “We join in the suffering of those close to the pilots and victims, relived by listening to this recording,” he said.

The accident
On June 1, 2009, Flight AF447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean nearly four hours after takeoff, killing its 216 passengers and 12 crew. Among the victims, 58 were Brazilian. The first bodies and remains of the aircraft were found days later, but the black boxes were only found in April 2011, at a depth of 3,900 meters, in the fourth phase of the search.

The pilots were surprised by the freezing of the probes that measure the speed of the plane, which caused the sudden shutdown of the autopilot. The black boxes confirmed that they were disoriented by the technical glitch. The plane crashed in less than five minutes.

Although the investigating judges dismissed the case in 2019, the victims’ families and the pilots’ unions appealed and, in May 2021, the Justice sent both companies to trial for involuntary manslaughter.

For the appeal court, which overturned the filing of the case, Air France did not implement “adapted training” or the “information” necessary for pilots to be able to “react” to this technical failure.

Airbus itself is on trial for “underestimating the severity” of speed probe failures and failing to take the necessary steps to inform crews of the urgency and train them effectively. Failures in these equipment multiplied in the months prior to the accident. After the catastrophe over the Atlantic, the model changed around the world. The tragedy also led to other technical modifications in the field of aeronautics and reinforced altitude loss and crew training. (With international agencies).

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