Air France and Airbus should stand trial for involuntary manslaughter over their role in a 2009 crash in the Atlantic that killed 228 people, the Paris court of appeal ruled on Wednesday.
The ruling reverses a 2019 decision not to prosecute either company over the accident, in which the pilots lost control of the Airbus A330 jet after ice blocked its airspeed sensors.
Victims’ families welcomed the ruling, but Airbus and Air France said they would seek to overturn it at the Cour de Cassation, France’s highest appeal court.
“The court decision that has just been announced does not reflect in any way the conclusions of the investigation,” Airbus said in an emailed statement.
Air France “maintains that it committed no criminal fault at the root of this tragic accident”, said a spokesman for the carrier, which is part of Air France-KLM.
Air France flight AF447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashed on 1 June, 2009, killing everyone on board.
French investigators found that the crew had mishandled the situation arising from the loss of speed data from sensors blocked with ice and caused an aerodynamic stall by holding the aircraft’s nose too high.
The earlier decision not to go to trial drew legal challenges from the families as well as pilot unions and prosecutors who had pursued charges against Air France alone.
Wednesday’s ruling upheld new demands for a trial of both companies from senior prosecutors who have accused Air France of pilot training failures and Airbus for underestimating dangers posed by known problems with the speed sensors.