2011-03-25 / Top Stories

Airbus Faces Criminal Charges Over French Crash

By Howard Schwach

The November 12, 2001 crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in Rockaway, many believe, was a precursor of the Air France crash eight years later. The November 12, 2001 crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in Rockaway, many believe, was a precursor of the Air France crash eight years later. Manslaughter charges were filed in a Paris (France) court on Monday against Airbus Industries, the giant manufacturer that built the A300-600 aircraft, one of which lost its tail structure over Jamaica Bay and crashed into Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue on November 12, 2001, killing all 280 on the plane, as well as five local residents.

The French charges against the company were filed in regard to the deadly 2009 crash into the Atlantic Ocean of an Air France jet bound for Paris from Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). All 228 people on the place were killed.

The Air France A330 that crashed was similar to the A300 model that crashed in Rockaway and that has several other “upsets” involving the plane’s tail structure and control surfaces.

Local aircraft experts and published reports have conjectured that the same problem that impacted American Airlines Flight 587, the plane that crashed in Rockaway, and several other aircraft prior to that crash and afterwards as well, brought down Air France Flight 447. No major wreckage from the plane was ever recovered, and the reason for the crash officially remains a mystery.

Air France Flight 447 was a scheduled commercial flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009, killing all 216 passengers and 12 crew members.

The aircraft, an Air France Airbus A330-200 registered as F-GZCP, took off on May 31, 2009 at 7:03 p.m. local time The last contact from the crew was a routine message to Brazilian air traffic controllers as the aircraft approached the edge of Brazilian radar surveillance over the Atlantic Ocean, en route to Senegalese-controlled airspace off the coast of West Africa. Forty minutes later, a four-minute-long series of automatic radio messages was received from the plane, stating numerous problems and warnings.

The aircraft was believed to have been lost shortly after it sent the automated messages.

On June 6, 2009, a search and rescue operation recovered two bodies and debris from the aircraft floating in the ocean 680 miles northeast of the Fernando de Noronha Islands off Brazil’s northern coast. The debris included a briefcase containing an airline ticket, later confirmed to have been issued for the flight. On June 27, the search for bodies and debris was called off. A total of 51 bodies were recovered.

The investigation into the accident is severely hampered by the lack of any eyewitness accounts and radar tracks, as well as the airplane’s black boxes, which have not been recovered from the ocean floor.

The accident was the deadliest in the history of Air France. Paul-Louis Arslanian, the head of the French Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA), described it as the worst accident in French aviation history.

It was the deadliest commercial airliner accident to have occurred since the 2001 crash of American Airlines Flight 587. It was the first fatal accident involving an Airbus A330 while in passenger service and remained the only fatal accident involving the A330 until Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771 crashed in Tripoli, Libya in May 2010.

Published reports in France say that the criminal charges were based, in part, on the history of crashes involving the A300 series aircraft, including the crash of AA 587 into Rockaway.

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