Anger in court over Air France and Airbus denying 2009 Atlantic manslaughter charge

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Families and friends of those killed in France’s worst-ever plane crash expressed anger in court today after Air France and Airbus denied manslaughter charges following the 2009 Atlantic plane crash that killed 228 people , including five Britons.

‘You should be ashamed!’ and ‘Too little, too late!’ were shouted by those pursuing a 13-year battle for justice after Air France Director General Anne Rigail, 53, and Guillaume Faury, 54-year-old Airbus Chief Executive Officer, offered their condolences.

The drama unfolded today in the Paris criminal court, where both companies face fines over the horrific accident.

A man was also pictured holding a sign in French that translated as “French justice, 13 years overdue.”

Flight AF447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009 while flying from Rio to Paris after three Air France pilots panicked and were unable to deal with faulty equipment on an Airbus 330 during a storm.

Families and friends of the deceased were outraged by the two companies’ pleas of “not guilty” at the start of the trial.

A man at the Paris criminal court was pictured holding a sign in French that translated as ‘French justice, 13 years overdue’

Lawyers and relatives of the victims gathered today on the first day of the trial

Lawyers and relatives of the victims gathered today on the first day of the trial

'You should be ashamed!'  and 'Too little, too late!'  were shouted by those who pursued a 13-year struggle for justice

‘You should be ashamed!’ and ‘Too little, too late!’ were shouted by those who pursued a 13-year struggle for justice

The drama unfolded today at the Paris Criminal Court (pictured), where both Air France and Airbus face fines over the horrific accident

The drama unfolded today at the Paris Criminal Court (pictured), where both Air France and Airbus face fines over the horrific accident

Pictured: Lawyers spoke to the media as the trial began today

Pictured: Lawyers spoke to the media as the trial began today

People could be heard screaming from the public gallery after the names of all 228 people who died on board appeared on a screen as they were read one by one.

The dead included Alexander Bjoroy, an 11-year-old boarder at Bristol’s Clifton College, and public relations manager Neil Warrior, 48.

Other victims included Graham Gardner, a 52-year-old oil worker from Gourock, Renfrewshire, and Arthur Coakley, 61 – an engineer from Whitby, North Yorkshire.

There were also three young Irish doctors on board returning from a two-week holiday in Brazil.

Civil litigation lawyer Alain Jakubowicz

Sebastien busy

Civil litigation lawyers Alain Jakubowicz (left) and Sebastien Busy (right) want to get to the bottom of the truth

Flight AF447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009, after pilots panicked during a storm and could not deal with faulty equipment

Flight AF447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009, after pilots panicked during a storm and could not deal with faulty equipment

Eithne Walls, 29, worked at Eye and Ear hospital in Dublin and was traveling with Aisling Butler, 26, and Jane Deasy, 27. The three had been friends since they met at Trinity College in Dublin.

Families representing all 33 nationalities on board thronged the Paris courtroom.

Sebastien Busy, a lawyer representing the families of the victims, said: ‘It is a process that must keep the victims at the center of the debate. We don’t want Airbus or Air France to turn this test into a conference of engineers.’

Both companies are on trial for “involuntary manslaughter,” but there are no real people in the dock – just the companies.

This has enraged families, as has the maximum possible fine of just €225,000 – just under £200,000.

Alain Jakubowicz, another lawyer for the victims’ families, said: ‘It’s not the €225,000 that worries them. It’s their reputation – that’s what’s at stake.

“For us, it’s about something else: the truth and making sure lessons are learned from all these major disasters. This test is about restoring a human dimension.’

Prosecutors accuse Air France of having insufficient training in how pilots should react in the event of failure of the pitot tubes, which monitor speed.

The pilots demonstrably misreacted when the plane came to a stop after the speed sensors froze.

France’s BEA crash investigation agency, in a detailed chronology of the crash, said commands from the 32-year-old junior pilot on board had nose up when the plane became unstable and generated an audible stall warning.

This action was against normal nose-down procedures in response to a warning that the aircraft was about to lose lift or, in technical parlance, ‘stall’.

The process continues and will be completed on December 8.

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