Airbus SAS was charged with manslaughter over the fatal crash of an Air France jetliner into the Atlantic while en route from Brazil to Paris in June 2009.
The preliminary charges, filed after a French investigating judge met with Airbus’s lawyers, allow the continuation of a probe into the crash of Flight 447, which killed all 228 people on board. The judge will meet with Air France tomorrow.
“On behalf of Airbus, I have noted the absence of facts supporting this step and stated our strong disagreement,” Tom Enders, the Toulouse, France-based company’s chief executive officer, told reporters as he left the judge’s office in Paris.
Airbus, which made the A330 plane, is focused on finding the cause of the accident, something that requires further searches for missing “black boxes,” or flight recorders, Enders said. The criminal investigation is running parallel with a probe by safety experts into the reasons for the crash.
Three searches have so far failed to locate either further wreckage or the recorders, which should contain critical information about the flight’s last moments.
The BEA, France’s air-accident investigator, will resume scouring 17,000 square kilometers (6,600 square miles) of seabed next month. It has said there can be no certainty about the cause of the accident unless the boxes are found.
The probe into the crash has focused on the plane’s speed sensors, known as Pitot tubes. The devices may have been damaged by ice, causing unreliable speed readings that contributed to the accident, the BEA said after reviewing data transmitted by the doomed plane in its last minutes.
Air France spokesman Cedric Leurquin said the meeting between its lawyers and the investigating magistrate is set for “late morning” tomorrow. He declined to comment further.
France is one of the few countries where fatal accidents automatically prompt criminal probes to run concurrently with investigations by civil authorities.
The twin-track approach bogged down the investigation into the crash of an Air France Concorde on July 25, 2000, with the criminal trial starting almost 10 years after the accident and seven years after the supersonic jet’s last commercial flight.