Air France has responded to a report from France’s BEA authority that blamed their pilots’ actions for the 2009 crash of a flight from Rio to Paris.In a statement on their website, Air France pays tribute to the crew, praising their “unfailing professional attitude, remaining committed to their task to the very end” and the “courage and determination they showed in such extreme conditions”.
“At this stage, there is no reason to question the crew’s technical skills”, reads the statement, clearly putting support behind the training of the crew.
To be clear, there’s a lot more at stake here than standing up for one’s team. From the moment the plane disappeared, Airbus (the plane’s maker) and Air France (the operator) have been fighting about who was at fault. And the answer to that question will likely mean hundreds of millions if not billions in legal settlements.
Here’s the key paragraph in Air France’s defence of itself:
From the flight recorder data, it has been established that the combination of multiple improbable factors led to the disaster in less than four minutes: the icing of the Pitot probes was the initial event that led to the disconnection of the autopilot, the loss of associated piloting control protections and considerable roll movements. After the manoeuvres carried out by the crew in deteriorated and destabilizing piloting conditions, the aircraft stalled at high altitude, could not be recovered and struck the surface of the Atlantic Ocean at high speed. It should be noted that the misleading stopping and starting of the stall warning alarm, contradicting the actual state of the aircraft, greatly contributed to the crew’s difficulty in analysing the situation.
While the defence of their staffs’ reputations may seem noble, its worth noting (as Bruce Crumley from TIME does here) that both Air France and Airbus, who made the plane that crashed, are being investigated by French legal authorities. Manslaughter charges against either (or both) are still possible.