The crash of the Air France 447 flight

On June 1, 2009, Air France's flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris turned into tragedy. The French company's Airbus A330-200 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, claiming the lives of all passengers and crew members, that is 228 people. The AF 447 crash has become the largest air disaster since the crash of the American Airlines plane over New York in 2001 (265 fatalities and 600 million USD in damage).
© Roberto Maltchik (TV Brasil), CC BY-SA 3.0 (Brazil)

Flight AF 447 crash : the causes behind the tragedy

At the announcement of the crash, Air France suggested the possibility of an electrical failure caused by the fall of the lightning on the plane. However, this assumption was quickly abandoned. Other explanations such as terrorist attack or severe turbulence have also been dismissed.

One month after the plane crash, the French Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (BEA) for the Safety of Civil Aviation came to the conclusion that the plane was not destroyed in flight but that it broke on the surface of the water. Pitot probes (sensors to measure the speed of the aircraft during flight) broke down. However, this technical failure can not, on its own, be the sole cause of the crash.

On 4 October 2009, the Air France pilots' union (Spaf) submitted to the court an investigation report drawn up by Gerard Arnoux, the captain and president of Spaf. The report stated that the AF 447 crash could have been avoided if the Pitot probes had been changed earlier. In December of the same year, the BEA submitted a second report confirming the first one but which specified that the causes of the loss of control of the Airbus A330-200 were not yet determined.

After recovery and analysis of the black boxes, the BEA published a third report in 2011. The AF 447 flight crash was attributed to piloting errors and technical problems due to the icing of Pitot probes causing the loss of plane speed indications and disabling the autopilot. In March, Air France and Airbus were put under investigation for "manslaughter".

In 2014, the investigation was closed but one year later it was re-opened. The relatives of the victims and Air France company attacked the manufacturer in front of the court of appeal considering the court's decision biased and in favor of the manufacturer Airbus. In response to this reaction, there were many resurveys incriminating the crew members. The latest is the one of January 11, 2018 which made the crew of Air France, liable for the crash.

AF's flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris : compensation for victims' beneficiaries

Aviation insurers provide three kinds of covers the third party liability of the operating company and/or owner and/or pilot, the cover pertaining to material damages sustained by the aircraft and products third party liability designed for aircraft manufacturers and motorists.

Article 17 of the Montreal convention stipulates that in the event of the death or bodily injury of a passenger, the carrier is responsible even if no mistake has been made by it as long as the accident occurs on board the aircraft or upon boarding or landing.

The sums paid to victims' relatives in compensation shall take into account two kinds of prejudices: moral prejudice which is assessed according to parental ties with the victim and economic prejudice evaluated according to the victim's income at the time of decease as well as its evolution perspectives.

At the day of the crash, Air France was co-insured by several companies including AXA (12.5%), AIG (12.5%), Global Aerospace (7.5%) and Allianz. The June 1st claim will also affect large reinsurers. Munich Re and Hannover Re stated on June 24th,2009 that their exposure amounts up to several tens of millions of euros. Air France will receive 67.4 million EUR (93 million USD) from insurers for the loss of the hull aircraft Airbus 330-200. The various amounts of indemnities due to be paid to families are treated separately.

The ten major aviation losses

Losses due to terrorist attacks are not mentioned.

KLM (Netherland)
Pan American (USA)
Collision between two Boeings 747Tenerife airport, Canary Islands (Spain)583
Japan Airlines (Japan)Boeing 747Japan520
Saudi Airlines (Saudi Arabia) Kazastan Airlines (Kazakhstan)Collision between a Boeing 747 & a Iliouchine-62 MKCharki Dadri (India)349
American Airlines (USA)Airbus A300-600Queens in New York (USA)265
China Airlines (China)Airbus A300Nagoya (Japan)264
Arrow Air (USA)DC-8Gander (Canada)256
TWA (USA)Boeing 747New York (USA)230
Swissair (Switzerland)MD-11Peggy’s Cove (Canada)229
Air France (France)Airbus A330-200Atlantic Ocean off Brazil228
Egyptair (Egypt)Boeing 767Massachusetts (USA)217
The ten major losses of Air France
Airbus A330-200Atlantic Ocean off Brazil228
Boeing 707Essonne (France)130
Boeing 707Deshaies (Guadeloupe)112
ConcordeGonesse (France)109
CaravelleAlpes-Maritimes (France)95
Airbus A320Bas-Rhin (France)87
10/05 /1961
Boeing 707Matouba (Guadeloupe)63
LockheedDakar (Senegal)63
Boeing 707Caracas (Venezuela)62
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