Airbus Yesterday, Air France Today: Justice Wheels Grind Slowly
George's Point of View

Thursday’s news was that Airbus is being investigated for Air France Flight 447. Airbus officials made a public statement that they “strongly disapprove” of the decision, (no doubt!) but would comply with the investigation. Note to readers: This is law, not option. So let’s take that cooperation with a grain of salt, shall we? When the judge tells you that you’re being investigated, you say, “Yes Ma’am.”

March 20 is the date the search starts again, more on that below.

So yesterday, Thursday, was Airbus’s turn in court–

Today, Friday, Air France has been called in its turn before a judge in France to get its hand slapped. Or get in preparation to get its hand slapped, in ten years or so. Anyway, Air France is also on the mat.

Or, as they call it in France, (to be purists here)
Mise en examen

This is a criminal investigation. It is a matter of FRENCH LAW. As it was explained to me, “
Every air accident is also a criminal matter, and a judge is appointed to oversee the investigation and follow up including charges if any to be filed.”

So what was the problem with the flight? It crashed. It killed lots of people No one knows for sure why. (Though to some of us it seems obvious.) No black boxes, right? But we’re not idiots. We have plenty of information about what was going on. Not everything, of course, but we have the messages sent by the plane’s computers. They reflect faulty readings which are believed to be the result of
faulty pitot tube readings and a series of system failures. We would have a rounder picture of events if the black boxes, which hold crucial information were not misplaced somewhere in the Atlantic. They think they know where it is, (or at least they say they know or say they think they know) based on drift and whatnot (heavy on the whatnot.) But millions have been spent finding this needle in a stack of needles under the ocean, in a submarine mountain range. Nearly 30 million dollars has been spent on the search for the black boxes so far. The cost of the new search is shared by Airbus and Air France and will cost 12.5 million.

What about the details about the
mise en examen preliminary manslaughter charges filed Thursday against Airbus? They were filed in French court by Judge Sylvie Zimmerman over the 2009 deaths of 228 people aboard Air France Flight 447. Fatal accidents automatically prompt criminal probes running concurrent with civil investigations, but a couple of points which may not be obvious to Americans not versed in French Justice are that the charges may be issued pending further investigation, and may hinge on the black boxes which have not been found and may never be found; AND the dual investigation slows things down. That may be one item that delayed the Concord trial 10 years after the accident. You’ve seen pictures of a guy walking around with a tiny ankle-biting dog chewing on the hem of one pants leg? Well, instead of a chihuahua, picture the entire french justice system. Might tend to slow down ones progress, do you think?
So Air France will be in court Friday, ie today. Watch the news, because what we saw yesterday about Airbus, we’ll see today about Air France. I hope the families are getting some satisfaction from this, because it is going to be a long (long long long) time before they feel like they’re actually being heard, not herded into obscurity.

Originally posted by George Hatcher on Friday, March 18th, 2011 at 11:02 am