Air France: families hope for justice now fading
07 March 2011
07 March 2011
With the second anniversary of the Air France tragedy only weeks away and more than a year after the start of the official French criminal investigation, little has emerged regarding the potential responsibility of Air France, Airbus or Thales.
During a recent meeting held for the families in Paris by Judge Zimmerman, we learned that there would be yet more delays before a final report is published. Indeed, the international rogatory commissions requested by the French court still have to be completed or otherwise answered; more than a year ago, Senegal was asked to release all information they had and, specifically, the air traffic control tapes for the night of May 31, 2009 and yet, to date, has failed to do so. A similar request was made with the European Aviation Safety Agency regarding their decision not to issue an airworthiness directive back in March 2009 despite having received numerous reports from Air France, Air Caraibes and XL Airways regarding erroneous speed indication following pitot problems. EASA has claimed European immunity and has requested that the French court makes a formal request via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This in turn means additional delays and Judge Zimmerman warned that no final report will be issued until all such information has been reviewed by the court. All in all, the message to the families is that they should not expect a decision on Air France, Airbus or Thales' criminal liability any time soon. The families' hopes to see justice prevail seem to be slowly fading away.
The search efforts for the wreckage continue with millions of Euros having been spent so far by both Air France and Airbus without yielding any result. In fact, a fourth phase of research is about to begin on March 18th and will cover approximately 10,000 km² over a period of four months. If the aircraft is located, a fifth search phase will commence two to three weeks later to recover the aircraft. There is no information as to how long this process will take but we can safely assume that this procedure will require additional weeks if not months. If anything is recovered, the investigators and experts will need to analyse the debris meaning that it is highly unlikely that any new information will be available before the end of Summer, at best.
From an early stage, Stewarts Law called for a pooling of funds to compensate the families for their loss. More than a hundred million Euros has been spent so far on the search efforts whilst claims brought by the families remain outstanding.
Sarah Stewart, Partner in the Aviation Department comments, "The speed at which the investigations are proceeding is disheartening for the families who want answers as to the cause of this loss and the death of their loved ones. Although Air France has finally now demonstrated a willingness to at least discuss the claims for damages, with the second anniversary fast approaching this leaves very little time before the families need to file their claims to protect their legal rights under the Montreal Convention."