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Defendants acquitted over 1992 Air Inter crash

Criminal charges hanging over six defendants since the 1992 crash of an Air Inter Airbus A320 on approach to Strasbourg, France have been lifted. The court at Colmar, near the Vosges mountains in which the aircraft crashed, acquitted all defendants of all the charges, a verdict that has been welcomed by the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF), which says the trial was unnecessary.

Defendants included the former head of technical control at the French national aviation authority DGAC, Claude Frantzen the agency's then director general, Pierre-Henri Gourgeon Air Inter's president at the time, Jean-Cyril Spinetta and the former French domestic carrier's chief executive, Daniel Cauvin. Chief engineer at the then Airbus Industrie, Bernard Ziegler, now retired from the manufacturer, was also acquitted on charges relating to aircraft design.

The main rationale for bringing the prosecution was that the DGAC did not then require ground proximity warning systems to be fitted to aircraft, and Air Inter chose not to fit it voluntarily because it produced many false alarms. Airbus was indicted for the design of its autopilot interface, which has since been changed.

The A320 was attempting a VOR/DME non-precision approach to Strasbourg on 20 January 1992 when it hit the slopes of Mont St Odile at 2,600ft (790m) in poor visibility at night, killing 87 of the 96 passengers and crew. The 1994 accident report said the crew may have configured one of the autopilot control switches wrongly when choosing between "flight path angle" and "vertical speed" modes.




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