Airbus and French Aviation Officials go on Trial for 1992 Jet Crash

COLMAR, France_French civil and defense aviation officials and an Airbus executive went on trial Tuesday for manslaughter over the 1992 crash of a jetliner in eastern France that killed 87 people.

An Airbus A320 of France's largest domestic airline Air Inter crashed on Jan. 20, 1992, with 96 passengers and crew aboard a Lyon-to-Strasbourg flight. Nine people survived the crash and freezing cold on Mont Sainte-Odile, a 2,500-foot (4,000-kilometer) mountain near the German border, and were found after a four-hour search.

After a 14-year investigation, the trial opened Tuesday in an exhibition hall in the city of Colmar set up for the proceedings.

Six people are on trial, including the director of France's civil aviation authority at the time of the accident, an official with Airbus and two officials from Air Inter, a now-defunct carrier.

Victims' families say the plane was to blame. Investigators have considered the argument that the cockpit was ergonomically flawed, and that the pilots were confused between the controls for the plane's descent. And in 1996, a French judge ordered a new probe after one expert's report found the jetliner's guidance system might have been to blame.

It was the third computer-guided A320 to crash since the aircraft began service in April 1988. Two previous crashes were blamed on pilot error, but some aviation officials suggested computer malfunctions might have been involved in the Mont Sainte-Odile crash.

Airbus has declined to comment publicly on the investigation.