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Pilot who crashed jet in air show gets jail time

March 14, 1997 GMT

COLMAR, France (AP) _ The pilot of an Airbus A320 jetliner that crashed during a 1988 air show, killing three passengers while hundreds watched, was sentenced to six months in prison Friday.

A court in Colmar, in eastern France, also sentenced pilot Michel Asseline to 12 additional months, which were suspended. He had been charged with ``involuntary homicides and injuries.″

His co-pilot, Pierre Mazieres, got a 12-month suspended sentence.

Hundreds of spectators witnessed the June 26, 1988, crash at the Mulhouse-Habsheim air show. It was one of the first domestic demonstrations of the new plane, which had gone into service earlier that year.

The plane clipped some trees during a low pass over the airfield and plunged into a forest. Although three people died in the crash _ two of them children _ 137 passengers and crew escaped.

The day after the crash, French transport officials called a news conference to say the pilots were flying too slow and too low. They said the plane was not at fault.

Asseline, who had been a senior pilot with Air France for eight years, maintained the pilots were unfairly blamed, and said the plane had failed to respond quickly to attempts to raise it.

Also punished with suspended sentences were Air France’s then-director of air operations, a security official for Air France, and the president of the Habsheim air club.