Air France Flight 296 was a chartered flight of a new fly-by-wire Airbus A320-111 operated by Air France. On 26 June 1988, it crashed in front of a crowd of several thousand while flying over Mulhouse–Habsheim Airport as part of the Habsheim air show, which resulted in its being one of the very few crashes of a commercial airplane caught in its entirety on video. This particular flight was not only the A320's very first passenger flight , but it was also the very first public demonstration of any civilian fly-by-wire aircraft. The cause of the crash has been the source of major controversy. The low-speed flyover, with landing gear down, was supposed to take place at an altitude of 100 feet ; instead, the plane performed the flyover at 30 feet, skimmed the treetops of the forest at the end of the runway , and crashed to the ground. All the passengers survived the initial impact, though a woman and two children died from smoke inhalation before they were able to escape.
Official reports concluded that the pilots flew too low, too slow, failed to see the forest and accidentally flew into it. The captain, Michel Asseline, disputed the report and claimed an error in the fly-by-wire computer prevented him from applying thrust and pulling up. In the aftermath of the crash, there were allegations that investigators had tampered with evidence, specifically the aircraft's black boxes. Due to these rumors of evidence tampering, investigators were denied access to the crash site of Air Inter Flight 148 in 1992 until judicial officials had secured it, causing a delay that probably led to the otherwise preventable destruction of one of the black boxes .
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