Three-and-a-half-minute spiral – then Air France jet crashed into the sea
Saturday 28 May 2011
An error by a junior pilot may have sent an Air France airbus into a three and a half minute spiral into the South Atlantic which killed all 228 aboard in June 2009.
Although accident investigators refuse to apportion blame at this stage, chilling details of the last four minutes of Air France Flight 447, released yesterday, point to a mistaken decision by a pilot to lift the nose of the Airbus A330 when it went into the first of three stalls.
Preliminary findings from two black boxes, found three miles deep in the ocean last month, confirm that the failure of the aircraft's speed detectors, or pitot tubes, helped trigger the accident. An interim report released by the French air accident investigation bureau, also confirmed that the captain of the Rio-Paris flight was away from the cockpit when the airbus stalled for the first time.
His absence, first reported in The Independent earlier this month, was not in itself unusual but his two co-pilots are heard on the cockpit voice recorder making increasingly desperate appeals for him to return to the flight deck. By the time he did so, the plane had gone into an uncontrollable spin from 38,000 feet. It finally plunged into the ocean tail first, killing all 228 passengers and crew.
The details released yesterday suggest that the pitot tubes had frozen in stormy conditions, giving contradictory speed readings on the flight deck. The automatic pilot disconnected and the most junior of the three pilots on board took over the controls. As the aircraft stalled, he twice lifted the nose – a manoeuvre which aviation experts described yesterday as "inexplicable". The correct procedure, they said, was to "lower the nose" to take the aircraft out of its stall.
Other Air France pilots said it was routine practice for captains to take a nap in a staff cabin during a long transatlantic flight. Other aviation experts have suggested, however, that it was unusual for the captain, Marc Dubois, to leave the flight deck when severe storms lay directly ahead.
The report by the accident investigation bureau says that one of the black boxes recorded the voice of the pilot at the controls saying that the speed indications were "inconsistent". The automatic pilot switched off. The most junior of the three pilots aboard, took over the controls. The "stall alarm" rang twice. The pilot tried to climb. The aircraft stalled again, and again the pilot tried to climb.
The two junior pilots appealed several times for the captain to return. He finally did so but his last words were: "On n'a aucune indication qui soit valuable" – "No instruments are reacting correctly."
- 3 Russian girl takes her own life after parents find pornography on her computer
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Kim Kardashian on Bruce Jenner's 'story': 'We support him no matter what, and I think when the time is right, he'll talk'
Michelle Obama highlights harsh restrictions faced by Saudi women after meeting King Salman without wearing a headscarf
Russian girl takes her own life after parents find pornography on her computer
Ball pool for adults opens in London
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...
£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...
£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...
£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...