LE BOURGET, France (Deutshe Presse-Agentur) — The final report Thursday into the cause of the Air France crash into the southern Atlantic on June 1, 2009, blamed a combination of human error and technical faults.
Air France Flight 447 crashed into the ocean about 900 miles off the northeast coast of Brazil, killing all 228 passengers and crew. The wreckage of the plane and the black boxes were found two years later on the seabed after a massive search effort.
“Two events led to the accident: the obstruction of the pitot probes (speed sensors) and the non-recognition (by the pilots) of the stall,” Jean-Paul Troadec, director of France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety, or BEA, told a press conference.
While the pilots of Flight 447 failed to follow appropriate procedures after the pitot probes iced over in bad weather, shutting down airspeed information, “the accident could have happened to other crews,” he said.
The malfunctioning of the pitot probes caused the autopilot to disconnect, forcing the co-pilots, who were at the controls while the captain was having a rest, to take manual control of the aircraft.
But the pilots were unprepared for the task of manual flying at high altitude and unwittingly triggered a stall, the report found.
Despite the stall warning sounding several times, “the crew never grasped that they had stalled,” the BEA’s chief investigator, Alain Bouillard, the press conference.
The captain, who arrived into the cockpit mid-way through the drama, “also failed to diagnose the situation,” Bouillard said.
At that point, only a “very determined crew” that had properly assessed the situation could have brought the Airbus A330 under control, he said.
As it was, the pilots were in “almost complete loss of control of the situation,” he added. The plane fell out of the sky moments later.
While focusing on human error, the report found that the ergonomics of the aircraft, including the lack of onboard instruments to help pilots identify and manage unusual situations, was also a factor.
The BEA issued 25 recommendations to avoid similar accidents recurring, including better training for pilots in manually flying at high altitudes and in dealing with a loss of airspeed information.
The report is one of two into the crash that were expected in early July.
On July 10, the judge heading a criminal investigation into responsibility for the crash will present her findings to the victims’ families.
Both Air France and Airbus are under investigation for manslaughter.
Le Figaro newspaper on Thursday quoted judicial sources as saying that report also would blame a combination of human error and technical failure.