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Air France flight 447 crashed belly-first into the Atlantic, investigators say

The pilots of the Air France Airbus that crashed off Brazil may have struggled to the end to control their stricken aircraft because it remained intact until it hit the Atlantic, investigators indicated today.

In a first report on the disaster that killed all 228 aboard, the French accident bureau (BEA) reported that the Airbus A330 had not broken up at altitude and was not in a nose-down dive. The debris showed that it had shattered when it smashed belly-first into the sea early on June 1, the BEA said.

"The plane was not destroyed while it was in flight," Alain Bouillard, the chief of the investigation into Flight 447, said. "It seems to have hit the surface of the water in level attitude and with a strong vertical acceleration."

This could indicate that the crew had retained some control after the aircraft plummeted in four minutes from its cruising altitude of 35,000ft on its way from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, aviation experts said. An aircraft falling belly first is usually in a stall or recovering from one - not in a spin or a high-power dive.

No passengers were wearing life-jackets so it appeared that they had not been prepared for an emergency. There was no way of knowing if they had been conscious when the aircraft hit the water.

The investigators confirmed that the disaster began with faulty readings from speed sensors that caused electronic systems to disconnect and left the crew with the task of hand-flying a handicapped airliner.

Mr Bouillard said that it was too early to assign a cause to the crash but his outline of events confirmed a sequence that has been widely analysed by pilots and experts since they were leaked last month.

The airliner was flying at night in a storm zone. The "pitot" speed sensors fed faulty readings to data computers. This in turn caused the flight system to shut down and leave the pilots to hand fly the aircraft without the vital parameter of air speed.

"This does not mean that the aircraft was not flyable," Mr Bouillard said. "It means that it reverted to classical piloting."

Pilots expert in the A330 and A340 long-range Airbus family questioned Mr Bouillard's assumption. Managing an airliner in cruise in such conditions would be extremely difficult, a senior Air France captain told The Times.

The BEA refused to say that faulty pitot tubes were the cause of the crash. "We can say that the pitot is strongly suspected of causing the incoherent speed readings. It is one of the factors but not the only one. It is an element, not the cause," Mr Bouillard said.

Submarines and other vessels would continue to search for the airliner's two black box flight recorders on the ocean floor although their locator beacons may have run out of battery power.

The BEA voiced frustration with having to work only with information from a stream of automatic data messages that reported the cascade of failures in the last four minutes of flight. French aviation experts following the crash said that the BEA report had produced nothing new beyond the fact that the aircraft had not broken up before it hit the ocean.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6624798.ece


Click to view image: 'Crash 447'

Added: Jul-2-2009 Occurred On: Jul-2-2009
By: Panda07
In:
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Tags: Air france, airbus, 447, a330, crash, Brazil, flight
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  • I smell a cover up.

    Parts (big parts) of the plane were located over 20 miles apart. Passengers were ripped of clothing. That would not have occurred with a belly drop landing.

    I think this is an effort to save Airbus's air worthiness credibility

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    • Some of the big parts are sealed and foam filled like the vertical stabiliser, so it would float for miles. The clothing could come off in a decompression.

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    • Man... I HATE to second guess investigators. But ever since the investigators-only a few hours after the crash-said they doubted finding the "black boxes", I have had growing doubts. Now, we are supposed to believe that the A-330 hit the water horizontally, while accelerating vertically, despite the facts that the bodies found indicated explosive decompression AND the automated ECAS messages stated problems with the autothrottle, cabin pressure and fly-by-wire systems.

      The investig More..

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    • The clothing could ONLY come off so uniformily from a decompression. But now the investigators are saying the A-330 hit intact. Hmmm.

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  • I read that the Air France tragedy was caused by a gigantic plane crash.

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  • I hate to say it... but increasingly, this investigation stinks.

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  • As a pilot, I once flew a plane that had a broken air speed indicator. That was probably the dumbest thing I ever did in my life. I hope they find the black (orange) boxes to figure this one out as I'm on the same model plane in a couple of weeks.

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    • A broken airspeed indicator is a (major) downing gripe. I am glad that I never had such a problem but was always careful to check the pitot tube during my preflights and not fly into icing.

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  • I am befuddled by this statement, in that in earlier statements the "brains" behind the investigation hypothesized that because bodies were found naked and intact, it indicated a break-up in the air. I hope that they will explain this discrepancy.

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    • Naked implies explosive decompression; either that or they were having a big fucking orgy on the plane. I hope it was the former as death would come quick as they'd all be instant freezie pops when flying at speed at altitude.

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    • Meh. Your TUC, or "time of useful consciousness" and all that at FL370 or so is pretty short to notice getting chilled by the temps in the -50's.

      This "landed belly first" sounds like PR spin BS to me.

      "Ah, oui, zeh plane she crashed, but it was crashed upright, non?"

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  • Yep, a few days ago.

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  • The black box has shut off by now, hasn't it?

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