Air France Flight 447: Pilots at Fault in Crash?

Nearly two years after the tragic crash of Air France Flight 447 into the Atlantic Ocean that killed all 216 passengers and 12 aircrew aboard, France’s Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses (Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety) released its findings after a thorough investigation into what caused the crash.

After a little over two hours into the flight, the plane’s speed indicators experienced a failure, forcing the pilots to shut off auto-pilot and take manual control over the plane. The pilots then increased the angle of the climb, and that’s where the situation began to take a fatal turn.

After the speed sensors failed, the pilots responded by nosing the plane higher, prompting a stall warning “twice in a row”. To correct this, the pilots increased the plane’s climb, moving up from 35,000 feet to an altitude of 37,500 feet. The stall warning continued a third time, and the pilots responded by further increasing the altitude to 38,000 feet. At this point the plane completely stalled, falling at a rate of 10,000 feet a minute.

The plane’s nose was stalled in an upwards position and the crew made desperate attempts to level the plane out of the stall, pitching left and right as the stall alarms continued to sound. The engine had full power throughout the ordeal, but the pilot was unable to find the right angle and thrust required to regain lift, and the plane fell into the Atlantic Ocean at a rate of about 123 miles per hour, killing everyone onboard.

According to Bloomberg’s report, the plane’s pilot never took control once the plane’s auto-pilot was disengaged. The younger of the two co-pilots, age 32, had full control once the auto-pilot had disengaged.

“What we’re publishing today are technical observations, including actions by the crew, which don’t explain the accident,” BEA chief Jean-Paul Troadec told reporters. “Understanding this chain of events and the reasons behind the crew’s actions is a complex task that is just beginning.”