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Air France Flight 447 crash blamed on pilot, technical error


The recovered tail fin of the Air France A330 aircraft lost in midflight over the Atlantic ocean June 1 is unloaded from Brazilian Navy frigate Constituicao at Recife's harbor June 14, 2009.


Evaristo Sa

Air France Flight 447 crashed because of both technical and pilot error, French investigators have concluded.

A total of 228 people died when the plane plunged into the Atlantic Ocean on its way from Rio de Janiero to Paris on June 1, 2009.

After three years of investigation, France's aviation authority, BEA, published its final report today. According to Agence France Presse, the Airbus A330's speed sensors malfunctioned and failed to read accurately – and the pilots were too inexperienced to realize what was really going on.

"The crew was in a state of almost total loss of control," chief investigator Alain Bouillard told reporters.

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In a decision that would prove fatal, the Associated Press explained, one of the co-pilots nosed the plane upward during a stall. He should have nosed it downward, but he acted according to what the sensors were telling him. 

A better-trained pilot would have been able to tell that the readings were wrong, William Voss, president of the US-based Flight Safety Foundation, told the AP. The Flight 447 crew "were so conditioned to rely on the automation that they were unable to do this," he said.

The report made 25 new safety recommendations, according to Reuters, including better training for pilots and changes to cockpit design.

Air France has already replaced the speed sensors on all its Airbus jets, the BBC said. Airbus, meanwhile, has promised to "take all measures" to improve safety.

Both companies are being investigated for manslaughter in connection with the crash. Families of those killed in the crash argued that today's report should have been tougher on them, Reuters said. 

A separate judicial report is due to be presented to victims' families next week; it will present the same conclusions as the BEA's, a source told AFP.

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