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Air France Final Crash Report Blames Pilot Error, Confusion

Matt Pressberg |
July 5, 2012 | 4:11 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

The tailfin of AF447 being lifted. (Agência Brasil/Wikimedia Commons)
The tailfin of AF447 being lifted. (Agência Brasil/Wikimedia Commons)
The final report on the 2009 crash of Air France flight 447 by the French Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses points to inadequately trained pilots and a "profound loss of understanding" in the cockpit concerning the fact that the airplane was in a stall situation as the cause of the accident.

According to the New York Times, the report points to an overreliance on a computerized control called the flight director, which had been malfunctioning as a result of the plane's airspeed sensors, called pitot tubes, having been frozen over. While the standard recovery from a stall is to gain speed by pointing the airplane's nose down, the crew, focusing on the flight director, had failed to realize the plane was stalling, instead pointing the nose up and exacerbating the situation, eventually causing the plane to tilt at an unrecoverable angle and plunge into the Atlantic Ocean.

The report calls for 25 new safety recommendations, mostly focusing on improvements in pilot training and stall alarm systems. While it focused on mistakes made by the pilots, it also made sure not to clear both Air France, for its training programs, and Airbus, for design flaws, from blame, which may play a role in future legal actions.


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