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Dying moments of doomed Air France Flight 447 revealed by new investigation

 
Two out of three Air France pilots were sleeping minutes before one shouted ‘F**k, we’re dead!’ and their Airbus 330 aircraft plunged into the sea, with the loss of 228 passsengers and crew on board.
Details of the last moments of Air France Flight 447, which claimed the lives of five Britons and three Irish doctors, have emerged in a new investigation into the 2009 disaster involving an Airbus 330.  The investigation is published in the October edition of Vanity Fair magazine, it raises important questions about safety protocols in civilian aviation.

Excerpts from recorded conversations between 37-year-old David Robert, Pierre-Cedric Bonin, 32, and Marc Dubois, the 58-year-old captain of the plane, suggest that two of them were asleep when the plane got into difficulty during a tropical storm.



Divers work at the scene to secure wreckage of the Air France flight

Referring to Bonin, a ‘Company Baby’ on the Rio de Janeiro-Paris flight, the Vanity Fair article reads: “With most of the weather still lying ahead and an anxious junior pilot at the controls, Dubois decided it was time to get some sleep.”

Chief investigator Alain Bouillard is quoted as saying: “If the captain had stayed in position through the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone, it would have delayed his sleep by no more than 15 minutes, and because of his experience, maybe the story would have ended differently.

“But I do not believe it was fatigue that caused him to leave. It was more like customary behavior, part of the piloting culture within Air France.

“And his leaving was not against the rules. Still, it is surprising. If you are responsible for the outcome, you do not go on vacation during the main event.”

Up until now it was known that Dubois was sleeping off a night in Rio with his girlfriend, an off-duty hostess and opera singer who was on the doomed flight.
 “I didn’t sleep enough last night. One hour - it’s not enough,” said Dubois, before he went to sleep.

Referring to “the flight-rest compartment, a small cabin containing two berths just behind the cockpit”, the article describes how Robert was also “dozing there”.

It continues: ‘On the night of May 31, 2009, the pilots of Flight 447 certainly did not serve their passengers well.’

The plane was in a stall position causing a loss of lift -  airspeed sensors had  also malfunctioned.

But instead of lowering the plane’s nose to deal with the stall, as they should have done according to normal procedures, they raised it.

It took two years to retrieve bodies from the bottom of the sea, along with essential records such as the flight’s voice and data recorder.

Air France has denied that its pilots were incompetent, but has since improved training, concentrating on how to fly a plane manually when there is a stall.

Both Air France and Airbus are facing manslaughter charges, with a judicial investigation led by Paris judges currently under way.

Courtesy: Vanity Fair, London Evening Standard, ATCB and Thales Research

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