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Rio to Paris Crash: Black Box Tells

  • May 29th, 2011
  • Posted by EUEditor

air-france-a330.jpgPersistence paid off in the long drive to deploy submersibles and find a black box recorder from Air France flight 447, from Rio de Janiero to Paris, which disappeared over the Atlantic on 1.6.09.

The French civil aviation investigating body, the BEA  (Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la sécurité de l’aviation civile) released its report from the data retrieved from the dispersed wreckage on the ocean floor, on 27.5.11.

While delivering no commentary, it provided an analysis on the last minutes of the flight, after the aircraft – an Airbus A330 – shifted course, and slowed down, but without managing to avoid a turbulent cloud mass.

The conditions caused icing-up of the pitot-tube devices used to gauge air speed; data on speed became incoherent so the automatic pilot shut down; a co-pilot at the controls, with the supply of information contradictory or intermittent, raised the nose of the aircraft, and it gained height, then stalled at 38 000 feet.

According to the recording, the captain, who’d been away from the cockpit, returned, but was unable to recover control as the aircraft plummeted towards the ocean.

Its descent, at a 16-degree angle, tail first, took 3 minutes and 30 seconds, crashing into the water at 198 kmh.

All 228 on board were lost.

Air industry observers recalled that analysis at the time of the aircraft’s disappearance had focused on the possibility of faulty pitot tubes, or failure of the equipment in extreme atmospheric conditions.

While the crew were recognised as experienced and correctly trained, one pilot, writing in the Canadian technology publication,, said “the copilots apparently were untrained in recognition and recovery techniques”, and the airliner had gone into “a classic deep (or secondary) stall.”

Le Monde headlined the possibility of an error in piloting flight 447.


Air France, Paris, media releases, “AF 447”,, (28.5.11).

BEA, (Bureau des Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la sécurité de l’aviation civile), Le Bourget, home., (28.5.11).

Frank W. Hardy, “Faulty Pitot Tube, Ice & PI* Stall Caused Air France 447 to Crash”,, Vancouver, 28.5.11.–pi-stall-caused-air-france-447-to-crash-a373234, (28.5.11).

Le Monde, Rio-Paris : l’ombre d’une erreur de pilotage (Rio-Paris: shades of a piloting error), 27.5.11.