Air France Announces Details of 2009 Accident

In its third intermediate report, the French Accident Investigation Bureau (BEA) has presented the exact circumstances of the Air France 447 Rio/Paris accident on June 1, 2009.

From the flight recorder data, it has been established that the combination of multiple improbable factors led to the disaster in less than four minutes: The icing of the Pitot probes was the initial event that led to the disconnection of the autopilot, the loss of associated piloting control protections and considerable roll movements. After the maneuvers carried out by the crew in deteriorated and destabilizing piloting conditions, the aircraft stalled at high altitude, could not be recovered and struck the surface of the Atlantic Ocean at high speed. It should be noted that the misleading stopping and starting of the stall warning alarm, contradicting the actual state of the aircraft, greatly contributed to the crew’s difficulty in analyzing the situation.

During this time, the crew, comprising both First Officers and the Captain, showed an unfailing professional attitude, remaining committed to their task to the very end. Air France pays tribute to the courage and determination they showed in such extreme conditions.

At this stage, there is no reason to question the crew’s technical skills.

Work will now continue to understand the causes and the various technical and human factors that contributed to the events leading to this disaster. It is important to understand whether the technical environment, systems and alarms hindered the crew’s understanding of the situation. 

The BEA has also issued various recommendations for the European authorities in charge of air safety that Air France has already implemented or will implement as soon as possible. In addition to the elements that will be brought to light by the BEA’s final report and the work of the legal inquiry, we know that the measures already taken have considerably improved the safety of air transport, which is the most important aspect for the air transport industry. These measures prevent such an accident happening again.

In a statement, Air France said that this report "sheds further light on this tragedy that has deeply affected Air France and the entire air transport community. Air France wishes to pay tribute to the memory of the passengers and crew who lost their lives and extends its most sincere thoughts to their families."

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