Pilot error, faulty equipment likely led to 2009 Air France crash

Nickalas Tabbert

French investigators Thursday said a lack of pilot training and faulty equipment led to the Air France crash that killed 228 people.

Investigators from the Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses, which is comparable to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, found in their final report on the crash that airspeed equipment froze during a storm and gave faulty readings to pilots of the June 1, 2009 flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, USA Today said.

The pilots pulled up on the nose of the Airbus A330-203, causing it to lose speed even though the engines were still working, according to the BEA report.

“The occurrence of the failure in the context of flight in cruise completely surprised the crew of flight AF 447,” the report said.  “The crew, whose work was becoming disrupted, likely never realized they were facing a simple loss of all three airspeed sources.”

Using data and voice recordings from the ‘black boxes’ found at the crash site, investigators found the plane took three minutes and 30 seconds to reach the ocean, with no warning given to the passengers, Time said.

As the computer called out stall warnings, the voice data revealed the pilots failed to discuss the situation.  When the plane did in fact stall at 38,000 feet, the failed speed sensors further impaired the pilots’ ability to make a decision.

Inadequate high-altitude training may have led to the pilot errors, Time said. 

Chief investigator Alain Bouillard said that pilots simply needed to properly react to in-flight circumstances.

“When it comes down to it, safety will always be based on the capacity of the pilots and the signals which they are given, which they have to understand and react to,” he said.