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Were Pilots at Fault in Air France Flight 447 Crash?

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Two years after the tragic plane crash that killed all 228 people on board, new information about the Air France Flight 447 is being disclosed. The Airbus 330 had departed from Rio de Janeiro heading to Paris when nearly four hours into the flight the plane experienced malfunctioning with the speed sensor. The sensor had frozen due to heavy icing.

At that time, the plane had been flying on autopilot with the pilot on his break. However, because the plane could not get the correct reading on the speed,, the autopilot shut off, leaving the two co-pilots manually in charge of flying the plane. They immediately called the main pilot back, but to no avail. The plane was going down, and it was going down fast. In less than four minutes, the plane plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean.

The discovery of the plane’s black boxes revealed that the malfunctioning of the speed sensor caused confusion and panic for the pilots. The pilots and crewmates were probably attempting to diagnose the problem that caused the plane to go off autopilot so when they received a stall warning, they did not know which indicator to believe.

The stall warning indicated that the plane was going too slow meaning the pilots should focus on increasing the speed of the plane. However, what baffled investigators is that within the last few minutes before the crash, the pilots were preoccupied with raising the nose of the plane.

News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg explains the situation on “The Early Show” saying, “They’re flying initially at their regular flight altitude of 35,000 feet when they encounter some turbulence…So what do the pilots do? What pilots normally do: They try to slow the plane down… Now they’re in trouble, because they’re slowing the plane down, slower than it really should be flying at all, and they put it into a high-speed stall. The nose goes up to about 16 degrees, and the plane starts climbing. But at that altitude and that speed, it loses speed very quickly and — guess what? At 38,000 feet, it starts to drop, and it’s dropping at some points up to 10,000 feet a minute.”

Although many are now putting the blame on the pilots, some aviation experts believe that the pilots were placed in a situation where they simply did not know which machine to believe. With the short time that they had, they did their best to try getting the plane to a higher altitude, believing that the plane was drifting down.

Photo by Dave Heuts via Flickr

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