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France

Flying behind doomed jet, a Spanish aircraft avoided disaster

Text by FRANCE 24 , Nicolas DE SCITIVAUX

Latest update : 2009-06-06

A Spanish plane bound for Madrid on Monday was closely following the Air France aircraft when it disappeared with 228 people on board. The Iberia flight crew tried to contact their French colleagues, in vain.

As the doomed Air France jetliner plunged into the storms above the Atlantic Ocean, Flight IB 6024, bound for Madrid, decided to change its itinerary to avoid the ominous clouds. As they circled the storms, its pilots heard the last messages emitted by Brazilian air traffic controllers to the jetliner, the Spanish press reports.

 

The Iberia aircraft took off from Rio de Janeiro at 00:07am (Madrid time – GMT+2), seven minutes after the Air France jetliner, according to the website of  the Spanish daily ABC.

 
Silence

 

The IB 6204 crew members -- who prefer to remain anonymous -- explain that they were flying in the same air corridor as the French aircraft, ten minutes behind it, at a distance of about 128 km.

 

Facing difficult weather conditions, much like the AF 447, the captain and co-pilot decided to reroute 56 km to the east. “That’s how we navigated the storm, in order to avoid turbulence and electrically charged clouds,” says one of the Spanish pilots.

 

The Spanish pilots never saw the Air France jet, but they did hear the unanswered messages sent by Brazilian air traffic controllers trying to establish contact with the French pilots.

 

Worried, the IB 6024 pilots tried to contact their French colleagues, without success. They also tuned into the aircraft emergency frequency, but heard no distress messages.

 

The Air France jet stopped emitting automatic messages at  3:33 am on Monday morning.


False readings

 

French air safety investigators said that automatic messages broadcast by the Rio-to-Paris flight just before it plunged into the Atlantic had shown that the plane's systems were giving false readings.

 

"Airbus sent a reminder overnight to all the companies using its planes about procedures to follow in the case of inconsistency in speeds measured," a spokesman for the French-based manufacturer told AFP.

 

The French daily Le Monde reported Thursday that the pilots of the Air France jet -- which is still missing, along with the 228 people on board -- may not have been flying at the right speed for dangerous weather.

 

Airbus declined to comment on the report.
 

Date created : 2009-06-05

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