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France

Crash inquiry says plane did not break up mid-air

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-07-02

The Air France plane that crashed into the Atlantic with 228 people on board on June 1 did not break up mid-air but hit the water while accelerating sharply downward, France’s Office of Investigations and Analysis revealed Thursday.

The Air France jetliner that crashed in the Atlantic a month ago with 228 people on board did not break up in mid-air, the French bureau leading the investigation said.

"The plane was not destroyed while in flight," said Alain Bouillard from the BEA accident investigation agency, which released its first report about the June 1 disaster on Thursday.

"The plane appears to have hit the surface of the water in flying position with a strong vertical acceleration," he added, explaining that the plane hit the water belly first.

"We did not find any life jackets," he said. "The passengers were not prepared for a sea landing."

The news come two days after the victims' families association sent a letter to Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, the chief executive of Air France, to demand answers to a series of factual questions that so far haven’t been addressed by the company.


Dakar air controllers say flight plan was never received

Emergency messages emitted shortly before the crash showed that the pilot had had to revert to manual controls and that the plane’s speed was "inconsistent".

But the investigation concluded that the Airbus A330 did not have any technical problems when it took off from Rio de Janeiro.

Bouillard said control of the flight was supposed to have passed from air traffic controllers in Brazil to their counterparts in Senegal, but that never happened.

He said the pilots of flight AF 447 had tried three times to connect to a data system in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, but had failed, apparently because Dakar had never received the flight plan.

"This is not normal," he said, adding that investigators were also trying to find out why it took six hours after the plane disappeared before an emergency was declared.

Nothing of the Airbus A330 was found for a further five days.


More than 600 pieces of debris

Investigators have been scrutinising more than 600 pieces of debris recovered from the crash zone for any clue as to what brought down the plane as it flew through turbulence over the Atlantic.

Autopsies were being performed on 51 bodies pulled from the disaster area, some 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) off Brazil's coast.

Bouillard said the search for parts and the crucial black boxes would continue until July 10.

The homing beacons on the flight recorders emit signals for about one month after the crash and the BEA hopes that they will have a longer-than-usual shelf life.

"I refuse to believe that we will not find the black box flight recorders," Bouillard said. "But at the moment we are far from having any real idea of the real causes of this crash."

 

Pierre Duval of the Aéroclub de France pilots' association said that even if the plane has faulty speedometers, as has been reported, this alone could not explain the crash.

 

"Pilots are rigorously trained to cope when their instruments, and especially speedometers fail," he told FRANCE 24. "If this had happened it would have been a factor, but not the determining factor in the crash.

 

"There will have been another cause, be it the weather, a computer glitch or human error. We will not know until we have the flight recorders."

Date created : 2009-07-02

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