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Two years on, families of crash victims mark tragedy
Families of the victims of Air France Flight 447 from Rio to Paris that plunged into the Atlantic killing all 228 people on board are marking the second anniversary of one of the most mysterious crashes in recent aviation history.
Exactly two years after Air France Flight 447 from Rio to Paris plunged into the Atlantic, killing all 228 people on board in one of the most mysterious crashes in aviation history, families of the victims commemorate their loved ones Wednesday after details of the doomed plane’s last minutes only began to emerge last week.
On Tuesday, French police said rescue workers had recovered 75 bodies over the past week, bringing the total number of recovered bodies to 127.
For nearly two years, families of the victims had little idea about the cause of the crash – until the flight recorders of the Airbus A330 were recovered in deep waters between Brazil and West Africa in April.
Recovery efforts have been hampered by the depth of the waters and it took deep-sea aquatic robots to locate the recorders.
Plane plummeted in just three and a half minutes
On Friday, French investigators released an initial report based on the findings of the recorders, which revealed that the plane had plummeted 38,000 feet in just three minutes and 30 seconds.
Families of the victims greeted the news of the initial report's release with relief. ”It’s been two years that we’ve been waiting, two years that we think of the accident every hour, every minute of everyday. We needed to know what happened and now, finally, we do,” Gwenola Rogers of the Flight 447 Aid and Solidarity Association told journalists shortly after the initial report was released.
The report showed that the aircraft’s autopilot mode was shut off around two hours after it took off from Rio de Janeiro’s Galeao Airport on May 31, 2009 at 19:30 local time.
According to the initial report, which is based on information garnered from the flight recorders, the crew noticed the plane’s speed indicators were defective while the Airbus A330 was flying at cruising altitude en route to Paris. Then it suddenly stalled before plunging into the ocean barely four minutes later.
Passengers were probably not aware of what was happening
Speaking to FRANCE 24 Wednesday, Pierre Eysette, a former Air France pilot who was working in the company's accident prevention department two years ago, said it was very likely that the passengers on board had no idea of the upcoming disaster.
“I think the passengers didn’t understand, may be because most of them would have been sleeping at that time and it was a descent of between three to four minutes so I don’t think the passengers were aware of what was happening,” he said.
The transcripts of the conversation in the cockpit show the pilots struggling to regain control of the plane.
The text describes the pilots noting that the speed sensors had failed. The aircraft then climbed to 38,000 feet when "the stall warning was triggered and the airplane stalled," according to the report.
The aircraft then plunged toward the sea surface at a speed of almost 11,000 feet per minute. The plane’s engines were apparently operational and responding to crew commands.
In a statement released last week, Air France said, "It appears... that the initial problem was the failure of the speed probes which led to the disconnection of the autopilot and the loss of the associated piloting protection systems. The crew demonstrated a totally professional attitude and were committed to carrying out their task to the very end and Air France wishes to pay tribute to them."
The final report on the crash of Air France Flight 447 is expected later this year.