Pilot error has been blamed for the Air France jet disaster that plunged the Airbus 330 aircraft into the Atlantic in 2009, killing all 228 people aboard – including three Irish doctors.
France’s Bureau of Investigation and Analysis spent over two years searching for wreckage and flight data recorders from the Airbus 330, which crashed en route to France from Brazil. A new 356-page judicial report to be published next week has reportedly found that speed sensors froze up and failed, but also that the 'captain had failed in his duties' and 'prevented the co-pilot from reacting.'
According to Time.com, the new report claims that as the plane’s speed sensors failed and stall warning alarms lit up the cockpit, the pilots failed to act. By the time they realized they had to act they were unsure of what to do. The new report claims that the pilots pushed the plane's nose upward instead of downward during a stall.
As the aircraft's computer called out stall warnings, the voice data reveals the pilots didn’t discuss the situation. And when the plane stalled out at 38,000 feet, the failed speed sensors made the pilots’ decision making worse.
Robert Soulas, a father of one of the crash victims, was reportedly briefed by French air accident investigators about the findings in their final report. Soulas said that investigators believed the flight director system indicated 'erroneous information' that the plane was diving downward 'and therefore to compensate, the pilot had a tendency to pull on the throttle to make it rise up.'
The Airbus A330 was flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris when it disappeared after it ran into stormy weather around four hours into the flight.
At the time of the crash, three young Irish doctors, Jane Deasy, 27, from Rathgar in Dublin, Aisling Butler, 26, from Roscrea in county Tipperary, and Eithne Walls, 28, a former Irish dancing star and member of the famous 'Riverdance' troupe from Ballygowan in County Down, were all flying home from a holiday. According to the Irish Independent, the women graduated together from the same class as doctors in surgery from Trinity College on June 15, 2007.
It took several days before the debris from the crash was located in the remote equatorial Atlantic Ocean area and far longer until the wreckage was recovered. The black boxes were finally located by robot submarines after a search that took 23 months and cost about $40 million.
Last year, investigators revealed that Captain Marc Dubois was on a break while his two less experienced co-pilots ignored and failed to discuss repeated stall warnings during the three and a half minutes it took the Airbus A330 to plunge into the ocean.
The new report has been eagerly awaited by both Airbus and Air France, who dispute who ultimately bears responsibility. All 228 people on board, including the crew, were killed after the Airbus crashed into the Atlantic at a speed of 180 feet a second in the worst air disaster in Air France's history.
French magistrates are investigating Air France and Airbus for alleged manslaughter in connection with the crash, notably because of the malfunctioning speed sensors, known as Pitots.
The airline replaced the Pitots, manufactured by French company Thales, on its Airbus planes with a newer model after the crash. Victims' families have previously alleged that the involvement of big French corporations such as Airbus and Air France was influencing the progress of the report.