1 August 2011
France's flight accident investigation bureau has indicated that pilot error may have played a part in the crash of an Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris two years ago. The Airbus A330 fell more than 35,000 feet into the Atlantic ocean, killing all 228 on board.
Click to hear the report
This is not the final report into the causes of the crash, but with the new evidence from the flight recorders, it's the most substantial analysis to date - and what's new is a clear signal from the investigators that pilot error may have been partly to blame.
The initial problem it's now certain was the failure of outside speed monitors, which froze over. But in response to that, the bureau says, the three man crew failed to take the correct steps.
The 32 year-old co-pilot who was at the controls kept the plane on an upward trajectory, which caused the plane to stall. But even though a warning then sounded for nearly a minute, at no point, says the report, did the crew formally identify a stall situation.
No announcement was made to the passengers as the plane then plunged for three and a half minutes before hitting the sea.
The shifting of blame towards the pilots - and by implication away from the machinery of the plane - is a highly sensitive matter, and Air France has already reacted angrily.
It says there's no cause to question the professionalism of its crew, and pointing the finger at the manufacturer, Airbus, it says that confusing signals from the stall alarm system in the cockpit hindered the pilots in their task of analysing the crisis.
Hugh Schofield, BBC News
Click to hear the words
- substantial analysis
thorough examination of the cause
- pilot error
mistakes by the people flying the plane
- speed monitors
equipment which measures how fast the plane is travelling
- an upward trajectory
a curved path going higher
- to stall
to stop flying forward and begin to lose height because there is not enough speed for the wings to keep the plane in the air
fell suddenly from a great height
- the shifting of blame
the moving of responsibility
- by implication
- pointing the finger at
suggesting the blame lay with
limited the ability of