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Last updated at 11:43 BST, Wednesday, 03 August 2011

Air France crash. Who's to blame?

Brazilian Navy officers recovering debris from Air France flight 447 (Image: HO/AFP/Getty Images)

Brazilian Navy officers recovering debris from the Air France plane in 2009 (Image: HO/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary

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.

Reporter:
Hugh Schofield.

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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

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Vocabulary

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

plunged

fell suddenly from a great height

the shifting of blame

the moving of responsibility

by implication

by suggestion

pointing the finger at

suggesting the blame lay with

hindered

limited the ability of

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