A statement released today by the French BEA (Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses) on the July 1, 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447 indicates that the airplane’s decent into the South Atlantic lasted three minutes, 30 seconds, during which the pilots at the controls maintained nose-up inputs. According to data retrieved from the flight data recorder (FDR), the Airbus A330-200’s angle of attack remained above 35 degrees and the engines continued to operate.
The new information follows a series of media reports indicating pilot error as the primary cause of the crash that claimed the lives of 228 people. The latest findings showed that the composition of the flight crew complied with operator’s procedures, although at the time of the event, the two copilots occupied the cockpit while the captain rested. The captain returned to the cockpit about one-and-a-half minutes after the autopilot disengaged, according to the BEA.
The report also revealed an inconsistency, which lasted for less than one minute, between the speeds displayed on the left side of the cockpit and the integrated standby instrument system (ISIS). After the autopilot disengaged, the airplane climbed to 38,000 feet and the airplane stalled. The last recorded values included a pitch attitude of 16.2 degrees nose-up, a roll angle of 5.3 degrees left and a vertical speed of -10,912 fpm.
“The preliminary information released by the BEA today is consistent with facts published in the BEA preliminary and interim reports,” said the statement.
The BEA expects to issue a new interim report in mid-July.