The newest report from the French investigation bureau BEA finds that confusion reigned in the cockpit as the doomed Air France flight 447 fell out of the sky and into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009. A combination of the crew's actions, malfunctioning equipment, and bad weather seems to have sealed its fate. A few facts of the disaster are clear through previous reports from the flight data indicators: The plane's autopilot shut off about two hours and 10 minutes into the flight, while the two co-pilots were at the controls as the captain rested. After that, the plane climbed to 38,000 feet, then fell with its nose up, hitting the water about two hours and 14 minutes into the flight. But the bureau's latest report brings up a whole host of new questions about why these things happened, including how much blame to put on the crew, what equipment may have malfunctioned, and what effects the new findings will have on pilot training and airplane design worldwide, as well as legal repercussions for Airbus, the plane's manufacturer, and Air France.
The blame game: Many headlines today blared variations on the theme of pilot error. Reuters went with "Rio-Paris crash probe finds pilots ignored warnings," while Sky News had the terse, "Fatal Air France Crash Was 'Avoidable.' " Others, such as The New York Times, focused on the crew's training in their headlines. The Times' Nicola Clark noted early in her story that the two co-pilots had no experience flying their Airbus A330 at high altitude. The pilots have been faulted for reportedly ignoring warnings that the plane had stalled. At Reuters, Tim Hepher's lede said the report found the pilots "ignored stall warnings and appeared to defy the manual" by pulling the nose of the plane up when the stall alarm went off, "something that has mystified aviation experts ever since." They're mystified because "the textbook way of responding is to point the nose downwards to capture air at a better angle."