Three Years After Air France 447 Crash, A Hint of Scandal

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Last night's episode of Nightline, all about the disappearance of Air France flight 447, featured a perfect nugget of news with which to drum up some renewed interest in the story: The suggestion of a sex scandal involving the plane's captain.

The captain, Marc Dubois, who was on a scheduled break when the plane hit heavy weather and the autopilot disengaged, took more than a minute to respond to the crew's calls for help. ABC cites "two independent sources" saying Dubois was with off-duty flight attendent Veronique Gaignard at the time. Scandal! The plane would eventually go out of control and crash into the Atlantic on June 1, 2009, killing all 228 aboard.

But lest your mind drift to a more recent instance of the captain of a large vessel succumbing to feminine charms rather than doing his job (we're thinking of the narrative that Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino was drinking with a beautiful passenger shortly before the ship crashed) remember that this case is different: Nobody's accusing Dubois of drinking, and the French investigators say they don't think Gaignard had anything to do with the crash. From ABC's online report:

Jean-Paul Troadec, the director of BEA, the French authority conducting the investigation into the Flight 447 crash, told ABC News that Gaignard was not part of their investigation because the agency was "not interested" in the "private life of the pilot." Troadec added that he did not think Dubois's alleged relations with Gaignard aboard the plane would have played a role in the accident.

The captain could just as easily have been delayed getting to the cockpit because he was sleeping, which is what his break was for. From the information made available so far, it's still impossible for us to know. But since his relationship with Gaignard hadn't been made public until now, it's a strong enough whiff of scandal to work as a news hook. The final results of the investigation into the crash are due out on July 5. Until then, and probably to some extent after as well, all we've got is speculation and rumor.

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