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July 05, 2012

Investigators: Technical and Human Error Caused 2009 Air France Crash

by Lisa Bryant

PARIS - French investigators blame a 2009 Air France jet crash on both human and equipment error. But, as the saga of Air France Flight 447 continues, with both the airline and the plane's manufacturer facing manslaughter allegations.

Air France Flight 447 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean while flying to Paris from Rio de Janeiro on a stormy night in June 2009, killing all 228 people on board. The crash was the deadliest in Air France history. It took divers nearly two years to fish out the plane's critical black boxes from the South Atlantic.

Air France and manufacturer Airbus have traded accusations about who was to blame. Now, in its final report,  French air accident investigation agency BEA blames the accident on both human and technical mistakes.

The agency says Flight 447's autopilot disconnected when the plane hit turbulence. BEA says the plane's speed sensors malfunctioned and the pilots lost control of the situation.

At a news conference in Paris Thursday , BEA President Jean-Paul Troadec said the Air France pilots failed to understand the nature of the problem. While autopilot helps improve security, he said pilots must have perfect control and understanding of a situation when it is disconnected.

The report says one of the co-pilots nosed the Airbus up during a stall, when it should have been pointing down. The pilots apparently never understood the plane was in a stall. The events have raised concern about whether pilots are adequately trained to confront similar crises.

The BEA has issued 25 new recommendations that include better training for pilots and stricter aircraft certification rules. But the story is not over. French magistrates are investigating Air France and Airbus for alleged manslaughter in connection with the crash. They are expected to deliver a report next Tuesday.