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Report: Air France Pilots May Have Erred in 2009 Crash

A BEA air accident inquiry official (R), seen in this image published on the web site of France's BEA air accident inquiry office surveys the handling of a flight data recorder aboard ship, May 2, 2011

A U.S. newspaper is reporting that preliminary findings point to pilot error in the deadly 2009 crash of an Air France jet in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Wall Street Journal reported in its Monday edition that the findings indicate the pilots aboard Flight 447 were confused by a series of flight control alarms as the plane encountered heavy turbulence. The newspaper said the crew struggled to make sense of the different warning messages and chimes while also monitoring key indicators of the plane's trajectory and engine power. It said the pilots failed to follow standard procedures as they tried to figure out what was happening.

The paper also said the investigation will likely show that the plane decelerated to a dangerously slow speed after the autopilot disconnected.

The Airbus was traveling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris with 228 people on board when the accident happened June 1, 2009. Experts speculate that icing on external speed sensors gave the pilots incorrect readings. The Journal says such icing can make air speed indicators and other external sensors unreliable.

The newspaper also said Airbus had registered 32 instances of problems involving ice buildup on similar aircraft between 2003 and 2009.

In March, a French judge placed Airbus under investigation for possible involuntary manslaughter charges in the 2009 crash.