FLIGHT recordings have been revealed from the last minutes before Air France flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic on May 31, 2009.
The flight, which killed all the 288 passengers and crew on board, crashed when an inexperienced junior co-pilot stalled the plane, whilst the Captain Marc Dubois, was sleeping after a heavy night out in Rio de Janeiro with his opera singer girlfriend.
The Airbus 330 suffered a loss of lift or a ‘stall’, but Pierre-Cedric Bonin, the inexpert who was at the controls raised the front end, instead of lowering the plane’s nose to deal with the stall, as they should have done according to normal procedures.
It took 2 years to find all the dead, including 5 Britons and 2 Americans, and recover flight recordings that revealed conversations moments before the crash.
Excerpts from recorded discussions between 37-year-old David Robert, 32-year-old Pierre-Cedric Bonin, and the 58-year-old captain of the plane Marc Dubois, reveal that two of them were asleep when the plane got into difficulty in a tropical storm.
“I didn’t sleep enough last night. One hour, it’s not enough,” said Dubois, before he went to sleep in the flight-rest compartment, a small cabin containing two berths just behind the cockpit’, the piece also describes how Robert was ‘dozing there’.
Referring to Bonin, a ‘Company Baby’ on the Rio de Janeiro to Paris flight, the piece reads: ‘With most of the weather still lying ahead and an anxious junior pilot at the controls, Dubois decided it was time to get some sleep.’
Dubois finally entered the cockpit 1 minute and 38 seconds after the pitot tubes malfunctioned, but by that time panic was setting in.
Robert said: “F***, we’re going to crash! It’s not true! But what’s happening?”
Soon after, either Robert or Bonin are heard to say: “F***, we’re dead” as the plane plummeted into the ocean.
Chief investigator Alain Bouillard is quoted as saying: “If the captain had stayed in position through the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone, it would have delayed his sleep by no more than 15 minutes, and because of his experience, maybe the story would have ended differently.”
“But I do not believe it was fatigue that caused him to leave. It was more like customary behaviour, part of the piloting culture within Air France.”
“And his leaving was not against the rules. Still, it is surprising. If you are responsible for the outcome, you do not go on vacation during the main event.”
Both Air France and Airbus are facing manslaughter charges, with a judicial investigation underway led by French judges from Paris.