The French news agency AFP reported Wednesday (one day ahead of the official final report's release) that investigators have concluded that pilot error and technical malfunctions caused the crash of Air France Flight 447 in 2009, killing all 228 aboard. "A source close to the case" told AFP that speed sensors on the Airbus A330 "froze up and failed" as the aircraft entered a line of thunderstorms while flying from Rio to Paris. That information was reported more than a year ago in factual findings. However, the source also told AFP that the official report of the French Accident Investigation Bureau, BEA, concludes that the captain then "failed in his duties," and "prevented the co-pilot from reacting." BEA is due to release its final report on the crash today (Thursday).
Earlier reports and updates to the investigation stated that the jet stalled at 38,000 feet and the crew never verbally acknowledged that fact. The jet maintained a nose-up attitude and an angle of attack of more than 35 degrees throughout its 122-mph vertical plunge into the ocean some 600 miles off the coast of Brazil. The captain was not present in the cockpit as the incident began. Soon after the aircraft entered stall, the airliner's angle of attack exceeded 40 degrees and full takeoff thrust was set. Stall warnings activated and deactivated during the descent and cockpit displays delivered mismatched and rapidly changing airspeed values. Authorities have since called for replacement of the pitot sensors used on the crash aircraft. Recovery of the aircraft's voice and data recorders involved undersea robots searching a 770-square-mile area of the ocean floor at depths up to 14,000 feet. It was conducted with help from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. AVweb interviewed the organization's chief of operations last May. Click here to listen to the podcast.