Key Air France Rio-Paris crash findings due

July 29, 2011 8:41 am

, PARIS, Jul 29 – Investigators were set Friday to reveal precise details of how an Air France plane crashed into the Atlantic killing 228 people in 2009, with unconfirmed media reports suggesting pilot error was to blame.

It is the third formal report from years of investigations into how the Airbus plane on flight AF447 crashed en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on June 1, 2009, killing all on board.

Right-wing newspaper Le Figaro cited what it said were leaked details from the report that showed a co-pilot made “successive errors” after the plane lost altitude following a fault in its speed sensors caused by ice.

A spokeswoman for BEA, the French aviation authority investigating the crash, told AFP the claims in the report were “incomplete and over-simplistic” and warned that investigators’ work was “far from over”.

BEA took nearly two years to locate the wreck of the crash and its “black box” flight recorders and retrieve many of the victims’ bodies.

Officials cautioned that Friday’s report would not formally establish who was to blame for a disaster that has implicated pilots, the airline and plane and equipment makers.

“The BEA establishes the facts and makes recommendations based on those facts,” Environment and Transport Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said on RTL radio Friday. “As to who is responsible, that is up to the courts.”

Victims’ families alleged that the involvement of big French corporations such as Airbus and Air France risked influencing the conclusions.

“The economic stakes take precedence over the search for the truth,” said Robert Soulas, leader of a victims’ relatives’ association.

“The rush to blame the pilots is very suspicious in that these accusations arose very quickly after the first examination of the black boxes.”

Both Air France and Airbus are being investigated for alleged manslaughter in connection with the crash.

The Inquiry and Analysis Bureau (BEA), under the authority of the transport ministry, said it would unveil findings from the information stored on the recorders at 1230 GMT on Friday.

“This report will present the exact circumstances of the accident with an initial analysis and some new findings based on the data recovered from the flight recorders,” it said in a statement on Monday.

Experts have said the plane’s autopilot could have been deactivated because of the icing up of the air speed probes, known as Pitots, which were manufactured by French company Thales.

Investigators have said this could not be the sole cause of the crash.

Since the accident, Air France has replaced the Pitots on its Airbus fleet with a newer model.

Rescue workers recovered 50 bodies in the days immediately after the crash and this year retrieved a further 104, which were returned to France last month. More than 70 could not be recovered.


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