Details have been revealed of the conversation pilots of an Air France passenger jet were having in the final seconds before it plunged into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009. The exchange between 37-year-old David Robert, and 32-year-old Pierre-Cedric Bonin was retrieved from the flight’s black-box voice recorder.
The aircraft is known to have entered a tropical storm after leaving Rio de Janeiro for Paris. Robert is heard asking what he should do after the plane begins to experience turbulence. Bonin replies that he is unable to control the aircraft as a stall warning is sounded for the sixth time.
The captain of the Airbus A330, 58-year-old Marc Dubois, was at the time taking a rest break and had left his co-pilots in charge. Robert is heard to swear as he asks whether the captain is on his way back to the cockpit. As the two pilots battle with the aircraft, which has entered an aeronautical stall, Dubois returns to ask what is happening.
Robert replies that he does not know. One of the problems was that none of the crew could tell at what speed the aircraft was travelling, most probably because the air speed indicators had frozen.
Instead of lowering the nose in order to increase the speed of the jet and recover from the stall, the crew pull the nose up. There is then confusion over whether the aircraft is descending. In the very last moments before the aircraft hits the sea the computer advises that the pilots pull up, by which time it is too late. Captain Dubois is heard to say ‘ten degrees pitch’ before all goes dead.
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