Air France pilots said to have battled for 15 minutes to save flight

June 5th, 2009 - 1:14 pm ICT by ANI  

Paris, June 5 (ANI): Air France pilots battled for up to 15 minutes to save the doomed flight that went missing over the Atlantic this week, electronic messages emitted by the aircraft have revealed. Details have emerged of the moments leading up to the disappearance of flight AF 447 with 228 people on-board, with error messages reportedly suggesting the plane was flying too slowly and that two key computers malfunctioned.

Flight data messages provided by an Air France source show the precise chronology of events of flight AF 447 before it plummeted into the sea 400 miles off Brazil on Monday, The Telegraph reports. These indicate that the pilot reported hitting tropical turbulence at 3 a.m. (Brazilian Standard Time), shortly before reaching Senegalese airspace. It said the plane had passed through tall, dense cumulonimbus thunderclouds.

At 3.10 a.m., the messages show the pilot was presented with a series of major failures over a four-minute period before catastrophe struck, according to automatic data signals cited by the Sao Paulo newspaper, le Jornal da Tarde.

At this time, the automatic pilot was disconnected - either by the pilot or by the plane’s inbuilt security system, which flips to manual after detecting a serious error.

It is unclear whether the pilot wanted to manually change course to avoid a dangerous cloud zone - an extremely difficult manoeuvre at such high altitude.

At the same moment, another message indicates that the “fly-by-wire” electronic flight system which controls the wing and tail flaps shifted to “alternative law” - an emergency backup system engaged after multiple electricity failures.

This system enables the plane to continue functioning on minimum energy but reduces flight stability. An alarm would have sounded to alert the cabin crew to this.

Two minutes later, another message indicates that two essential computers providing vital information on altitude, speed and flight direction ceased functioning correctly.

Two new messages at 3.13 a.m. report electricity breakdowns in the principal and auxiliary flight computers.

At 3.14 a.m., a final message reads “cabin in vertical speed”, suggesting a sudden loss of cabin pressure, either the cause or the consequence of the plane breaking up in mid-air.

The suggestion that the pilot gradually lost control of the plane appears to counter reports that the plane exploded in mid-air.

These were lent more weight today after a Spanish pilot in the vicinity at the time reported seeing an “intense white flash”. (ANI)

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