Atlantic crash plane stalled and descended at 180ft per second

The Air France plane which crashed into the Atlantic two years ago stalled, lost speed and descended at a rate of 180ft per second, an accident report said yesterday.

All 228 people on board the Paris-bound Airbus A330 were killed, including five Britons and three Irish nationals.

Among those lost on the flight was Arthur Coakley, from Sandsend, near Whitby, who was returning home after working on an oil project in Brazil.

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The descent lasted three minutes and 30 seconds on flight AF447 which had left Rio de Janeiro on May 31, 2009, the report by France’s air accident investigation bureau, the BEA, said.

Described as “a note” ahead of a later full report, yesterday’s findings showed that the captain had left the cockpit for a rest period around 10 minutes before the first stall sign had come on.

With the two co-pilots in the cockpit, there were “several” attempts to call the captain back and he eventually re-entered the cockpit just under three minutes before the recordings from the now-recovered “black boxes” ceased.

After the captain had left the cockpit, one of the co-pilots had called the cabin crew telling them that “in two minutes we should enter an area where it’ll move about a bit more than at the moment, you should watch out”.

During efforts to control the plane, one of the co-pilots announced about a minute before recordings stopped that “we’re going to arrive at level one hundred (a height of 10,000ft)”.

Less than three minutes earlier the aircraft had been at 35,000ft. The BEA said the plane remained stalled throughout the descent and that “the engines were operating and always responded to crew commands”.

Airbus, whose planes’ wings are made in the UK, said yesterday: “The preliminary information released by the BEA today is consistent with facts published in the BEA preliminary and interim reports.

“The BEA’s work constitutes a significant step towards the identification of the complete chain of events that led to the tragic accident of Air France flight 447.

“Airbus is committed to continuing to provide support to the BEA investigation with the objective of identifying all potential lessons to be learnt.

“Airbus is confident that the successful recovery of the data contained by the (black box) flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder will undoubtedly contribute to making air travel even safer.

“The people of Airbus once again wish to convey their condolences to all those who have lost family, friends and loved ones in this tragic accident.”