THE captain of an Air France flight which plunged into the Atlantic Ocean over three years ago killing three Irish doctors was running on just one hour's sleep, it has emerged.
A flight recorder from the 2009 crash reveals the pilots were all dangerously underslept, while the captain had just one hour's sleep the night before.
On a storm-tossed Atlantic night in June 2009, Air France flight 447 took 228 lives when the Airbus came down during an overnight flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.
Three young Irish doctors, Jane Deasy (27) from Dublin, Aisling Butler (26) from Co Tipperary and Eithne Walls (28) from Co Down were killed.
The close friends had studied medicine together in Trinity College and remained friends after graduating in 2007.
A new report obtained by the French news magazine Le Point reveals that the 58-year-old captain, Marc Debois, can be heard on a black box recording saying, "I didn't sleep enough last night.
One hour, it's not enough." The report also found that Debois' co-pilots were also feeling groggy after spending the night in Rio with their wives and girlfriends.
Debois was on a break when the Airbus flew into a tropical thunderstorm and took more than a minute to respond to calls for help from his co-pilots.
The report found they were too agitated to properly communicate to him what had gone wrong.
While cruising at 35,000 feet, four hours into what seemed a routine overnight flight to Paris, the pilots got a stall warning.
Acting on faulty data from the plane's sensors, the pilots pulled the nose of the plane up, instead of pointing it down to gain essential speed.
Apparently confused by repeated stall warnings and reacting to wildly fluctuating airspeed indications, the pilots continued to pull back sharply on the controls, even as the Airbus A330 plummeted towards the water. The plunge lasted three and a half minutes, causing the plane to hit the water at a speed of 180 feet per second.