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Air France plane could have been saved -- expert

The situation aboard an Air France Airbus which plunged into the Atlantic killing all on board including three Irish doctors could have been salvaged and the plane could have been saved, an aviation expert said yesterday.

The aircraft was en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris when it crashed after a "series of failings", according to a French air investigation report.

The pilots in control of flight AF447 could have saved the plane after it temporarily lost its speed readings. Instead, they did the opposite of what was required, concluded France's air investigation authority, the Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses (BEA). They pulled the aircraft up to a height at which it stalled and fell from the sky at 10,000ft per minute.

"The situation was salvageable," Jean Paul Troadec, BEA director said. Air France, however, defended its pilots, saying the altitude alert system had malfunctioned.

The report was the third into what caused the Air France Airbus 330 to crash into the ocean on June 1, 2009, killing all 228 people on board, after flying through turbulence.

Irish doctors Jane Deasy, 27, from Rathgar, Dublin; Eithne Walls, 28, from Ballygowan, Co Down; and Aisling Butler, 26, from Roscrea, Co Tipperary, were among the victims.

John Butler, father of Aisling, said he took some comfort in knowing that the passengers weren't afraid when they died as the pilots didn't announce what was going on.

A French pilot told 'Le Figaro' newspaper: "This manoeuvre (the pulling up of the plane) is totally incomprehensible. My colleague must have panicked."

The BEA has produced safety recommendations, including extra training on how to manually fly planes.

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

Sunday Independent