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Wednesday 22 November 2017

Father's relief that victims of Air France crash 'were not afraid'

Luke Byrne and  Tim Hepher

THE father of one of three Irish doctors who died on the Air France flight from Rio to Paris two years ago said he took some comfort in knowing passengers weren't terrified in the minutes before they died.

French investigators yesterday revealed the crew ignored repeated stall warnings and failed to follow procedures.

John Butler, father of Aisling (26) who perished on the flight, said he took some comfort in knowing the 228 passengers weren't afraid before they died.

"One of the only positive things in the report is that they didn't announce in the cabin what was going on, so the passengers wouldn't have been scared," Mr Butler told the Irish Independent.

It had previously been thought that passengers suffered three-and-a-half minutes of terror as the crew fought to gain control of the plane.

The report into the final minutes of flight AF 447 found that pilots failed to discuss "stall" alarms as their doomed Airbus jet plummeted 38,000 feet and hurtled into the ocean at 200kmh, killing everyone on board.

Irish doctors Jane Deasy (27), from Rathgar, Co Dublin; Eithne Walls (28), from Ballygowan, Co Down; and Aisling Butler (26), from Roscrea, Co Tipperary; were among those who died when the plane crashed in June 2009.

France's BEA authority issued 10 new safety recommendations aimed at avoiding a repeat of the crash, including more training on flying aircraft manually.

The tragedy came after the plane flew into stormy weather.

Yesterday's report said that the junior co-pilot responded to an autopilot malfunction by pulling up the nose of the plane.

He continued with a sharp climb, even as the plane entered a stall, when the correct action was to push the nose of the plane down.

The four-page document examined the plane's flight and voice recording data, which was found following a search of the Atlantic Ocean earlier this year.

It reported that neither of the pilots realised the plane had stalled or changed their behaviour, even as an alarm blared "stall, stall, stall" for 54 seconds before the jet hit the ocean.

"I would absolutely welcome the recommendations of the report," Mr Butler said, adding that he had "thought from the beginning" that the crash was caused by pilot error. He said he would refrain from commenting on whether he would be pursuing legal action.

Air France said it had already implemented many of the recommendations, and that they had improved safety.

Irish Independent

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