herald

Thursday 24 August 2017

'We're dead' - crash pilot's last words

Wreckage of the plane seen in the Atlantic Ocean and (inset) Irish victims of the Air France crash Jane Deasy, Eithne Walls and Aisling Butler
Wreckage of the plane seen in the Atlantic Ocean and (inset) Irish victims of the Air France crash Jane Deasy, Eithne Walls and Aisling Butler
Aisling Butler
Eithne Walls
Jane Deasy

"We're dead." These were the final words of a pilot at the helm of the tragic Air France flight that crashed, killing all 228 passengers - including three young Irish women.

A new report has revealed that the two senior pilots were sleeping just moments before the airliner hit the Atlantic in 2009. Previously unheard recordings taken from the wreck of the aeroplane indicate one of the pilot's final words were: "F***, we're dead."

The recording was just moments after 58-year-old Captain Marc Dubois and 37-year-old co-pilot David Robert woke to find 32-year-old Pierre-Cedric Bonin, the least experienced of the three pilots on board, had lost control of the plane.

The family of Irish doctor Aisling Butler (26), from Roscrea, Co Tipperary, last night said they were too upset to comment on the latest developments.

Ms Butler died in the crash, along with friends Jane Deasy (27) from Dublin and Eithne Walls (28) from Co Down.

Air France flight 447 was travelling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris when it crashed.

Previous investigations had revealed that Captain Dubois had been sleeping off a night with his girlfriend, an off-duty air hostess also on the flight, when the plane first got into difficulty.

storm

The new report, published in Vanity Fair yesterday, outlines that co-pilot David Robert was also sleeping in an area behind the cockpit as the plane approached a tropical storm. The magazine also quotes the chief investigator into the crash, Alain Bouillard.

"If the captain had stayed in position through the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone, it would have delayed his sleep by no more than 15 minutes and . . . maybe the story would have ended differently," Mr Bouillard said.

After waking up, Mr Dubois entered the cockpit one minute and 38 seconds after a technical malfunction had occurred on board. The plane was suffering from a loss of lift, known as a 'stall', and the pilots attempted to raise the nose of the Airbus 330, instead of lowering it. The report says recordings from the flight reveal Mr Robert said: "F***, we're going to crash! It's not true!"

Soon after, either Mr Robert or Mr Bonin are heard to say: "F***, we're dead." Air France declined to comment.

hnews@herald.ie

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