Radio log reveals 15-minute battle to save doomed Air France airliner
A DOOMED Air France jet broke up in mid-air after pilots spent 15 minutes desperately battling to bring it under control, leaked details of the crash investigation suggest.
The terrifying last moments for passengers on board Flight 447 have become clear from the content of a series of automatic messages sent by the plane.
They suggest the Airbus A330, which was carrying 228 people on an overnight flight from Brazil to France, broke up after it flew through a violent storm.
A cascade of problems began shortly after the pilot sent a manual signal at 3am UK time on Monday saying he was flying through an area of electrically charged clouds.
Satellite data has shown that towering thunderclouds were sending 100 mph winds into the jet's flight path, several hundred miles off the coast of Brazil. Weather experts told The Scotsman such violent storms were not unusual. However, error messages suggested the plane was flying too slowly to maintain thrust levels needed to pass through the storm.
At 3:10am, a steady stream of failures were revealed in a series of messages sent over a four-minute period, before catastrophe struck.
The auto pilot was disengaged, perhaps in a last-ditch attempt to manually change course.
Then an alarm was sounded, according to another message, as a key computer system switched to alternative power – which only happens after multiple electrical failures.
Two minutes later, more messages reported the failure of systems to monitor speed, altitude and direction.
At 3:14am, a final message read "cabin in vertical speed", suggesting a sudden loss of cabin pressure.
The Air France source who revealed the content of messages said: "This clearly looks like the story of the aeroplane coming apart. We just don't know why it did, but that is what the investigation will show."
A Spanish pilot in the vicinity at the time reported seeing an "intense white flash".
"Suddenly we saw in the distance a strong and intense flash of white light, followed by a downward, vertical trajectory which broke up into six segments," the chief pilot of an Air Comet plane from Lima to Madrid told the Spanish newspaper, El Mundo.
Some experts have suggested that the plane exploded.
However, Brazil's defence minister, Nelson Jobim, said an explosion was "improbable" given the 13-mile trail of kerosene spotted on the sea. "If we have fuel slicks, it's because it didn't burn," he said.
Air France yesterday told passengers' families officially to abandon any hope of survivors.
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