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Air France 447: Air Speed Sensors Eyed in Crash

HO/AFP/Getty Images(BERLIN) -- The investigation into a deadly Air France crash is reportedly narrowing on the aircraft's airspeed indicators. With two co-pilots at the helm, Air France Flight 447 went down into the Atlantic two years ago after speed sensors failed and the Airbus jet stalled, a German newspaper reported.

Der Spiegel cited sources who are familiar with the contents of flight recorders recovered from the ocean floor two weeks ago.  The unnamed sources told the newspaper that the chief pilot, Captain Marc Dubois, had left the cockpit just before the Airbus A330's airspeed sensors failed four hours into the flight.  The failure of the sensors caused the autopilot to disengage and the plane to stall, going into an uncontrolled dive.

The air speed sensors have long been suspected as the cause of the crash.  Air France flight 447 was en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on May 31, 2009, when it when down in the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 228 people aboard.

Its last known communication was about four hours into the flight.

Before the crash, the pilot had sent an electronic text message to the airline to say that the plane was heading to an area known for stormy weather, the Intertropical Convergence Zone.

About 24 automated messages during four minutes were sent from the plane before it disappeared from radar.  The messages recorded system failures and variable speed readings.

Last month, a team from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution discovered the plane's wreckage using remote underwater submarines some four kilometers deep.

Of those who died, 51 bodies were found following the crash but 177 bodies are still missing.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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