Entries in Air France (7)


French Court Overturns Concorde Crash Convictions

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(PARIS) -- A French appeals court on Thursday overturned an involuntary manslaughter conviction against Continental Airlines for its involvement in the crash of an Air France Concorde jet outside Paris in 2000 that claimed 113 lives.

Air France Flight 4950 crashed in flames shortly after takeoff from Charles de Gaulle Airport on July 25, 2000.  French aviation investigators later determined a small piece of metal that had fallen off a Continental jet that took off minutes before punctured the tire of the Concorde as it raced down the runway.  The tire blew, sending shards of rubber into a fuel tank, which caught fire.

The French court also overturned a criminal manslaughter conviction against a Continental mechanic who had installed the metal, saying the charge was unjustified.

The appeals court cleared the airline of criminal blame for the crash, but upheld a lower court ruling that ordered Continental to pay civil damages of $1.3 million to Air France.

Megan McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based airline, which merged with United two years ago, said in a statement Thursday: “We have long maintained that neither Continental nor its employees were responsible for this tragic event and are satisfied that this verdict was overturned.”

The crash hastened the end of commercial supersonic travel, which had become a financial strain on the only two carriers that had Concordes in their fleets: Air France and British Airways.  Both carriers took the jets out of service in 2003.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Was Air France Captain With a Woman When Flight 447 Was in Trouble?

Air France(PARIS) -- In the final chaotic moments before Air France flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009, it took the captain of the aircraft, who was on a scheduled break, more than a minute to return to the cockpit, despite his two co-pilots’ frantic calls for help, black box recordings showed.

Although it was never revealed what delayed Capt. Marc Dubois, two independent sources told ABC News that the 58-year-old veteran Air France pilot was traveling socially with an off-duty Air France flight attendant named Veronique Gaignard.

Jean-Paul Troadec, the director of BEA, the French authority conducting the investigation into the Flight 447 crash, told ABC News that Gaignard was not part of their investigation because the agency was “not interested” in the “private life of the pilot.” Troadec added that he did not think Dubois’s alleged relations with Gaignard aboard the plane would have played a role in the accident.

Air France 447 was on an overnight trip from Rio de Janiero to Paris on May 31, 2009 when it vanished. The plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours of June 1, 2009.

Black box tapes recovered from the wreckage two years later, in April 2011, revealed that Capt. Dubois left the cockpit for a scheduled nap about four hours into the flight, around the same time Flight 447 was about to enter a severe thunderstorm that other flights had avoided.

Once in the storm, the plane’s pitot tube, a critical piece of equipment that tells the pilot the aircraft’s air speed, failed, likely from ice crystals forming on it, according to BEA officials who inspected the wreckage. When the pitot tube fails, the Airbus A330′s automatic pilot system disengages, shifting control back to the pilot.

According to the tapes, First Officer Cedric Bonin, a 32-year-old pilot who had fewer than 5,000 flight hours under his belt, was at the controls but had never been in this situation before at high altitude. Bonin made the fatal mistake of pulling the plane’s nose up, which caused it to go into a deep stall.

Within seconds, the plane was plummeting about 120 miles an hour in the dark, belly first, with the nose slightly elevated.

“It seems that the pilots did not understand the situation and they were not aware that they had stalled,” Troadec said.

The co-pilots asked where the captain was and called for help several times before Dubois returned to the cockpit, the black box tapes showed. When Dubois burst in, he found a scene of utter confusion.

“What’s happening?” Dubois was heard saying on the black box recordings.

“I don’t know what’s happening,” one of the co-pilots replied.

“I have a problem…I have no more displays,” Dubois said.

They never regained control of the plane, and in the confusion, co-pilot Cedric Bonin thought his instruments were wrong. He was so befuddled that he was heard asking, “Am I going down now?”

All 228 passengers and crew aboard Air France flight 447 were killed.

BEA will release its final report on the investigation into the crash on July 5.  Air France declined ABC News’ request for an interview, pending the July release of the final report from France’s investigation.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Famed French Actor Relieves Himself in Front of Airplane Passengers

Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images(PARIS) -- French film star Gerard Depardieu caused quite the scene aboard a grounded Air France flight Tuesday, when he unzipped his pants and relieved himself in the aisle after being told he couldn’t use the bathroom until the plane was airborne.

A passenger told the New York Post that Depardieu said, "Je veux pisser, je veux pisser."

"Then the attendant said, 'I'm sorry, you'll have to wait fifteen minutes, [when] we'll be in flight. The toilets are locked,'" the passenger explained to the Post.

The plane returned to the gate so the crew could clean up the actor’s mess.

The passenger who spoke to the Post claims that Depardieu had been drinking.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Air France Crash: Investigators Release New Details

Air France(PARIS) -- French air accident investigators have analyzed the black boxes of the Air France jet that mysteriously crashed after taking off from Rio de Janeiro in 2009.

The French Accident Investigation Bureau says the Airbus A330 stalled while cruising. Flying through powerful thunderstorms, it appears the plane's speed indicators malfunctioned, leading to confusion in the cockpit.

"The crew, made up of three skilled pilots, demonstrated a totally professional attitude and were committed to carrying out their task to the very end," Air France said in response to the report.

"All the data collected must now be analyzed," the airline said. "It will only be at the end of this complex task...that the BEA will be able to establish the causes that led to the disaster."

Investigators say the plane took just three and a half minutes to fall 38,000 feet, killing all 228 people onboard.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Air France Flight 447: Black Boxes Indicate Pilot Error Caused Accident

HO/AFP/Getty Images(BERLIN) -- Nearly two years after Air France flight 447 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean, killing 228 people, the plane's black boxes, discovered early last month, reveal the pilots' actions may have ultimately caused the accident.

The aircraft's data and voice recorder were found with wreckage from the airliner more than 13,000 feet below the ocean's surface.

Flight 447 had taken off from Brazil and was bound for Paris when, at 35,000 feet and nearly four hours into the flight, the plane apparently encountered heavy icing. The icing caused the speed sensors to malfunction, which meant the on-board computers were receiving faulty and confusing speed readings.

With the computers unable to process the confusing speed information, the autopilot shut down, leaving the jumbo jet suddenly in the hands of the cockpit crew.

ABC News has confirmed that when the emergency began, the captain was out of the cockpit on a break. With alarms likely sounding, his crewmates, possibly confused, tried to diagnose the problem. A German newspaper reports the captain rushed back into the cockpit shouting commands at his two co-pilots.

William Voss, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, told ABC News that the pilots could have gotten sidetracked trying to deal with the emergency.

ABC News has learned the jumbo jet, an Airbus A330 was still flyable, but the pilots apparently failed to do what was necessary to keep the jet in the air. They may have flown too slowly, causing the plane to stall and tumble out of the sky. The Wall Street Journal first reported that the crew failed to fly the plane properly.

The pilots apparently had not been trained to handle precisely this kind of emergency.

Voss said even as planes get more complicated and automated, it's important to put the emphasis back on making emergency procedures simple, and not to let technology interfere with the basics of flying an airplane.

Airbus, Air France and French investigators have refused to comment publicly on the information from the black boxes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


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


IMF Head Accused of Sexually Assaulting Maid at NYC Hotel

Harold Cunningham/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a man considered a likely French presidential candidate, was taken into custody by police on Saturday at a New York airport after a hotel maid said he sexually assaulted her.

Authorities said a maid at a midtown Manhattan hotel told police that Strauss-Kahn stepped out of the bathroom naked as she was cleaning the room and assaulted her.

Strauss-Kahn was taken into custody aboard an Air France jet at John F. Kennedy International Airport, just as the doors were closing to take off on a flight to Paris.

Detectives from the New York Police Department picked up the IMF president from Port Authority police and took him to east Harlem for questioning at the department’s Special Victims Unit.

Strauss-Kahn faces a charge of attempted rape.

NYPD officials notified Port Authority police of the allegations against Strauss-Kahn and asked that they "take him off the plane," Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne told ABC News.

Port Authority detectives did so moments before the flight's departure, Browne said.

Browne said the maid notified hotel managers of the alleged assault and the hotel contacted police, who arrived at about 1:30 pm.

"She reported the attack to hotel officials who called police," Browne said.

When police arrived they found Strauss-Kahn's cell phone, Browne said.

"It appeared he left in a hurry," he said.

Authorities said the hotel maid's account "is credible."

According to senior police officials Strauss-Kahn has no diplomatic immunity, despite his position with the IMF, which makes him technically an administrative official with the United Nations.

On Sunday the IMF issued a statement saying that it had no comment on the case and that “the IMF remains fully functioning and operational.”

Copyright 2011 ABC New Radio

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