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Airline drama echoes doomed Rio-Paris flight

Matthew Warren · 7 Sep 2011, 08:39

Published: 07 Sep 2011 09:10 GMT+02:00
Updated: 07 Sep 2011 08:39 GMT+02:00

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An inquiry has been opened into an incident on an Air France aircraft that experienced a series of problems similar to those of the AF 447 flight that crashed off the coast of Brazil in June 2009, according to Le Figaro.

The newspaper reported on Tuesday that problems on-board a flight from Caracas to Paris were under investigation by the French civil aviation security body, the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses (BEA).

The incident happened on July 21st when the flight, on its way to Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport, flew into unexpected turbulence 1.5 hours out of the Venezuelan capital.

In events that mirrored those on the AF 447 flight from Rio to Paris in June 2009, the aircraft began to speed up, causing the "overspeed" alarm to sound. Simultaneously, the automatic pilot disengaged and the aircraft climbed 3,000 feet or 900 metres in one minute causing the speed to drop to 205 knots.

"Flight AF 447 stalled at 202 knots," an Air France pilot told Le Figaro, suggesting the flight from Caracas was "just three knots from stalling."

The incident lasted just two minutes and there were no serious injuries. The plane landed safely in Paris about 7.5 hours later.

The newspaper claimed that the similarities with the AF 447 flight are of particular interest to the inquiry.

"It will be possible to understand whether there is a problem with the Airbus or if it's an issue of training at high altitudes," according to a source close to the inquiry quoted by Le Figaro.

Another source, quoted by AFP, said some key questions needed to be answered, including "why did the automatic pilot disengage?" and "why did the Airbus climb to this altitude?"

Flight AF 447 crashed off the coast of Brazil with 216 passengers and 12 crew on-board. The accident still has not been fully explained and the investigation is ongoing.



Matthew Warren (news.france@thelocal.com)

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