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Air France jet plunged at 11,000 feet per minute

By Elaine Ganley

Associated Press

Published: Friday, May 27 2011 8:42 a.m. MDT

PARIS — An Air France jet carrying 228 people stalled three times before plunging from 38,000 feet (11,600 meters) and crashing into the Atlantic Ocean in less than four minutes, accident investigators said Friday.

Black box recordings from the plane reveal the final minutes of the doomed plane, as two co-pilots struggled to regain control over the plane as it swayed from side to side and fell at almost 11,000 feet (3,350 meters) per minute.

Everyone aboard Air France Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris were killed on June 1, 2009.

The initial findings also showed the captain was out of the cockpit for a routine rest period and arrived more than a minute after the emergency began. The two co-pilots wrestled with the controls for about 3 1/2 minutes in a bid to stop the Airbus A330 from spiraling into the sea, the report said.

It report did not analyze the data or cockpit conversations or assign blame. The report also did not suggest whether the Pitot tubes, the plane's speed sensors — which investigators have said likely played a role — were the main culprits, or whether the temporary absence of Capt. Marc Dubois from the cockpit had any impact on the quickly unfolding events.

So far, the search teams have not found the plane's Pitot tubes. Co-pilot Pierre-Cedric Bonin, then 32, was at the controls as the plane went down, sitting to the right of a second co-pilot, David Robert, 37. Pilots on long-haul flights often take turns at the controls to remain alert.

Dubois returned to the cockpit, but did not take back the controls.

The flight recorders were found along with bodies in the latest search of the ocean depths last month.

Jill Lawless contributed to this report.

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