Flight 447 split before it hit water..

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The Air France jet that crashed into the Atlantic with 228 people on board broke apart before it hit the water, throwing out some passengers at high altitude, investigators believe.
    Their conclusion is based on the discovery of two trails of bodies more than 50 miles apart, suggesting that the Airbus split in two after going out of control in bad weather and turbulence during its flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on June 1.
    Examination of bodies discovered off the northeastern Brazilian coast suggested that they were dead by the time they hit the water. They were stripped of clothes, apparently in the rush of air as they fell from as high as 35,000ft. Multiple fractures were most likely to have been caused by hitting the water at about 120mph.
    The absence of any traces of an explosion, such as burn marks or inhaled smoke, supports the view of investigators that the disaster was caused by a combination of factors, possibly beginning with the blockage of speed sensors.
    The sensors, called pitot tubes, are prone to getting clogged with ice and insects. One theory is that the “inconsistent” speed readings caused the automatic pilot to disengage, leaving the crew trying to fly manually - a difficult task at high altitude without knowing the plane’s speed.
    It has emerged that the same sequence of events occurred in six cockpit emergencies reported by Airbus pilots over a year beginning in February 2008. According to internal Air France documents leaked to the press, the incidents involved “a rather incoherent cocktail of alarms” and “severe breakdowns”. These appear to have originated with malfunctioning pitot tubes in stormy weather.
    In one incident, an Air France pilot issued a mayday call between Paris and Tokyo in turbulent weather after the loss of speed indication resulted in the disengagement of the automatic pilot and set off other alarms. In all six incidents, however, the pilots regained control of the aircraft.
    Air France advised pilots on November 6 last year about the “significant number of incidents” in which false speed readings had confused the automated flight system.
    The company rushed to replace speed sensors on its aircraft last week after a pilots’ union threatened to boycott long-range jets. Even so, questions were raised over why Air France had taken so long to act on advice from Airbus to upgrade pitot tubes in 2007. SUNDAY TIMES, LONDON




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