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Report: Pilot error at blame in '09 Air France crash

| Thursday, July 5, 2012, 9:54 p.m.

LE BOURGET, France — A pilot facing faulty data and deafening alarms in an overseas thunderstorm pitched his plane sharply up instead of down as it stalled, then lost control — sending the Air France jet and all 228 people aboard to their deaths in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009.

The fatal move was part of a chain of events outlined in a report by French investigators on Thursday that could have legal consequences for plane-maker Airbus and airline Air France — and could change the way pilots around the world are trained to handle planes manually.

“I don't have control of the plane at all!” a pilot yelled, a minute before it crashed, according to a particularly gripping passage in the 224-page report.

Families of victims struggled to digest the report, the final of several studies into the crash by the French air -accident investigation agency BEA. Some families are disappointed that the final report didn't focus more on manufacturing problems and put so much blame on the pilots.

The document is the result of three years of difficult digging into what caused Air France's deadliest-ever accident. The report makes sweeping recommendations for better training of pilots worldwide to fly high-tech planes when confronted with a high-altitude crisis.

The Airbus 330 passenger jet, flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, crashed on June 1, 2009. Aircraft makers knew for years of problems with certain types of pitot tubes; problematic ones were ordered to be replaced in the wake of the crash. Families of victims long have questioned why the aviation industry didn't act on pitot-tube problems well before their loved ones died.

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