When a plane such as the Airbus 330 in question gets conflicting information from various speed sensors, the autopilot and auto-thrust systems shut down – handing control over to the pilot.
That’s precisely what happened two hours and 10 minutes after Flight 447 left Rio, less than 10 minutes after the captain had left the cockpit for a routine break. He was quickly called back to the cabin to try to help the copilots respond to repeated warnings as the plane stalled, and began falling toward the ocean.
However, it was a 32-year-old co-pilot – the least experienced of three pilots on board – who was at the controls until the final minute of the flight. The plane hit the ocean 4-1/2 minutes after the autosystems disengaged, falling at a rate of nearly 11,000 feet per minute.
The Air France pilots apparently tried to bring the nose of the plane up when it stalled, contrary to the conventional wisdom that pushing the nose down will help increase airspeed and bring an aircraft out of a stall, according to an aviation expert quoted by Bloomberg.
“The question is why the pilot kept giving nose-up inputs when the plane was in a stall,” said Paul Hayes, director of safety at Ascend Worldwide Ltd., a London-based aviation consultant company. “You should put the nose down to recover speed.”