It urged a review of aircraft stall warning systems following criticism of the alarm's erratic behavior when the plane was deep into its 38,000-foot plunge.
Families of crash victims immediately criticized the report as too soft on the aerospace industry, ensuring that a row over responsibility for the accident will linger as Air France and Airbus both face a French manslaughter investigation.
"To deny, as the BEA has done, the extremely significant influence of technical defects is to go into denial about the reality of this accident," said Olivier Morice, a lawyer for families of some of the victims.
"The victims' families cannot accept this."
Training for Surprises
Air France defended the pilots, saying they had responded to confused and conflicting information, including multiple warnings and alarms, aerodynamic noises and vibrations.
"In this degraded environment, the crew, combining the competence of the captain and two co-pilots, remained fully engaged in flying the plane until the last moments."
Cockpit recordings showed that the captain was taking a scheduled break when the aircraft hit a shower of ice particles at night during an equatorial storm over the ocean, with the least experienced of two co-pilots at the controls.
The investigation has centered on the actions of this pilot and why the crew ignored dozens of audible stall alarms, as well as protocols which may have discouraged the senior co-pilot from overriding his colleague to take full control.
Flight data suggested the crew mainly pulled back on the control stick instead of pushing it forward to create more lift, which is the procedure for coping with a stall.
According to representatives of victims' families, that may have been due to faulty information displayed on a panel called the flight director, an element they said had been revealed to them by the BEA but was omitted from the press release.