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Air France 447: Last Plane to Vanish Before Malaysia Airlines Tragedy

Image: Air France 447: Last Plane to Vanish Before Malaysia Airlines Tragedy Relatives of victims of the 2009 Air France flight 447 accident look at a plaque in memory of the passengers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 1, 2011.

By Clyde Hughes   |   Monday, 10 Mar 2014 08:31 AM

The Air France Flight 447, which vanished over the Atlantic Ocean in 2009, was the last passenger jet to disappear in a deadly and mysterious crash before the Malaysia Airlines tragedy.

Mystery still surrounds the missing Malaysian flight, which left Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12:41 a.m. Saturday in good weather and was expected to reach Beijing at 6:30 a.m., according to CNN. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane around 1:30 a.m., and pilots had not warned of any problems beforehand. 

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On June 1, 2009, an Air France Airbus A330, traveling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, slammed into the Atlantic midway in similar circumstances, killing all 228 on the flight, according to ABC News. The airplane did not send out a distress signal before vanishing from radar.

It took French investigators three years before determining the flight faced a series of technical problems and pilot error. Authorities said in a 2012 report that the plane's speed sensor, called a pitot tube, stopped working after becoming clogged with ice at high altitudes while the plane was flying through a thunderstorm.

The report concluded that since the pitot tube sent pilots inaccurate information, they failed to properly diagnose the problem.

"Despite these persistent symptoms, the crew never understood that they were stalling and consequently never applied a recovery maneuver," the report said.

The plane crashed four minutes after the first stall warning at 2:10 a.m. as pilots struggled to save the plane. Pilots seemed unaware they were going to crash until just before hitting the water.

"Our investigation is a no-blame investigation. It is just a safety investigation," Jean-Paul Troadec, the director of the French agency BEA, told ABC News in 2012. "What appears in the crew behavior is that most probably, a different crew would have done the same action. So, we cannot blame this crew. What we can say is that most probably this crew and most crews were not prepared to face such an event."

Investigators are still examining oil slicks in the Gulf of Thailand, about 90 miles south of Vietnam's Tho Chu Island, where the Air France 447 disappeared from radar Saturday morning.

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