AP Brazilian navy sailors recover debris from the missing Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean. Eraldo Peres/ASSOCIATED PRESS All 228 lives were lost when Air France Flight 447 crashed five years ago. HO/REUTERS Brazil’s navy picks debris from the Air France flight out of the Atlantic Ocean. Johann PESCHEL/AP The flight data recorder from the 2009 Air France flight.
“F—, we’re dead.”
Those were the words spoken by one of the pilots of an Air France plane moments before the jet crashed into the Atlantic Ocean five years ago.
The flight from Rio de Janeiro never made it to Paris on May 31, 2009, and a new report in Vanity Fair suggests that the 228 lives aboard the Airbus A330 were in the hands of an overwhelmed and inexperienced co-pilot.
Junior pilot Pierre-Cédric Bonin was at the helm because pilot Marc Dubois, with 11,000 flight hours under his belt, was dozing nearby.
Dubois was exhausted because he only had gotten one hour of sleep the previous night and spent the day with his girlfriend instead of catching up on his rest, Vanity Fair reported.
Bonin was joined by fellow co-pilot David Robert when Dubois went for his rest. Robert was on the flight simply to “maintain his currency as a pilot,” according to the magazine, and had been sleeping himself before he joined Bonin.
While Dubois was sleeping near the cockpit, Bonin and Robert saw the plane go into a stall, and they could not recover.
The Vanity Fair report chronicles a series of poor decisions and misunderstandings that likely led to the crash four hours into Flight 447. Bonin and Robert woke up Dubois when the co-pilots realized something was wrong, but it was too late.
“Let’s go! Pull up, pull up, pull up!,” Bonin says before the crash, according to the magazine.
“F—, we’re going to crash! It’s not true! But what’s happening?” Robert says.
Then either Robert or Bonin says: “F—, we’re dead.”
Investigator Alain Bouillard told Vanity Fair that Dubois’ leaving the cockpit was “part of the piloting culture” at Air France and “not against the rules.”
“Still, it is surprising,” he told Vanity Fair. “If you are responsible for the outcome, you do not go on vacation during the main event.”