A mechanical arm holds an orange cylindrical flight data recorder above the sand.

Air France flight data and cockpit voice recordings recovered

Flight data and cockpit voice recordings from an Air France plane that crashed into the Atlantic in 2009 have been recovered.

Air France Flight 447’s flight recorders were found by underwater robots and hoisted up from depths of nearly 4,000 metres earlier this month. The cause of the crash is unclear, and investigators and victims’ families are hoping the recorders will shed light on what sent the aircraft into the sea on June 1, 2009, en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. All 228 people aboard were killed.

BEA, the French air accident investigation agency, said that an international team downloaded the material from the “black box” voice and data recorders over the weekend.

“These downloads gathered all of the data from the Flight Data recorder, as well as the whole recording of the last two hours of the flight from the Cockpit Voice Recorder,” the agency said.

BEA says investigators will now analyse the material, which will take several weeks, and will release a new accident report during the summer. The agency said last week the seven memory cards in each data recorder would be extracted, cleaned, dried and tested to see if they still worked, and the data would be copied onto BEA’s computers.

Meanwhile, forensics experts from France’s police force will be examining tissue samples from two bodies that were raised from the plane’s site earlier this month.

So far the searchers have not found the plane’s speed sensors, known as pitot tubes, which investigators say probably played a role in the crash.

Finding the cause took on new importance in March when a French judge filed preliminary manslaughter charges against Air France and the plane’s manufacturer, Airbus. Experts say the flight data and voice recorders are indispensable for determining what was at fault. The accident was the worst in Air France's history.

Automatic messages sent by the Airbus 330’s computers showed the aircraft was receiving false airspeed readings from the pitot tubes. Investigators have said the crash was probably caused by a series of problems and not just a sensor error.

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