The final words of a pilot and co-pilots captured moments before a tragic plane crash that killed 228 have been revealed.

Back in 2009, Air France flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean during a May 31 flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

The Airbus 330 was carrying 288 people onboard – including five Brits and two Americans – as well as captain Marc Dubois, 58, and his two junior co-pilots – 32-year-old Pierre-Cedric Bonin and 37-year-old David Robert.

Everybody onboard died as a result of the tragic crash.


Parts of the wreckage are pulled from the ocean. Credit: Handout/Getty


As reported by the Daily Mail, a subsequent investigation revealed the final conversation between the pilots – sharing a glimpse in panic that flooded the cockpit as the plane descended.

Excerpts from recorded conversations reveal that Dubois and Robert had been asleep when Bonin – who was at the controls – started to experience difficulties when the plane hit a tropical storm.

When Robert came to his assistance, Bonin said: “[I] don’t have control of the aeroplane anymore now. I don’t have control of the aeroplane at all!”

In response to an error in the air-speed readings, Bonin had started to incorrectly tilt the plane’s nose upwards instead of downwards when it stalled.

Robert replied: “Controls to the left” – before taking over himself.

However, with both co-pilots attempting to control the plane, they received a “dual input” audible warning.

With alarms blaring, Dubois could be heard asking his two co-pilots: “Er what are you [doing]?”

“We’ve lost all control of the aeroplane, we don’t understand anything, we’ve tried everything,” Robert replied.

Robert can be heard saying to himself: “Climb, climb, climb, climb.” Bonin replied: “But I’ve been at maximum nose-up for a while!”

At this moment, Dubois realized the young pilots’ error and screamed: “No no no, don’t climb! No No No!”

Bonin then screamed: “We’re going to crash! This can’t be true. But what’s happening?”

Then, it isn’t known who spoke next, but a voice is heard saying: “F***, we’re dead.”


228 people died in the tragedy. Credit: Handout/Getty


The subsequent investigation revealed that the tragic event stemmed from a combination of technical malfunction and the pilots’ inadequate response to the aircraft stalling, leading to a rapid descent of 11,000 feet per minute.

After a search spanning 10,000 square kilometers, it took two years to locate and recover the wreckage and bodies from the sea.

France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) attributed the autopilot disconnection mid-flight to ice crystals.

Despite Captain Bonin transferring control to First Officer Robert, it was too late to recover from the stall, with passengers unaware of the severity of the situation during the three-and-a-half-minute descent.

An in-depth Vanity Fair editorial, Chief investigator Alain Bouillard highlighted that Bonin’s departure from his post, while not violating regulations, was unexpected and possibly influenced by Air France’s piloting culture.

He revealed that he had left Bonin – an anxious junior pilot – to deal with the challenging weather conditions while he rested after being up most of the night before with his girlfriend, an off-duty hostess and opera singer. “I didn’t sleep enough last night. One hour – it’s not enough,” Dubois told his colleagues before getting some rest.


A memorial to the 228 victims of the Air France flight AF447. Credit: UCG/Getty


The Vanity Fair article stated: “On the night of May 31, 2009, the pilots of Flight 447 certainly did not serve their passengers well”. In the aftermath, new regulations for airspeed sensors and pilot training methods were introduced to the aviation industry.

In 2023, both Airbus and Air France were cleared of manslaughter charges related to the flight.

Our thoughts are with the families still impacted by this tragedy.

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