Cause of Air France Crash in Canada Remains Mystery to Investigators

The Canadian transportation investigators reiterated that the aircraft had landed too far down the runway.


TORONTO_Canadian transportation investigators announced Wednesday that they still hadn't determined what caused an Air France Airbus to skid off a Toronto runway and burst into flames during a heavy rainstorm in early August, though reiterated that the aircraft had landed too far down the runway.

Many of the 297 passengers on board have blamed the pilots for landing nearly halfway down the runway in dreadful weather and are suing the airline for negligence. Despite the plane skidding off the runway, landing in a ravine and bursting into flames on Aug. 2, all passengers and 12 crew members escaped and survived with minor injuries.

Confirming earlier reports that all systems on Flight 358 from Paris appeared to be functioning normally, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said in a statement that to date, investigators "have not found significant anomalies" of the aircraft systems.

The statement, out of its headquarters in Gatineau, Quebec, said the digital flight data recorders - known as the black boxes - revealed no system troubles or malfunctions.

"Based on a physical examination of the wreckage combined with a follow-up detailed DFDR review of parameters, no problems were detected with the flight controls, spoilers, tires and brakes, or thrust reversers," the agency said. "The flight controls functioned as expected, spoilers were deployed on touchdown, the tires and braking system worked as per design, and the thrust reversers were found in the deployed position."

The board said it would take several months to come to any conclusions.

The findings released Wednesday did reiterate, however, initial findings by TSB chief investigator Real Levassuer several days after the crash. He said then that the Airbus "landed long," 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) down the 9,000-foot (2,700-meter) runway at Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport.

"With the water on the runway ... at that point there was no way that this airplane could have stopped before the end," Levassuer said.

That doesn't sit well with Philippe Lacaille, whose wife and four children were on board. He said passengers want to know why - if all systems appeared to be functioning normally on the aircraft - the pilots landed in severe weather conditions and too far down the slick runway.

"We landed too long, we landed in terrible conditions and the plane could not brake," Lacaille told CBC Television after the TSB issued its update on Wednesday.

"The first question that comes to mind is, why was the plane allowed to land in these kind of weather conditions?" said Lacaille, who has joined one of several class action suits against the French airliner. "It doesn't make any sense. Was there a mechanical problem or was it the pilot's decision? There's still a lot of unanswered questions."

He said that his family is suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome and they still have recurring nightmares and flashbacks.

"I can tell you, my flashback that comes all the time, I see my 14-year-old daughter's face surrounded by this enormous orange glow right where she was sitting," Lacaille said, adding that he believed they were all about to die.

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On the Net:

Transportation Safety Board of Canada: http://www.tsb.gc.ca

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