Fokker 100 crash cause unclear despite "birds" call

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A preliminary report on the loss of a Fokker 100 operated by Air France subsidiary Regional Airlines reveals that the co-pilot noticed birds passing the aircraft during the take-off run, which ended in the aircraft failing to gain height and crashing through the boundary fence.

But investigators have found no evidence of a bird-strike in either of the two Rolls-Royce Tay 650 engines and it remains uncertain why the aircraft crashed.

A truck-driver on a public road was killed in the 25 January accident this year when the aircraft, operating flight AF7775 to Paris, struck his vehicle after the overrun at Pau Airport in south-western France. The 50 passengers and four crew were unhurt.

France’s Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses (BEA), in a newly-released preliminary inquiry report, describes how the aircraft began its take-off run on runway 13 just before 10:24 and that about three seconds before rotation, the first officer, who was non-flying, commented: “Ah, sparrows.”

The aircraft lifted off at a speed of 144kt (266km/h) but almost immediately banked left up to 35º. The captain used stick and rudder to counter the movement, but the aircraft then banked as far as 67º to the right, and finally 59º left. The maximum height reached was 107ft at an angle of incidence of 17º.

With the captain still controlling it, the aircraft touched down on the right-hand gear to the right of the runway, bounced airborne again, before careering through the airfield boundary, thrust-reversers deployed, and coming to a halt in a field after its left-hand main-gear had struck the cabin of the truck

The voice and data recorders worked well but the investigators have yet to find the cause of the accident. They say there was no “smell, debris, or marks” to indicate a bird-strike to either engine.

Although the crew did not request de-icing, neither did four of five crews of other aircraft that departed in the preceding 40 minutes when the temperature was near zero and light snow was intermittently falling.