Nightly News | May 27, 2011
>>> in france, safety investigators have released the initial widely awaited findings from the black boxes of an air france flight that plunged into the atlantic almost two years ago now. 228 people died in that crash during the flight from rio to paris. nbc's tom costello has detailed, what wei know about the final moments of the flight.
>> reporter: it was a cockpit voice discovered amid 13,000 feet of water that have given investigators their best clues into the disaster. the air bush was flying through heavy turbial nls when its senls sensors iced over and failed. without those, the auto pilot and auto thrust system disengaged. amid the chaos, with the pilot on a routine rest break, their reacted by pitching the nose up, beginning a dramatic climb to 38,000 feet. soon, the plane lost lift and went into an aerodynamic stall.
>> there's a lot of confusion because the plane isn't doing what it was doing just seconds ago. it's not doing what you expect it to, so why not.
>> with the plane violently rolling from side to side, they had no speed readings. they also may have been spatially disoriented, not knowing up from down, left from right. the pilot raced back to the cockpit, but apparently never took control of the plane.
>> you had it pitching up and down dramatically and left and right. and it became a high level of confusion for them.
>> reporter: it plunged from 38,000 feet to the water below, slamming to the ocean's surface belly first. it's possible the passengers never knew how serious it was. even before the crash, air france knew the sensors were defecting. it's since replaced the sensors on all of its planes.