Who knows. They found the cockpit voice recorder from 409 last week and sent it to France for analysis along with the FDR. Today a preliminary finding was released-- pilot error, as predicted. This article states the error:
Audio recordings revealed that the pilot asked the co-pilot to follow instructions by Beirut airport control tower, only to find out that his assistance either did not heed to the orders or did the opposite. This prompted the pilot to take a move which made him gradually lose control of the plane, the voice recorder showed.Remember, this was supposedly an experienced captain who had no doubt experienced thunderstorms before so one snippet of conversation is hardly enough to support a finding of that nature. What does the rest of the tape show? Were they trying to avoid the weather? What does the FDR indicate?
The report said the jet remained intact until it hit water.
Initial witness reports said the aircraft was on fire as it crashed and the initial speculation was a lightning strike, which does not jibe with a pilot simply losing the aircraft in a turn. A lightning-induced in-flight fire lines up better with the witnesses but so does a bomb or missile. All three could explain the 'strange turn' mentioned by the Lebanese officials--the turn could be the aircraft losing control.
As to sad comment "we're finished", such a thing could relate to a host of unrecoverable problems including pilot error, mechanical problems or foul play, but admittedly any conversation seems to rule out a catastrophic upset, pointing more towards a missile strike if indeed its demise was nefarious. The passenger manifest (hard to locate) listed one Iraqi and one guy with the same surname as notorious al-Qaeda fundraiser Enaam Arnaout, who operated out of Chicago before he was sent to the pokey. Not saying there's any relation, just sayin.
Maybe the French will release the transcripts and FDR data next week, which could put this to rest.