Pilot errors outlined in 2009 Air France crash

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:43 pm IST

Published - July 29, 2011 04:54 pm IST - LE BOURGET, France

In this June 8, 2009 photo, Brazil's Navy sailors recover debris from the missing Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean.

In this June 8, 2009 photo, Brazil's Navy sailors recover debris from the missing Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean.

The crew piloting a doomed Air France jet over the Atlantic did not appear to know that the plane was in a stall, despite repeated warning signals, and never informed the passengers that anything was wrong before the jet plunged into the sea, according to new findings released on Friday.

Based on cockpit recordings from the crash, the French air accident investigation agency is recommending mandatory training for all pilots to help them fly planes manually and handle a high-altitude stall.

All 228 people were killed when the Airbus 330, route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, crashed amid thunderstorms over the Atlantic on June 1, 2009. It was the worst accident in Air France’s history.

The passengers were never told what was happening as Flight 447 went into an aerodynamic stall and then dived for 3 1/2 minutes into the sea, according to a summary of the BEA’s latest findings released on Friday.

The pilots themselves may not have been aware they were in the stall even as it was dooming the flight, the summary says.

The BEA will release a fuller report later Friday, based on cockpit voice and data recorders retrieved from the ocean depths in May in an exceptionally long and costly search operation.

The summary confirms that external speed sensors obstructed by ice crystals produced irregular speed readings on the plane. Since the accident, Air France has replaced the speed monitors on all its Airbus A330 and A340 aircraft.

The BEA says neither of the co-pilots at the controls had received recent training for manual aircraft handling or had any high-altitude schooling in case of unreliable air speed readings.

A stall warning sounded numerous times, and once for a full 54 seconds, but the crew made no reference to it in cockpit exchanges before the jet crashed, according to the BEA.

There was no evidence of task-sharing during the crisis by the two co-pilots in the cockpit at the time, according to the BEA’s findings. The captain was on a rest break when the warnings began.

The BEA says it’s unclear why the co-pilot at the controls, flying manually in what became the final minutes of the flight, maintained a nose-up input — contrary to the normal procedure to come out of an aerodynamic stall. Normally, the nose should be pointed slightly downward to regain lift in such a stall, often caused because the plane is travelling too slowly.

This is the most extensive report by investigators to date. A final report is expected at a later date.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.