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Squawks & HeadlinesPreliminary Findings Suggest Pilot Error in Air France Crash

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Preliminary Findings Suggest Pilot Error in Air France Crash

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The pilots of an Air France jet that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean two years ago apparently became distracted with faulty airspeed indicators and failed to properly deal with other vital systems, including adjusting engine thrust, according to people familiar with preliminary findings from the plane's recorders. The final moments inside the cockpit of the twin-engine Airbus A330, these people said, indicates the pilots seemingly were confused by alarms they received from various automated… (online.wsj.com) More...

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rdeeringer
A couple of big questions, could the pilots fly the plane when the automatic systems are in the way? How much manual control is possible in these fly-by-wire aircraft? Could the pilots override the auto thrust systems when the sensors are partially disabled?
allench1
allench1 -1
toolguy105 very well put, having flown 9's through 747's those pilots would not have been left in the cockpit by the capt. if they were "wrong stuff" I am not saying they were without fault, but what I am saying is that none of us have been in that situation in that airplane with it's known history and that alone could have tempered their responses.
Katanada
Danny Vidaud 0
Instead of talking about all these fancy ways of measuring airspeed, why not just give pilots access to SATELLITE WEATHER???? -- Why are we still relying soley on a nose cone radar? -- a CESSNA 172SP has MORE weather capability than any commercial airliner. This is a major WTF? I think.
allench1
allench1 -1
John I think you might consider the fact that this model has given out all these warnings before due solely to the turbulence and the pilots are trained to let the aircraft settle down before overreacting. I would also refer you to my 5/20 comment above.
whm3
Walter Mills 0
Where did he say that the captain was at the controls?
ExCalbr
Victor Engel 0
Markaz, I believe supercooled water can overwhelm the pitot tubes. The heaters would eventually melt the ice, but after how much time? Brian, I had wondered about gliding myself as well. The Gimli glider got a lot of mileage from gliding, but of course, that was a different plane, too.
whm3
Walter Mills 0
Have all of us failed to remember that there was a huge issue with the pitot heads and heating system on these a/c. Enough of an issue that they are all being or have been replaced.
markaz
markaz 0
Well said, Joseph.
allench1
allench1 -1
After retiring from heavies I have been flying a 900LX, my boss was going to upgrade to a 7X and informed me Friday the deal was off. I am now going to hang it up at the end of this month. Just is not as much fun as it used to be. I have said this in another thread but boy would I like to go back to 1955, a J3 cub, a sleeping bag and fly the county for a year. Can't do that so I'll take a Beech 18 go up early in the evening and do dutch rolls into the rising moon maybe make an ADF approach or two. That Gentleman is flying. As my son says, It's all good.
allench1
allench1 -1
Markaz that Bellanca viking 300 one of my all time fav planes, fast, a pilots plane only neg. sitting on the floor.
Katanada
Danny Vidaud 0
markaz -- Very much agreed. I don't know where the balance lies. -- Unfortunately, the general public tends to prioritize poorly. Especially with the state of the economy; people will go for the cheapest flights and are not willing to pay more than is absolutely necessary to get from Point A to Point B. Even I will go on this same website and seek out the best routes from A to B. -- So I will admit that I am partially at fault for always pushing to buy less expensive tickets.

The businesses will always try to drive cost down and design requirements for airplanes are ultimately driven by business models for profit.

You challenge this philosophy in your comment and I agree with you. Its not a simple problem that we can just pull an answer out of a hat. The hope is that even private industries will adopt 'best-practices' to ensure the safety and brand reliability of their products. (Hopefully society would apply this to not just aircraft but cars, even food!)

Steve. Thanks for thinking before posting.

> When I fly around for fun, I always take a good hard look at the weather before going. -- In retrospect, that flight should have never left the ground. I think the wrong decision was made on the ground. That particular area of the Atlantic is known to have these strong weather phenomena (along with certain areas off the coast of Africa and other locations around the planet). In my opinion, there are certain flight routes that need to be eliminated all together. Unfortunately, there are airlines that will calculate risk in such a way that they will dictate dangerous flight paths for their pilots to fly. Ultimately, the pilot still has the final authority as to whether or not they will actually fly that day -- but I would imagine that it is frowned upon by the airline to go and cancel a full-flight. I suppose it all depends on the relationship between the pilots and their "higher-ups" and seniority at the time. Any airline pilots on here could help out in clarifying this (I'm just speculating).

> The auto-pilot likely kicked off because of this disparity between the indicated airspeed. I would hope that they immediately thought "indicator failure" as you say.

> This is true - but ground speed and high-altitude airspeed are very different values. *Go to ADDS Weather and search for high altitude wind charts. You will notice wind speeds up to and sometimes exceeding 130 kts. On a calm day at low altitude GPS measured speeds and airspeed should match relatively well. As soon as you climb over 5-6,000 feet, the disparity can get rather large and the assumption of ground-level conditions becomes rather poor. Its very difficult to know how much air is actually flowing un-separated over your wings. There are test plans and new instrumentation that has been proposed to begin trying to understand this phenomena and maybe it will lead to new ways of measuring airspeed at high mach numbers.

> Yes. There are procedures in place to fly with failed systems. You do exactly as you suggest. There is a particular power setting and pitch attitude that you set and hold to maintain roughly a given "safe" airspeed when you have a failed airspeed indication. It needs to be implemented very quickly when you lose your airspeed indication and by the time you make it through your emergency check-lists, you're in a bad situation. -- I don't mean to open a can of worms by saying this, but had the USAirways A320 had systems in place to do automatic emergency checks and contingency plans, they would have landed on a runway instead of the Hudson. There were talks at AIAA conferences concerning this and many professors in academia are trying to tackle this problem and make it reliable enough to put into an airplane. Essentially, the airplane would try to calculate its new flight characteristics given a particular situation and try to self-diagnose and give you a possible plan of action instead of giving you a "sh*t show" in the flight deck. We can only hope that these systems get added to airplanes as they get even more complicated than they already are...
ExCalbr
Victor Engel 0
Instead of pitot tubes, why not use some sort of sonar? A simple ping produced, say, in the tip of the tail, could be picked up further ahead. I think the delay should record the speed accurately enough if the pressure is known accurately, which I think is the case. This should work as long as the aircraft doesn't go supersonic.

As far as blaming the pilots goes, aren't we a bit premature for that, especially if, elsewhere in the article, it states they didn't get training for this circumstance?
jicaro
Victor:
I agree with you in regards on blaming the pilots, so quickly.. Though like I've said before on another blog here in this site[you where there], I can understand that there was a good probability the Pilots did error at some point, but at the end I STILL STAND FIRM, that it was more than likley SECONDARY, to all hell that was breaking out in the cockpit, and I am kind of getting the paranoid sense of the great posibility that BEA, AF, AirBus, even though the later 2 did not say anything this time is trying to smooth the pilot thing, so they can PLANT the blame on the Pilots and, leave to one side the A/C, [scapegoating]???> thats my impression

In regards to Sonar>>>>>I dont't know never really thought about it and ant the same time could sonar, I have a couple of questions, 1. Does sonar have the range, and 2. i know Sonar is affected by water densities, and it cannot penetrate sometimes, would this be the same being in the air??, Dunno, you bring an interesting point though
allench1
allench1 -1
Robert why not use GPS as a secondary source for airspeed, at least in bracketing within a certain safety range as I know it could be a second or so behind the actual speed but would have certainly helped the pilots focus on control. Here I go projecting what I believe the events that led to this crash after this info: 1 Capt. out of cockpit. 2 multipliable pitot tube malfunction.3 disconnect of auto throttles 4 pilots preoccupation with all the various alarms and warning lights.5 plane inters an unnoticed stall-recover scenario. 6. airplane either enters into an unrecoverable dive or a flat spin. Two factors that will be addressed will be Capt stays in cockpit when in serious weather and training for pilots to be retained to.....FLY THE PLANE FIRST
ExCalbr
Victor Engel 0
GPS is useless for airspeed indication because the air itself is moving sometimes over a hundred knots, and that's without even considering wind shear. Wind shear confounds things by adding some chaos to the wind speed, and consequently the air speed.

By the way, when i mentioned sonar, I didn't necessarily mean a typical sonar mechanism. Perhaps I should have said a sonic system, since sonar implies something more specific. I hadn't considered moisture content of the air. I'll have to think about that. While it would make a difference, I'm not sure by how much. If there is enough moisture that it's rain, radar would pick it up. If ice, well, then you have other problems.
allench1
allench1 0
Ralph with those facts that you presented and both pilots having the qualifications, training and skill to fly this type it would seem that they must have thought they were in a downdraft to input nose up, nothing else makes any sense. The climb I can understand as they were more than likely trying to get above the turbulence to settle the airplane down, at any rate nothing good went in their favor. Hopefully when all the data gleamed from this accident is analyzed we can prevent future such occurrences.
allench1
allench1 -1
Victor you are right it only gives ground speed. I stand corrected, but and there is always a but, if it was monitored by the pilots it could have been used for bracketing thus kept them out of a stall. If the readings were say 490 kts over the ground then at least you would have some reference info when the pitot's failed instead of none. I also think that had the capt. been in the cockpit and the auto throttles had disengaged he would have known from experience the approx. locations to set the throttles at for continues safe flight something only experience and skill gives you
allench1
allench1 -1
Roger, very good my man. That has been a problem as referenced in the crash of an airbus flying in approach mode low over an airshow and when the pilot went to climb the computer would not let him as it thought he was landing and it is programmed to not let the pilot over bank or pitch which because of his angle of attack on a slow flyby he needed to pitch up at an unacceptable angel for the computer to allow and therefore the computer overrode his controls and the plane went into the trees. That being said I would THINK that by now there would be an override or kill switch for emergencies. In the report it states that the system shut down leaving the control solely on the pilots which brings up a very good point, maybe they thought the flight computer was still flying the airplane.
jicaro
Allen:
Never really gave GPS a second thought, actually for the lapse in time primarily even if it is for a second, but I never really took at all in consideration, in why the GPS is useless in your other paragraph, never passed my mind in that point of view thanks, for enlightening me, noe it does for me open up other points of views
mpradel
Marcus Pradel 0
On another report, it says the plane turned steeply upward? sounds like the A/P increased thrust and went into a climb to compensate for the erroneous reading from the frozen pitot tubes. then, when the attitude was odd enough, and probably overspeed, the A/P disconnected.. but not before throttling down and putting the aircraft at a likely Stall condition.
Let's also keep in mind how the airbus fly-by-wire system still has the authority to 'interpret' pilot commands instead of following them.
Is software suicide NOT mechanical failure?
clipper759
joe johnson 0
"people familiar with" need to shut the hell up and let the investigators do their job.
rogerh1
Roger Holt 0
I think this is what most people expected. This is the result of training pilots to respond to computer messages rather than flying the plane. Remember, it took FIVE pilots to safely land the Qantas A380 after the engine failure. In this case, not even three pilots were able to fly the plane.
jicaro
Roger:
One more thing about that, they also troubleshot for 2.5 hrs till they got it down, and yes 5, good point though, good point
flyingcookmosnter
Listen to the audio on that link. Did he really say that? The plane "glided" to a near level crash landing on the water while the pilots were distracted? From cruise? Shut the front door. I can't believe this. The biggest reason being ice would melt below the freezing level (this was the equator we're talking about) problem solved.

I hope this isn't pilot error to that degree. Another Easter 401 with todays equipment? yikes.
Something disabled this flight crew's ability to fly the aircraft. Large hail shattering the windscreen? Im not buying pilot error here.

allench1
allench1 -1
flyingcookmosnter we all agree not pilot error they were hit with many loud alarms, warning lights and messages on the MFD. simply they were overloaded with too much info at one time, also I THINK maybe they thought the autopilot and flight director were still flying the airplane. We are all only speculating until we get the French & Airbus report to help protect the pilots from being the scapegoats.
preacher1
preacher1 0
Allen: I think your last comment here hits the nail on the head as far as the pilots being overwhelmed. As I commented on another article yesterday and as Roger Holt says here in this string, it took 5 very senior pilots to land that 380. Had they not have just happened to all be there at one time, it could have suffered the same fate as this AF flight, cause as I remember, a couple of them were doing nothing but wading through alarms.
WigzellRM
Ralph Wigzell 0
I've had both blocked pitot and blocked static in separate incidents. Blocked static was the most confusing of the two as the airspeed was very erratic and occurred immediately after takeoff fortunately in VMC. I figured that the airspeed was faulty and returned for an eyeball mark I landing. The blocked pitot was in IMC and caused the speed indication to drop to zero as the air escaped from the system through the drain hole. Wasn't critical on that plane as the autopilot was not using airspeed inputs at the time. Those AF guys must have been really confused, in IMC and turbulence.
toolguy105
toolguy105 0
Easy to blame those that cannot defend themselves. This was an experienced crew facing a never before situation. Know that they have the recorders put it in the simulators and see how other crews handle it, let's not forget the loss of airspeed caused by a faulty pitot tube.
WigzellRM
Ralph Wigzell 0
Latest facts from BEA:
At this stage of the investigation, as an addition to the BEA interim reports of 2 July and 17 December 2009, the following new facts have been established:

ˆ-The composition of the crew was in accordance with the operator’s procedures.

ˆ-At the time of the event, the weight and balance of the airplane were within the operational limits.

ˆ- At the time of the event, the two co-pilots were seated in the cockpit and the Captain was resting. The latter returned to the cockpit about 1 min 30 after the disengagement of the autopilot.

ˆ-There was an inconsistency between the speeds displayed on the left side and the integrated standby instrument system (ISIS). This lasted for less than one minute.

ˆ-After the autopilot disengagement:the airplane climbed to 38,000 ft,
--the stall warning was triggered and the airplane stalled,
--the inputs made by the PF were mainly nose-up,
--the descent lasted 3 min 30, during which the airplane remained stalled. The angle of attack increased and remained above 35 degrees,
--the engines were operating and always responded to crew commands.

-The last recorded values were a pitch attitude of 16.2 degrees nose-up, a roll angle of 5.3*degrees left and a vertical speed of -10,912 ft/min.
markaz
markaz 0
With the AD grounding ALL Falcon 7X aircraft today because of its fly-by-wire system failing, I think the odds of me boarding an aircraft flown by this completely unnecessary technology has reached zero. Paranoid and narrow-minded maybe, but the evidence is mounting.
gortmull
Thomas Gorton 0
I know nothing about flying airliners but three things struck me here:
1. I find it hard to believe that the cockpit throttles don't give an accurate indication of the settings after the computer adjusts thrust. It likely sounded as if armageddon had arrived in the cockpit of AF 447. Under those circumstances I would think that it is critical for the pilot or FO to, at the very least, be able to quickly glance at the throttles and thereby know what the new settings were.
2. Three months before the crash a determination was made to not replace the pitot tubes.
3. Pitot tubes have been on aircraft forever it seems. Isn't there an alternative or two in this day and age?

Everything I've read about Airbus aircraft and their FBW system in the past few years, including comments from experienced professionals, causes me discomfort whenever I'm on one.
WigzellRM
Ralph Wigzell 0
The BEA says "a further interim report that is scheduled to be published towards the end of July....", hopefully there will be more why's answered.
20U60N4
STEVE EMERY 0
Had a p/s system failure on takeoff in a KC-130. On climbout, airspeed kept falling. After cross-checking other instruments, we were in the correct attitude, climbing at the correct rate, and power settings. Checked NAV for ground speed and determined airspd indicator failure. This happened in about 30 sec and was a result of proper crew coordination btw Pilot, CP, and FE. Good pilots have the judgement to deal with things "not in the book/simulator"...these guys had the wrong stuff
allench1
allench1 0
Ralph I just will add one additional thought. Both pilots had to be aware of the pitot tube problems from the past and most likely assumed their speed was not the problem thereby trying to climb out of the situation and with all the messages and alarms coming at them they inadvertently put the airplane in a deep stall of which they did not recognize. Still sad situation for our fellow heavy pilots. Glad I am out, I enjoyed my 30 years when pilots still flew the airplane also it seems you are as well from your picture, the 727 is one of the greats.
allench1
allench1 0
Steve my only comment to your statement is the situation was totally different and with a much more sophisticated and over engineered flight deck ( this is the first system that is suppose to protect the plane from abrasive pilot inputs and we do not know to what extent all that played in this situation) that the pilots had to deal with and for you to say they had the wrong stuff, wow. Let's not be so condescending until all the facts are in.
toolguy105
toolguy105 0
It is easy to blame those that cannot defend themselves. Let's not forget the basic cause is still believed to be the pitot tube problem. Now that they have the black boxes put the problems up on the simulator and see if. Another crew or crews can do any better. It is my understanding this flight had one of AFs mostseasooned flight crews
flyguyph
Paul Hensel 0
Sad event. My "speculation" is iced pitot tubes giving higher air speed reading than actual causing pilots to pull back after autopilot disconnect, thinking they needed to slow down. This would also explain them not adding power. Not sure if the computer seeing the same airspeed indication might not allow them to nose over as they should have done. I know you all have mentioned auto pilot and auto throttles disconnected but not sure if that gives full authority to the pilots. Any A330 pilots out there with that answer?
jockog3
John Graham 0
Just glad to hear that the accident does not appear to be mechanical failure. Not a big airbus fan, but there are a lot of them out there. Bad publicity from mechanical failures scares the public a lot more than bad publicity due to a couple "unprepared" pilots.
To a previous post, Airbus/Honeywell made corrections to the automated systems after the 1986 Paris Air Show disaster where the computer "knew better than the pilot" that puts the pilot in as the last say overriding any computer.
My question is (as a lowly 500 hour pilot), if you are in icing conditions and your stall sensor goes off, what is the first thing you do? This is fundamental instrument training that all this automation may have that pilots complacent. Unfortunately it appears this oversight of the basics cost many their lives.
allench1
allench1 -1
Paul I have been hit with clear air turbulence that made my 747 feel like a toothpick in the ocean, first thing get clearance and climb to re-stabilize the aircraft.I fear that both pilots again were dealing with a known problem in the A330 that when it is in hard turbulence the system would put out alarms and messages and the procedure is to let the aircraft settle down. They MIGHT have tried to expedite that by climbing. IN THE END We may or may not know all with all the politics involved. I myself am doing no service with all this projection of events, I just would like to see the Pilots treated honestly for them and their families.
20U60N4
STEVE EMERY 0
Allen, the facts are that they took a bad situation and made it fatal. Stuff happens...they compounded the situation by not executing the basics which apply to biplanes and glass cockpits-
1. Aviate- fly the plane
2. Navigate - fly the plane in the right direction/altitude/airspace
3. Communicate - both in the cockpit and atc
whm3
Walter Mills 0
First, Satellite weather is fine for planning purposes. As for real time, it's worthless! Second, you all are assuming that the aircraft was put in a climb. You are in turbulence. That in itself leads to updrafts. The a/c was not on autopilot and high altitude flight is a bitch! Basic aerodynamics - in a swept wing a/c the wing tips stall first therefore causing a pitchup. The you get a huge pitch down as the thing really comes unglued. Hard to recover from. That's my 35 year airline career.
allench1
allench1 -1
Steve I do not disagree I said in a previous thread that with all the data they were getting they MIGHT have forgot to simply fly the plane. I just think calling them at this point the wrong stuff is harsh as well as premature. I would not do that and I have over 20,000 hrs. in heavies alone.
allench1
allench1 0
Very well put Walter.
20U60N4
STEVE EMERY 0
Allen, they killed all...doesn't get any harsher than that. I'm sure the same things were said of the crew of the The Titanic (the most modern ship of it's day also).
RogerCo
Roger Colwell 0
I watched the NOVA special on PBS that spoke about super cooled water and how the pitot tubes could have been rapidly frozen over. Is it possible, because of the heavy weather in the flight path, that super cooled water iced the wings and tail so heavily lift was totally compromised, also?
JetClipperSkipper
Gentlemen,
After perusing this lengthy string of comments/hypotheses one thing stands out: STEVE EMERY (20U60N4)is a twit. (Strong letter to follow.)
Katanada
Danny Vidaud 0
Walter, I have to slightly disagree on the aerodynamics. While I completely agree that a natural swept wing will stall at the tips, this ignores wing twist. the apparent aoa at the tips is then artificially made lower than the root so that the root stalls first at all conditions. VGs are placed along the span of the wing to delay the propagation of separation span-wise. -- One thing I will say to back up your comment is that the type of airfoil that is used on a commercial airliner is NASTY in a stall because the upper surface is extremely flat for high-speed cruise. -- so -- conclusion, root still stall first, stalls on airliners propagate real fast and lead to a really bad day.
whm3
Walter Mills 0
Danny, I can't disagree with the twist comment. I was speaking of swept in general such as the 707 wing. However, in decent turbulence all bets are off as far as any wing configurations go. Weird and serious things do happen at altitude.
Katanada
Danny Vidaud 0
100% agreed :) -- there are some very complex and strange phenomena that occur even with slight movements of the wing at speed and altitude. Those are the kinds of things that I want to learn about
whm3
Walter Mills 0
Steve, I too have to take offense to your last comment. No one "killed all". You ego and lack of experience is showing. I will remind you that there is a huge difference between a KC-130 and a swept wing jet at high altitude. It seems to me that many parties are trying hard to put the blame on the ones who cannot defend themselves.
whm3
Walter Mills 0
Danny, read about the crash of a Northwest 720 in Florida in the early 1960's. That crash pretty much wrote the book on swept wing jets and turbulence in the industry.
Katanada
Danny Vidaud 0
You mean flight 705 in '63. right?
whm3
Walter Mills 0
That would be it
WigzellRM
Ralph Wigzell 0
Further fact:
The report quotes some of the pilot's conversation -- who were not named -- and reveals that they were aware of the upcoming turbulence and storm.Four hours and six minutes into the flight, one of the co-pilots, referred to as PF, called the cabin crew, telling them that: "In two minutes we should enter an area where it'll move about a bit more than at the moment, you should watch out... I'll call you back as soon as we're out of it." The report said that four hours and 10 minutes into the flight, "The autopilot [and] then auto-thrust disengaged," and co-pilot PF said: "I have the controls." The report said the stall warning sounded twice in a row. At four hours and 10 minutes into the flight the other co-pilot, referred to as PNF said: "So, we've lost the speeds." A second later the stall warnings sounded again the report said. At about this time, "The speed displayed on the left side increased sharply," the report said. The aircraft was then at an altitude of about 37,500 ft.The report said that at this time co-pilot PNF tried several times to call the captain back to the cockpit. The aircraft then climbed to 38,000 ft and at around four hours 11 minutes and 40 seconds into the flight, the captain re-entered the cockpit. During the following seconds all of the recorded speeds became invalid and the stall warning stopped, the report said. Co-pilot PF said "I don't have any more indications", and the co-pilot PNF said "we have no valid indications". About a minute later co-pilot the PF said "We're going to arrive at level one hundred." This is a height of 10,000ft. About fifteen seconds later, the data recorder indicate "simultaneous inputs by both pilots on the sidesticks." The recordings stopped at 4 hours 14 minutes and 28 seconds into the flight.
20U60N4
STEVE EMERY 0
Oh, myyyyyy ego....Walter, I was an IP at 27. Flew with alotta hi ego guys. Many were unsafe. This was a known problem with that aircraft since 2001. As for your offense taken, say it to the families partner.
utahcamera
Tim Smith 0
Be a cold day in hell when you catch me on any Airbus. One need only view the crash in the trees at the Paris Air Show to see that the computers pull the Pilot out of the mix. Scary and deadly. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBFG3_y6zIg]
allench1
allench1 0
Steve the only thing that the Titanic and the A330 have in common is both captains were resting. I also agree with Walter. It is so so easy to look at something in our chairs another to be in that situation with all that was thrown at them in mere seconds. What your situation was Steve in that old plane was much simpler to identify and handle than the flight decks they have today. I for one after your continuing to judge these pilots is to put you in a sim and in their circumstances and see how you perform. Then we could all comment on how you killed everybody.
20U60N4
STEVE EMERY 0
According to Ralph, the Captain was at the controls. Perhaps if they had turned the Star Wars stuff off and/or not control input the plane into a stall they could have lived to tell us about it.
tb1011
T.B. Casey 0
The post by R. van Dyke would be much improved were he able to spell and write English a bit better; some knowledge of aviation would also be helpful.
WigzellRM
Ralph Wigzell 0
The captain wasn't at the controls. He was in the bunk and the two more junior copilots called him back to the cockpit. I reckon by the time he got back to the cockpit the plane was already in trouble so he could not get into his seat and tried to assist them from the observer's seat.
allench1
allench1 0
Steve I understand your sentiments for the passengers I just for one think you should reserve that harsh a statement until more facts are disclosed. The pilots also have families and fiends.
markaz
markaz 0
Pardon me for changing the direction of the conversation, I just don't think finger pointing for something that is speculation is doing little more than dividing a group with common ground.
I am very curious about a couple of things. Aren't pitot static tubes heated? Sure the ambient air temp at FL350 can be -60 Degs. C, but with highly conductive metals I would think that superheating the heads would thwart icing. Someone please explain why icing would occur on such a vital component in the year 2009.
Secondly, the A330 is completely fly-by-wire (I think). Regardless of how many hours a pilot has at the joystick, is it at all possible that the mayhem in the cockpit could be caused by faulty computers/wiring. Just from an observers viewpoint, I can see how the cable and pulley system is superior in terms of reliability. Am I wrong or does the number of backups make fly-by-wire nearly foolproof and in no way potentially lending to the cockpit confusion?
Thanks for any answers to clear up my ignorance on the topics.
dave40
dave40 0
Check the records of 330's. A pile of junk.
WigzellRM
Ralph Wigzell 0
Who or what is to blame depends on many factors and the BEA reckon that the full report will only come out in a year or so. Airbus will hope like hell that the plane was not at fault, and family and friends of the crew will hope that they are not to blame. Fly by wire planes are not supposed to let the aircraft exit the flight envelope no matter what the crew do, but we know already that is fallible. Until this accident, and the Afriquiyah accident, crews were probably trained to rely on the latter and stick and rudder flying ignored, but I believe that is changing. So the cause might be a combination of design and training shortcomings. We will have to wait and see what the BEA comes up with.
allench1
allench1 0
after further reading of Ralph's log I would throw this out: The PF & PNF perceived the lack of airspeed indicators were the reason for the stall warning and for about a min. and half they thought the PFD's were working and were waiting for things to settle down as they are now taught only then to get hit with the loss of indications and descending rapidly in a nose up attitude which they then both tried to push the nose over to no avail. I am not sure one could put the blame on any one event as usual. The training that they were given based on this condition having happened previously showed that after a few minutes everything would return to normal thereby maybe delaying an urgent response.
20U60N4
STEVE EMERY 0
Ralph I stand corrected, report is that he was in the cockpit but not at the controls when they stalled the plane
WigzellRM
Ralph Wigzell 0
Of course, first and foremost the pitot heaters shouldn't have failed all at once...
gotta go now,
cheers
Ralph
flyguyph
Paul Hensel 0
Steve are you 100% sure "they" were directing the a/c and not the computer as in the Paris flight into trees issue?
20U60N4
STEVE EMERY 0
Paul, according to France BAE (like our FAA/NTSB?), the autopilot had dis-engaged.
DerekAshton
Derek Ashton 0
Some contributors are asking about fly-by-wire and software managed flight systems. As a software designer of 44 years experience and having worked on 'life critical' embedded systems, I live in great fear of boarding any aircraft with such systems. It is difficult to say how many times I have witnessed very poor quality software being produced by some of todays electronics giants. Their managements work in a cost-driven environment and hire software engineers with minimal experience, often not with a good command of the english language, and enforce minmimal quality controls. Many of these corporations nolonger hire people like myself because we are simply too expensive compared to new graduates from emerging countries. During one phase of my career, I was employed to institute quality management systems so I really do have close working knowledge of these issues. The same applies to the micro-chips embedded in almost everything today (automobiles included), there are many cases of deaths due to software incompetents and the corporate attitude of 'ship it, take the profit, and hope there are no re-percussions during our tenure'. Regulators are almost always too cozy with their flock but there need to be serious punitive consequences for anyone not maintaining the highest possible level of responsibility when lives are at stake. Unfortunately, we live in a world where money will always control everything, not ethics.
boughbw
Brian Bough 0
All of this is utterly predictable. While I am sympathetic to the notion that the pilots were overwhelmed, I would imagine that the glide capabilities of the plane would have sustained the aircraft for a long time from 38,000 feet even in bad weather. Air Transat 236 (A330) and of course the US Airways 1549 (A320) show just what can be accomplished and how much time can be bought just by gliding on the Airbus. How is it that an airplane can go into an unrecoverable stall at cruising altitude, then crash into the ocean on its belly at a high velocity? The only way I can figure that this is pilot error is if it isn't pilot error and the pilots intended to do what eventually happened. I completely doubt that. More likely, we're looking at a system-wide malfunction on the aircraft.

I am a computer guy. For me, a lot of things get resolved if I just reboot. Does anyone know this system well enough to think that at some point the pilots tried to reboot the entire system to restore function when probably literally everything looked to be malfunctioning? Is such a suggestion in the scripts that the pilots have for overcoming Airbus problems? Did the dive cameras look in the cockpit to see what scripts were strewn about and likely in-use by the pilots?

If we agree these pilots were competent, then we agree that France and Airbus are telling us they failed to aviate rather than the plane failing to be aviated. That is all too convenient for France and Airbus.
toolguy105
toolguy105 0
People we can Monday quarterback this event from now to Saint Swizzles day. Facts of the matter are is that you had an over automated aircraft that lost its automation, sent out numerous and confusing alarms causing confusion as to what was going on. When all is said and done you can place the blame on the pilots if you want to. I prefer to place the blame on the manufacture for building an aircraft that is marketed as a plane that will save itself and override a bad decision by a bad or poorly trained pilot.

Facts are the systems that are suppose to save the plane failed because of an improper pitot system. One the manufacturer and the airline knew about and were too dollar or make that Franc's conscious to take care of in an expedient manner. After the incident Air France quickly replaced the pitot tubes as fast as they could acquire them.

My vote; place the blame on Airbus first, Air France second and give the crew the do they are do. They did the best they could with the training they had and the situation they faced. Unfortunately it was not enough.

May advice: Follow my motto, if it ain't Boeing I ain't going.
20U60N4
STEVE EMERY 0
Every accident occurs as a result of a chain of errors. The first in this one was when the Captain said something to the effect "there's really bad weather shortly up ahead, I'm headed to the bunk for a nap"
ExCalbr
Victor Engel 0
Steve, please cite where the captain said that.
flyguyph
Paul Hensel 0
Steve, that was my point in asking if the computer could have still been making the inputs to the flight controls. I doubt if the auto pilot was on in Paris. The pilot put in the proper inputs but the computer overroad him. I guess you are not 100% sure hey??
flyguyph
Paul Hensel 0
Victor, gliding the bird was not an issue, they either could not decifer the attitude of the plane or couldn't control it. they had engine power at their disposal.
20U60N4
STEVE EMERY 0
Victor, from the BEA;
The report states the experienced flight captain, 58-year-old Marc Dubois, was resting when the Airbus began encountering difficulties, but was present at an in-flight briefing with co-pilots David Robert and Pierre-Cedric Bonin shortly before the flight began encountering serious turbulence.
According to the French air accident investigation agency, the BEA, one of the pilots on board the flight from Rio to Paris called the cabin crew two hours and six minutes into the flight to tell them that "in two minutes we should enter an area where it'll move about a bit more than at the moment, you should watch out", adding: "I'll call you back as soon as we're out of it." Just over eight minutes later everyone on board was dead.

Paul - the a/p was off and they were flying the plane...doubt they'll determine "Hal" crashed the plane
ExCalbr
Victor Engel 0
Steve, I'm familiar with that report, which is clearly different from what you said earlier.
20U60N4
STEVE EMERY 0
Vic...reading is funda-mental...here it is again, in 2 parts

Captain said something to the effect


"there's really bad weather shortly up ahead, I'm headed to the bunk for a nap"


although in French it probably sounded alot sexier
mauben
The bottom line is that mechanical failures, software failures, pilot errors etc.. are always very real possibilities than can NEVER be totally avoided. Flying at 30,000 ft or driving at 100 km/hr on a straight or curved road are basically just a crap shoot on whether you will come out alive despite and sometimes because of any precautions you may have taken to avoid becoming a statistic.

These poor pilots did the very best they could within the constraints imposed by their training, the hardware, the software and simply pure luck or lack of it. Putting any blame on them at all for this particular event is simply lunacy and anyone who says otherwise is just a fool in paradise.

Maurice
mrippe
mrippe 0
did this aircraft have the suspect pitot tubes?
how likely is it that all three tubes failed at the same time?
assume that the tubes got blocked by ice, the autopilot would "think" that the airspeed had fallen off and would increase engine thrust to compensate
i have also read in aviation week and other publications that aircrews have had issues with the airbus warning systems.
i.e a sensor fails, the system sends an alert pointing to this failure. then every system/device connected in any way to the failing item, sends an alert. the crew drowns in information. in this accident,how could the crew tell if the problem was with the tubes, the voter, the airdata computer, the flight director, etc, when all are howling for attention at the same time. i think that airbus and other manufacturers need to look at this before another catastrophic incident occurs. it would seem to me that a way to do this would be to lock a crew up in a simulator for 12 hours and hit them with small problems about once every five mins annoying the #$^ out of them, then at about eleven hours into this, when they are ticked off, tired, irritated, etc, then hit them with a big one. then study their reactions and go from there.
ExCalbr
Victor Engel 0
Steve, repeating your fantasy doesn't make it true. My understanding is that the person who mentioned the rough weather ahead was one of the copilots. My interpretation is that this announcement came across while the captain was resting. Apparently, you believe the captain made the announcement and then rushed off for a nap, but that's not what is reported.

Mark, yes, this plane had the old style pitot tubes. The wikipedia article on this crash seems to be thorough and up-to-date (in case you want to read further).
allench1
allench1 0
Victor I do not understand Steve's insistence on blaming the pilots, maybe he is just upset he could only fly the old c130 turboprop, as Walter so pointed out his misunderstanding about upper elevations and their inherent ability to mystify you sometimes in an educational way and sometimes in a what the heck was that kind of way. Planes do the same thing, we all know this. Flying is much like a Doctor, he is practicing medicine and we are practicing flying for neither of us quit learning. I can only imagine what the Captain was going though, but I do know it is always lurking back in our minds to hope we never have to take that long ride down. Bless them all
brudeluti
All bull come on friends ? This airbus do what they want to do , never more fly this plane just Boeing or Embraer !
Also , they gonna close doors in few years if they don't put a fucking bottom to turn off automatic things and turn of f this flywire they made !

This is obvious for everybody ! Why binladen monkey take just boeing at building trade center ? Sure because is possible to PILOT it !

Regards bruno
mraede
Michael Raede 0
As stated above, all accidents occur as a result of a chain of events with a tragic outcome. From what we’ve learned from BEA’s preliminary report, this accident is no exception:
• The pitot tubes provided wrong speed indications
• Having no reliable airspeed information, the flight computers could not maintain the flight envelope protection and changed to alternate law, transferring a more direct control of the airplane to the PF.
• Apparently the PF had full control of the a/c itself (Control surfaces and engines) until it crashed (Not meaning control about the a/c’s flight, i.e. no controlled flight), because of which, the preliminary conclusion could be that the PF worsened the condition in a way that led to the accident. -> Stalled a/c, nose up, idle at FL100.
• Therefore, should it be so, does not necessarily imply pilot error, it just means that the PF might have acted differently and that by doing so he might have avoided the tragic outcome.
• Why the PF might have worsened this condition, should this be ratified in the final report, is also something that has to be clarified; it might be lack of training, it might be improper training, it might be because of improper procedures, it might be due to conditioning by previous situations, it might be due to a loss of situational awareness, it might be because of a lot of things which have to be studied. The analysis of the FDR and a lot of simulator time, simulations and tests will provide an insight about this that will result in actions and measures that probably will prevent this kind of accidents in the future making air travel much safer for all of us.
• We should all remember that all this speculation is based upon preliminary data.
ExCalbr
Victor Engel 0
I have a magnetic compass question. Are magnetic compass indications just one dimensional, i.e., degrees from north? Or are they two dimensional? If they were two dimensional, they could be used to confirm airplane attitude.

A mechanical magnetic compass held in hand at ground level in the continental United States, for example, not only points toward magnetic north, it also points slightly downward. The closer you get to the north pole, the more downward it points. Basically, it tries to allign with the magnetic field lines, which fill 3D space.
markaz
markaz 0
Interesting question. To be doubly sure I searched and found that in addition to rotation the compass also "tilts" +/-18 degrees while sitting in a liquid media similar to kerosene, thus giving a crude attitude indication. You'd have to be super-human to think of looking at it or having ice-water traveling through your veins with everything else going on around you.
Just read another account of the BEA preliminary report and to think for one minute that the pilots were in any way at fault for the eventual crash is very hard to fathom.
From FL380 to 10,000 feet and finally to impact the recorder indicated a consistent 35 degree angle of attack and a ground speed of 123 MPH at the moment of impact. The FDR also indicated the pilot "attempted" to pitch the nose down with decreased thrust. It descended at 10,000fpm and maintained the same 35 deg angle of attack all the way down (according to the FDR). The article cited here states "They also faced unexpectedly heavy icing at 35,000 feet." and the conversation here and in the article has centered on the pitot heads. What about the rest of the aircraft? Sounds like a solid block of ice fell out of the sky and the systems were indicating anything other than stall. Pure speculation on my part though.
markaz
markaz 0
There now appears an article on WSJ-online: "Black Boxes Point to Pilot Error" and an audio explaining the data on the FDR's. The argument boils down to the pilots were unaware that the aircraft had slowed down stall speeds.

That result would certainly save Airbus and Air France some serious coin. Just thought of what my father taught me: "Figures never lie, but liars figure".
joeythes
Joseph Suskin 0
Dont understand how any pilot can be so quick to lay the blame on other pilots. Even if they were 100% at fault, that cockpit was a sh*t show in those four minutes, and I defy any pilot here to prioritize emergencies in a situation for which you have not been trained.
Question for the heavy pilots here - with the capt out of the cockpit, I presume on of the copilots was acting p-i-c?
WigzellRM
Ralph Wigzell 0
From the report I was watching on France24 TV a few minutes ago, the captain, was heard telling the pilot flying (PF) copilots to lower the nose, reinforcing the postulation that they had pulled the nose up too high.
whm3
Walter Mills 0
It's also important to understand that the senior pilot/captain may not necessarily be the most experienced one on the that particular a/c. You also could have one or more copilots that are either 330 captains or captains on another type of a/c
WigzellRM
Ralph Wigzell 0
Depending on the airline, some copilots can be quite long in the tooth (promotion might be slow resulting in very experienced copilots).
allench1
allench1 0
Walter and Ralph are right, I had a FO and a 2nd that was also a captain on most of my flights because of their length. By the way Walter and Ralph the only and I repeat only time a pilot with experience would increase his angle of attack is if he believed he was in a severe downdraft which would be plausible due to the weather they found themselves in and seeing their VSI pegged coupled with the airspeed they knew they had when entering the area of severe turbulence I could see where they would not realize they were in a stall until they realized they were at level 100.
boughbw
Brian Bough 0
Here is another article that I think makes it much clearer to me:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/8541703/3.5-minutes-of-terror-Air-France-crash-dropped-at-10000-feet-a-minute.html

I imagine that the nose of the plane is up as the plane runs out of forward inertia -- suddenly the tail of the plane is leading the descent with the nose still pointed upward.

For whatever reason, the pilots aren't able to push the nose of the plane back down to recover from the stall. As a complete layperson on this, it seems to me that the plane is only airworthy when it is flying forward. When it is unable to establish forward inertia, it has no ability to maneuver -- and the engines suddenly aren't powerful enough to overcome the backslide. Tail hits slightly before the rest of the plane and snaps off.

Maybe there was pilot error that help contribute to the stall, but the engines on this plane would otherwise be sufficient to overcome it if they were responding to the pilot and not to a computer.

I truly pity the all people who died on this flight. They knew the whole way down what was going to happen.
allench1
allench1 0
Brian once the pilots reacted to what I believe they thought as stated above they put the aircraft in what is known as a deep stall and well over 90% of the time it is unrecoverable.
boughbw
Brian Bough 0
Convenient for Airbus and Air France. The pilots responded to what the computers were telling them, therefore it is their fault. Anger and sadness are a horrible mix.
whm3
Walter Mills 0
Has anyone considered the fact that bad pitot systems can also show an erroneous airspeed on the high side. Then you would pitch up to prevent a high speed stall.
allench1
allench1 0
Walter I think they would have noticed the VSI once they started down,but you could be right!or by then they would have already been in a deep stall, either way produce no good results in this case, sad but i am afraid this is going to land on the pilots head which would be so wrong.
20U60N4
STEVE EMERY 0
Allen; have you ever been out of Navaid range or over the pond on Celestial Nav? As a 26 yr old AC-IP I was responsible for safety of flight (not the pilots union, my sim instructor, or Lockheed). This accident happended the same as most...the pilot(s) flew a flawed but flyable aircraft into the deck. In the miltitary, commanding officers get fired for that.
allench1
allench1 0
Steve I am not going there yet. You need to give a little respect for the pilot and their families and friends until more comes out, can you not see what they have released so far is not all that is known at this time. I point out the fact that it is fly by wire and the elevator could have been frozen in an upward deflection,not likely, but possible in which case they could not lower the nose. Let's give it some time. You may be right and you may not be right but hanging the pilots so early on is just not noble.
heyboom
john rytkonen 0
When it comes to EURO LINER, AIRBUS, Remember the De Havilland Comet should be the refrain.......
Remember NEW ORLEANS, Remember the Jumbo in the SOuth Pacific, remember a few birds takes one down in NY.
When the video game cockpit has a minor snafuu, bad things happen.
markaz
markaz 0
Props to you, Allen. My FI for my instrument ticket called me out of the blue about 2 months ago to say he was flying into KGEU and just wanted to get together for a "Remember when...? session". He pulls up in a 1973 Cessna 150 with all the OEM avionics he flew from KOJC. Long story short, we went out and executed precision landings at an abandoned airfield. Person to have the right main hit inside the 'circle' created by the lower half of the runway number "8" the most times was the winner. I bought beers all night.
Couldn't help but feel what I had been missing all these years and right now in the market for a Bellanca Viking. All I need to do is make sure I pack a lunch for something to eat from the outer marker inbound.
Actually 'flying' an airplane for the first time in years was such a thrill. Have fun in the 18, Allen.
20U60N4
STEVE EMERY 0
LOL...Hi David. Virtually every accident investigation leads back to pilot error/disregarding the basics. Example: even a twit knows that when your hear the stall horn, you add power and nose over....especially at Flight Level 350. Good pilots are most critical where it matters...live and death See this link.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/05/27/leader-blue-angels-quits-4-jets-flew-low-recent-air/
drpepper
ed george 0
I would encourage everyone to watch the PBS show NOVA that did their own independent investigation with the same conclusions, except that the pilots would have a slim to none chance of keep the aircraft under control.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/crash-flight-447.html
ExCalbr
Victor Engel 0
That documentary, obviously, was made without the benefit of the data this thread is in response to, just to put it in proper context.
markaz
markaz 0
Amen to that, Allen. I've flown darn near every single pre-2004 and by far enjoyed the Viking much more than the Bonanzas and Mooneys. Strictly a pilot aircraft is accurate.
dave40
dave40 0
The only conclusion to draw from all the comments made thus far, is that STEVE EMERY- note he types his name in caps ro stress his importance - is the only person alive who could have saved the day in the 330. He even resorts to name calling when he doesn't agree with a comment.
Katanada
Danny Vidaud 0
Ok just because we all want to beat Steve with a <large> stick (myself included) -- yes I, inserted <large> after I typed that.. -- doesn't mean we just disregard everything he says. I think he still deserves a decent answer or a challenge to his answer so he can go shut up and think about it for a few minutes before coming back and giving an arm-chair pilot reply :)

SO -- since I've missed out on a LOT of the conversation so far... I'm going to comment on a lot of stuff. STARTING ... with Steve. :)

Steve's Example NOT taken out of context and a ::proper quote:: from his post earlier: "...even a twit knows that when your hear the stall horn, you add power and nose over....especially at Flight Level 350."

Assumptions he makes:

1) The airspeed indication is such that a stall warning is believable. If the instrumentation available on the a/c is not sufficient for detecting a stall, it will give false positives. Stall warnings and stick shakers do not actually indicate stall. *see wind-shear recovery procedures* and how to "fly the shaker/eye-brows".

2) Assuming #1 is irrelevant and your airspeed indication and "stall" algorithms are working properly, you assume that ice accretion is not a factor. Ice will accumulate slightly ahead and behind stagnation points of relatively sharp leading edges. With increasing push to laminar flow technology, thin LE (leading edges) have been employed on many a/c including Airbus and Boeing. -- As it turns out, the horizontal stabilizer has a thinner leading edge than the main wing and will tend to build ice faster than the main wing. Ice will reduce the margin of stall significantly and you may never get a warning before you exceed the available alpha on the wing or tail. As it turns out, if your tail stalls first, the recovery is actually to REDUCE power slightly and pull the nose UP -- hard.

3) Assuming #1 and #2 are irrelevant, you assume that stalls are quasi-static conditions. There is some validity to that for most flights. As Walter pointed to Flight 705 earlier (that I didnt have time to respond to btw! SORRY WALTER!) -- Situations exist in nature that will throw off the assumptions made for quasi-static stall conditions. If you're in very rough weather with upward and donward gusts or drafts, the variance in alpha (angle of attack) can be dynamic enough to throw off the assumptions of quasi-static stalls. This leads to extremely interesting aerodynamics and high-load stalls which behave differently to low-speed quasi-static stalls. *see wind-up stalls and flight test maneuvers*

4) Assuming 1,2,3 are irrelevant. They're in a thunderstorm. Planes don't do well in thunderstorms. I don't care how well trained you are. You see a thunderstorm? 50-miles is as CLOSE as you ever want to get to one of those things. They're nasty and unless you've built a flying tank, you're not going to survive it.

-------------

OK DONE WITH STEVE.
Katanada
Danny Vidaud 0
... more comments to come soon.
heyboom
john rytkonen 0
Here we go again...... the bastards are trying to blame the pilots..... for trying to find clear air...... Severe turbulence, Dutch roll with pitching, video game displays -fubar, no reliable airspeed. Not a good place to be.
Katanada
Danny Vidaud 0
There have been a few other comments that I've found interesting on here:

1) Pitot tubes freezing and 3 simultaneous frozen tubes (what are the chances?)

>> Most commercial airliners in production are fitted with 3 tubes near the nose to give the pilot a portion of his speed indication (part of the equation is solved from data read from these tubes.) There are more pitot tubes on the aircraft used for different things (e.g. calculating EPR). If it is a test aircraft, it has MANY more. The ones pilots tend to depend on for their speed readings are the three that everyone seems to be familiar with on this forum. If designed properly, the pitot tubes are aligned and located in such a way so that they are exposed to very similar conditions with little aerodynamic interference. -- As such, when exposed to very similar amounts of very cold water from a high-altitude storm it is likely that all 3 will freeze under the same condition, making the assumption that the particular icing condition greatly exceeds the manufacturing and design tolerance variances inherent to building actual things. -- As some have mentioned in this forum, the particular pitot tubes on this airplane were subject to scrutiny because of prior mis-readings on this same (and similar) routes.

As to the comment on 2009 pitot technology: nature will always come up with something to beat you with a stick with as hard as everyone wants to beat Steve with a stick.
Katanada
Danny Vidaud 0
John, exactly my thoughts. -- I think the pilots likely did the best they could in the situation they had at hand. -- 100% agree with the sh*t show comment above. :)
heyboom
john rytkonen 0
Blaming the pilots for this situation is like the USAF blaming C-17, B-52, and KC-135 crews killed because they were told to practice for an airshow demonstration...... and some damn TACOMCISED General yelling at them to tighten it up......
Katanada
Danny Vidaud 0
GLIDING comment:

Yes, these airplanes glide. -- Pretty darn well actually ... --- They don't glide in thunderstorms though. :(

MAGNETIC COMPASS comment:

It is very true that compasses do these things. Unfortunately, they do these things when you're holding them steady on the ground, not moving, not doing anything funny, not in turbulence, not turning, not climbing, descending, accelerating, decelerating ... etc.

I'm sure a lot of IFR pilots here can tell you what compass turns and timed turns are all about. :) Add in a thunderstorm and go try doing a compass turn... :)

I know I'm being a little sarcastic -- but it is true that, in theory, you could do those back calculations.

UNRECOVERABLE DEEP STALL comment:

Sorry I paraphrased. I didn't scroll up and copy/paste. -- It is true that deep stalls in commercial airliners are very difficult to recover from. It turns out that, in theory, they should be pretty easy to get out of under certain assumptions (that don't always hold). Deep stalls, for those who aren't familiar, start from attaining an angle-of-attack (alpha) that is high enough to shadow your horizontal stabilizer. The idea being that when STEEVVVEEEEEEEs assumptions apply, where you hear the stall warning horn and try to nose over ... the nose doesn't respond. -- Essentially its the situation where you can move the stick forwards and backwards the full range and there's no response from the a/c and you're falling out of the sky.

It turns out that if you can get the airplane in any sort of side-slip or strong bank angle, the separation wake of the main wing should move just enough to give you some control back. This is something that tends to be beyond the computer simulation capabilities of a/c design companies and they tend to rely on (expensive) quasi-static wind-tunnel data to make these conclusions. The problem is that in practice, you don't get into these situations in a quasi-static fashion, they're very unpredictable, and very much outside the normal flight envelope of the airplane. If a deep stall is sustained for long enough, you may end up in a situation where you either hit the ground, or risk a partial (if not full) in-flight break-up. The loads could very easily be large enough to significantly damage your a/c during the fall.


WHY NOT USE THE ENGINES? comment:

Sorry I paraphrased again. -- The engines are actually good. It would be a wonderful idea to try to power your way out of it. -- Particularly, this is how fighter pilots get through their high-alpha maneuvers... very impressive.

There are a few slight issues with this idea because of the fact that the airflow entering the engine is very oblique. -- I'm sure some of you have noticed on take off or taxi at your local airport .. occasionally you will see a vortex being "lifted" off the ground (sometimes with water or snow in it). This is completely normal to see when you have a slightly cross-wind condition. If your airplane takes off with a strong cross-wind, these vortexes will form and sometimes they are very visible (and fun to watch!). At some point, well beyond alpha of your main wing (by design and regulation), the inlet of the engine will also stall. This, in turn, would improve the chances of an engine stall (possible surge) and flame-out. High-altitude recovery of a flame-out is not easy. Usually you need to descend to below 10k ft to try and re-light. ATP HEAVY PILOTS CORRECT ME IF I"M WRONG. -- So, if you actually still have control over your engines as this situation is developing, by all means, power out. If not, try getting one engine to push you over just enough to pull out of the deep stall. If not, you don't have engines to play with :(

FLY BY WIRE IS UNRELIABLE comment:

Fly-by-wire has become a standard in the industry. Testing on the Boeing side began in a 757 for when the 777 came out in the 90s. Its a very good system and saves a lot of weight. It turns out that as airplanes become more and more complex (learning and taking advantage of aero-elastic effects), you need to use fly-by-wire because the control laws may change at higher speeds in ways that would seem very strange to the normal person. Take a look at the A380 triple aileron and how that moves under normal flight conditions. The B787 along with many other a/c have inboard high-speed ailerons that start to take effect at higher Mach numbers. -- Also spoilers for high banking. Ailerons have ceased to be the tabs that JUST roll your airplane. They do a lot of other fancy things now to try and make the passengers life much better, they make the flight smoother and give the pilot maximum roll authority for each design point in the flight envelope. -- For better or for worse, pure hand-flying of these airplanes has become impossible.

-----------

THERES MY 5-cents. :)
markaz
markaz 0
Well thought out post, Danny, and you make some valid points. What is highlights are differences in opinion on what mandatory changes are required to make newer aircraft fly safely vs the need for highly sophisticated aircraft to replace aircraft with high safety profiles.
If these newer aircraft with computer-guided systems are mandatory for the health of the global economy, then we must be willing to accept tragedies that may have well be averted using "antiquated' technology. If it's possible for pilot training to keep up with all the advances and potential scenarios for disaster, amen and good luck to that.
At the end of the day many more tragedies such as this will occur and be the subject of many more conversations such as this.
20U60N4
STEVE EMERY 0
Everyone here is a Monday Morning QB at this point. Here are some points to ponder:

1. Captain had a weather briefing including sat photos. They have weather radar. Yet he chose to leave the flight cockpit for his "rest" about 2 hrs into the flight just before entering this bad weather.

2. This aircraft type has know pito-staitc icing issues back to 2001. After the autopilot kicked off, there was a disparity between the 2 airspeed indicators. Shouldn't someone have thought "indicator failure"?

3. Once it failed,could they at least get groundspeed from their nav system (INS, GPS?)and have referenced that?

4. Basic flying is Power-attitude-trim...were the power gauges and Gyro working? Couldn't they have just set "flyable" power and the proper attitude?

Here is the latest official report.


http://www.bea.aero/fr/enquetes/vol.af.447/point.enquete.af447.27mai2011.en.pdf
npog99
Steve, the response to your question is ABSOLUTELY. There is nothing to explain. Just imagine all the things and commitments you have planned for your return. A simple hard-to-get doctor appointment for that return day is an excellent way to start the chain of events. Let alone a date!

I expect the flight deck to commit to the safety ofnthe flight, first. Whether as a working crew member, or as a passenger, I will not fly the trip if I sense a lack of a safety from the crew or equipment.

Having said that, in the return-to-base portion of a trip, the eagerness to be home is always a barrier.
20U60N4
STEVE EMERY 0
Danny, thx for the thoughtful reply. On your last point, don't think they can ever write an algorithm that takes into account every factor (when they do, R2D2 will be the pilot). Most pilots would not have made the quick analysis of Capt. Sulley and headed for the water...they probably would have tried to "get it back in the flight manual" and tried for LGA or Teterboro, (killin all on board and many on the ground). Lucky for them, Sulley is an IP and a flight safety guy and falls back on the basics when the situation "is not in the book". He had a much worse situation than the Air France crew and demonstrated what PIC stands for.
Katanada
Danny Vidaud 0
... here's the Matrix 'vase' question. Would Capt. Sully have chosen a different path had the airplane given him gliding radius cones and a map with available airports with large enough runways to handle his airplane? -- Capt. Sully made the best choice he could have with the information he had available at the time. -- Would his decision have been different given more information?

We don't know the situation the AF crew had at the time so I'm not sure I'd be so quick to blame them for handling it the way they did.
20U60N4
STEVE EMERY 0
Danny, Re: Time

When I was a young pup, I actually jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. At Jump School in Ft. Benning, one student asked a Question: "If our main chute fails to deploy, how long do we have to pull our reserve chute?" Answer for the Sage Jump Master: "Son, you have the rest of your life to pull that reserve chute!"
ExCalbr
Victor Engel 0
Danny, after making my comment about the compass, I did some googling, and I think the type of compass I had in mind does not exist in aviation. The issues you refer to come from the fact that current compasses use gravity -- the dial rests via the force of gravity (or a turn or other acceleration) on its support.

What I had in mind would be immune from such accelerations by having completely free motion (except translation) within its housing.

If such a compass were to be viewed directly, as opposed to being an input for an electronic system, then it would probably need to have a dial that consisted of a point at north and south with concentric circles around these. Acceleration wouldn't affect the compass because the center of gravity is the center of the spherical dial.

Anyway, I don't even know of something like that exists, but it seems like it ought to.
Katanada
Danny Vidaud 0
Haha I want one!! :) I'd buy it.
LARRYOTTODER
LARRY OTTO 0
PITCH WITH POWER CANNOT BE COUNTERED WITH ELEVATOR NOSE DOWN INPUTS WHEN THE AIRPLANE WITH UNDERSLUNG ENGINES IS AT OR BELOW STALL SPEED.

THIS IS A CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF AIRLINE TRAINING STALL RECOVERY WITH AN EMPHASIS ON MINIMUM LOSS OF ALTITUDE!
ExCalbr
Victor Engel 0
I don't think I've seen anything mentioned yet about the perception the pilots would have of their condition. They were flying at night through clouds even at 38000 feet (clouds were up to 50000 I think), so visual cues would not be reliable. That means, they would need to rely on instruments, which were giving conflicting information. In such a situation, which instruments should they have relied on?

The report mentions that the angle of attack exceeded 35 degrees. Is this something the pilots would have known? How? If not, how is it possible to reconstruct? And if it is possible, why not provide that information to the pilots?

I've heard many stories of pilots flying blind driving their plane into the ground when they felt like they were flying level. Could something like that have been going on here?
LARRYOTTODER
LARRY OTTO 0
ExCalbr. STANDBY ATTITUDE INDICATOR GIVES AIRPLANE PITCH AND ROLL INFORMATION. WHICH IS WHAT THE PILOT SEE'S AND SHOULD BE USED TO CONTROL THE AIRPLANE TO FLY OUT OF THIS STALLED CONDITION. OLD PILOT WHO HAS STALLED LARGE PART 25 AIRCRAFT FOR A JOB! (SOMEBODY HAS TO DO IT!)
WigzellRM
Ralph Wigzell 0
Not sure if the information presented by their instruments would be recorded by the FDR, modern FDRs record 400+ parameters so it may be in which case the investigators will have an idea. Normally one would cross reference the suspected faulty instruments with the standby instruments. If they were all faulty then that would have sealed their fate. I believe Airbus at some point modified their stall recovery procedures (not sure whether that was before or after the accident). The new procedure calls for power off until the aircraft is unstalled.
LARRYOTTODER
LARRY OTTO 0
WigzellRM YOU ARE RIGHT ON!! OLD TRAING DIES HARD! ANDOFTRN THE KNEE JERK REACTION
TAKES OVER! THE JOY STICK CONTROL AND LACK OF POSITION FEEDBACK DURING TURBLRNCE IS
A GREAT H/F STUDY. I SUSPECT THAT IS WHY BOEING STUCK WITH A WHEEL(EVEN THOUGH THE
777 AND 787 ARE FLY BY WIRE)
WigzellRM
Ralph Wigzell 0
Another point is that we all learned to initiate the recovery at the stick shaker BEFORE the the aircraft was stalled, whereas in their case the aircraft was well and truly stalled. Big difference.
distar97
Dennis Harper 0
The flight went down in a quarter of the time it takes to read down to this comment, maybe less. Too much happened too fast.
npog99
I am a cabin crew member, not a pilot. I am always interested in information about how an accident happened. These posts are great at trying to desciphering what happened based on the information at hand.

My concern is why was this aircraft in a storm. Besides lacking a good use of Crew Resource Management, apparently, why was not the route changed? The storm avoided? Why put an aircraft through such extreme flight conditions?

I can say that in my 17 years of flying, I have never worked a flight that went through severe weather conditions. Storms are avoided at all cost.

I can say, however, that I have been on other airliners' flights and it appeared to me they are a bit more non-chalant about flying through a storm.

WHY?
20U60N4
STEVE EMERY 0
Bravo Nick...especially with this type aircraft history of problems in icing conditions...as an experienced crew member, do you think it makes a difference if the crew is on it's last leg and headed home?
npog99
Also, I heard a comment from a pilot saying that in case of loss of speed information stream fro pitot tubes, the procedure is to keep thrust at 80% and a pitch of 6%. according to this pilot, this is an SOP, and very easy to implement.

Again, I am not a pilot. However, this sounds too gross of an error to make if such simple solution could have saved the flight.

Can someone comment on this as to educate me on the matter?

Thank you very much.
allench1
allench1 0
After reviewing new info it appears that their radar picked up a smaller echo return which the radar could not see through and by the time they were through it and then saw what was behind the first echo return they were in it, so their reaction to retard speed at that point is really the only option they had. However you have to consider that this crew had almost always had this weather condition each flight coupled with the obvious false sense of security with the planes safe flight computer thereby they had become complacent about the dangers which other pilots flying that night had chosen to deviate around. Steve was quick to blame the pilots and it is becoming more apparent they made several very bad choices, however training is going to share the blunt of this in the final report as well as a review of the software design that is obviously flawed.

WigzellRM
Ralph Wigzell 0
Well said Allen.
allench1
allench1 0
Thanks Ralph, I guess we flew when pilots that knew how to fly were in the cockpit and the others were washed out. Training was developed by shared experience,stalls,spins,gut calls etc. Maybe we could implement the past training with the new training to create better cockpit decisions instead of discipline. I have to believe a good old gut call (when your hair stands up on your neck because experience tells you this just does not feel right) could have saved this flight.
npog99
Thank you for the weather explanation, Allen.
allench1
allench1 0
You are most welcome Nicholas,flying itself is and always will be somewhat dangerous. I have seen weather phenomenons while flying heavies that needed immediate response that only happens with the experience to know the radar is a tool at best with many shortcomings.
dennisbier
dennis levens 0
pilots pilots what are u are doing