Report issued on 2009 Air France crash near Brazil

A scary report that seems to leave some key questions unanswered.  Even I know that when you get a stall warning you push down on the controls (to get the plane to pick up speed and lift – I accidentally wrote the opposite in the prior draft).  But, as the families note, if the plane was giving contradictory information to the pilots – to the point of sending off more alarms when they tried to correct the stall, it’s understandable that the pilots might have responded in the wrong manner.

From a broadcast I just saw on CBS, they also note that the pilot, was who out on a schedule break, didn’t come back into the cockpit for a minute and a half after the crisis started.

Also, when you take a look at the transcript, it’s not entirely clear what happened when.  It’d be nice to have an experience pilot read through it and translate it into normal English, so to speak.  Check out this snippet of the cockpit conversation, nearly three and a half minutes into the crisis – it took that long until someone other than the most inexperienced pilot took over the controls.  Also, note the captain contradicting the copilot about whether to climb or not.  Up until this point, it sounds like the captain has the right idea, but he still isn’t the one in charge of flying the plane – why?

When the most inexperienced pilot finally gave up the controls, he didn’t give them up to the captain, who was standing right there, he gave them up to the copilot.  Why didn’t the captain take over?  From the transcript of the final moments, it’s not clear if the captain ever took over the controls – again, why not?

These were the final 25 seconds – it’s creepy to read.

You can find the report here.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

Cockpit recordings showed that the captain was taking a scheduled break when the aircraft hit a shower of ice particles at night during an equatorial storm over the ocean, with the least experienced of two co-pilots at the controls.

The investigation has centered on the actions of this pilot and why the crew ignored dozens of audible stall alarms, as well as protocols which may have discouraged the senior co-pilot from overriding his colleague to take full control.

Flight data suggested the crew mainly pulled back on the control stick instead of pushing it forward to create more lift, which is the procedure for coping with a stall.

According to representatives of victims’ families, that may have been due to faulty information displayed on a panel called the flight director, an element they said had been revealed to them by the BEA but was omitted from the press release.

By the time the captain returned, the plane was in such a dire state that the aircraft’s computers gave up trying to calculate its position and turned the stall warning off.

At that point, the pilots nudged the nose forward only for the alarm to come back to life, a contradiction severely criticized by pilot unions who say it confused the crew.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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