Time to question Air France

Air France has another close call, thankfully this flight didn’t end up in the drink.  On another route over the South Atlantic Ocean, Air France pilots (and Air France in general) risk the lives of hundreds of passengers because they can’t seem to get things right.  You’d think after their accident in 2009 that Air France, working with Airbus, would have worked to resolve the issues that caused the crash and strive to prevent it from happening again.  Whether that come from better cockpit training to replacing parts that caused the crash, but instead, here two years later, the same incident almost happened again.

While some say Airbus was partly to blame, it would seem that Air France needs to share the blame as well.  There are plenty of airlines out there flying A330 and A340 aircraft and they seem to be doing quite well.  In fact, I recently flew Virgin Atlantic’s A340 between New York’s John F. Kennedy and London’s Heathrow airports and can say that the aircraft is a perfectly good aircraft.  Yes, there may be issues with the speed sensors on those types of aircrafts, but that should be an easily resolved issue.  If it happens to be that it is not, then something needs to be done to resolve the issue.

Instead of placing blame, one must question why this has happened again?  Air France, it sounds like you have some explaining to do.  Either you’re cockpit crew needs more extensive training or there is truly something wrong with your aircraft, but something needs to be done.  But I seriously have to question the aircraft issue, simply because there are plenty of other airlines using the same type of aircraft and we don’t hear the same kind of problems from them.

What do you think?  I’d like to hear your comments too.  Here’s the article from the DailyMail.

Air France aircraft

Air France jet ‘seconds from disaster’ after autopilot fails in drama with chilling echoes of Brazil crash

By Ian Sparks – DailyMail UK – 07sep11

An Air France jet was just seconds from nose-diving to disaster after the autopilot failed during ‘extreme turbulence’ over the South Atlantic Ocean.  The high-altitude alert in July chillingly echoed the cockpit chaos that preceded the fatal crash of an Air France Rio-Paris flight two years earlier, in which all 228 passengers died.  In the latest drama, the autopilot shut down as the plane hit a storm at 35,000 feet while flying from Venezuelan capital Caracas to Paris.

The plane climbed sharply to 38,000ft, losing speed and coming just three knots from stalling, which could have sent it nose-diving into the sea. French daily Le Figaro said it had seen a report into the alert and Air France had launched a full investigation into the cause of the malfunction. The paper said the drama was ‘comparable in every way’ with the crash of doomed flight AF447 on June 1, 2009.

It added: ‘Only this time there were no victims, only two of the crew who were slightly hurt.  ‘According to the report, the A340 Airbus was at its cruising altitude of 35,000ft, just as flight AF447 was before the accident, when it hit extreme turbulence.  ‘The plane hit a strong variation in wind speed and found itself going too fast – a situation which set off the “overspeed alarm”.  ‘At this point, the autopilot disconnected. It went into a steep climb and began losing speed.’

Air France Route MapThe plane then slowed drastically to just 205 knots, with an Air France pilot telling Le Figaro: ‘This was just three knots away from stalling and from probable catastrophe.’  A ‘stall’ is when an aircraft slows to a point where the wings can no longer support it and it falls from the sky.  A source close to the new investigation told Le Figaro: ‘This incident certainly takes on a particular importance in the light of the Rio-Paris accident.  ‘It will help us to understand whether there was a problem with the Airbus or in the training received by flight crew in manual aircraft handling at high altitude.’

France’s BEA accident investigation bureau confirmed it had opened an inquiry but refused to say whether the flight experienced problems similar to the 2009 crash.

In a harrowing final conversation from the cockpit of that stricken jet, black box voice recorders revealed a co-pilot screaming ‘Climb! Climb! Climb!’ as the disaster unfolded.  The BEA blamed pilot error for the crash and said a junior co-pilot made ‘successive mistakes’ as he battled with the controls.  But it also said faulty speed sensors, called ‘pitot tubes’, contributed to the catastrophe as the plane hit a tropical storm 1,500 miles north-east of Brazil.  Air France have disputed the findings and blamed a failure of equipment in the Airbus jet.  Both Air France and Airbus could now face legal action and massive compensation claims from victims’ families based on the findings of the report.

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One thought on “Time to question Air France

  1. The origin of the autopilot disconnect (turbulence) is different from the 2009 crash (Pitot tube icing), so I don’t think the plane has nothing to do. And, about the pilots, in this case they reacted well in the end. However, it should be investigated whether it was, again, wrong pilot inputs. Anyway, there is a growing rumour about pilots being more and more dependent on automation. But it is here to stay, so new practices will have to be developed o endure they still are capable of fliying manually; Air France, or otherwise.

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