Air France black box: Were the Air France Flight 447 pilots at fault for crash?
Air France black box: Air France Flight 447 was brought down by a combination of faulty speed sensors and confusion in the cockpit, according to a preliminary analysis by French investigators.
(Page 2 of 2)
Air France praised the professionalism of the pilots in the final moments of the flights, but numerous reports suggest that the airline had failed to give them the training necessary to respond to such a crisis at high altitude – a fault it is now trying to remedy with new training procedures.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
AVweb, a prominent source of online aviation news, reports that the type of stall that occurred over the Atlantic on May 31, 2009, was not unfamiliar to Airbus. Shortly after the crash, investigators found that similar airspeed sensor malfunctions had occurred on 13 other wide-bodied Airbus planes, causing “both the autopilot and autothrottles to disconnect.”
It found that crews took up to one minute to adjust engine thrust, manually, and nine of the episodes led to stall warnings. Airbus and Air France were aware of problem associated with the pitot tubes. The airline received replacement parts (new pitot tubes) six days before Flight 447 crashed. The crash aircraft had not yet been fitted with the new parts. Airbus and certain carriers (including Air France) have since emphasized instruction in high-altitude stall recovery.
The French newspaper Libération on Wednesday published a report highly critical of both Airbus and Air France, based on a document it obtained that was written by five unnamed French judicial experts.
In particular, the experts criticized the lack of a specific procedure for pilots to deal with the icing of airspeed sensors, particularly at high altitude. In order to determine the correct response to such a situation, pilots would have to “dig out a chart” from their documentation – something the Air France pilots clearly didn’t have time to do in a crisis that lasted less than five minutes.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Air France first reported the Pitot icing problem to Airbus in 2008, at which time the two companies discussed solutions and ultimately decided to replace the Pitot tubes with ones less prone to icing – a process that had not yet been completed at the time of the Air France crash in May 2009.
But the Journal also raises the question of whether European aviation regulators may be at fault.
The previous interim report indicated that in late March 2009, less than three months before the crash, European aviation regulators decided that the string of pitot-icing problems on widebody Airbus models wasn't serious enough to require mandatory replacement of pitot tubes.
Air France-KLM reported a profit for the 12 months ending in March this year, improving on a loss of 1.29 billion euros ($1.84 billion) during the previous 12-month period, according to the Financial Times.