Monday, June 06, 2011

Air France Does a DSK Move

What is it with the French and taking responsibility? Jeez, DSK goes after the chambermaid, and all the French hoity toits fall over themselves blaming the woman.

The Air France plane falls 30k feet because it stalled.... stalled! When the stall warnings went off, Bozet the Clown in the pilot's seat pulled back on the stick to bring the nose up. Did he never play "Flight Simulator"? Amazing. Yet the Air France hoity's the quote from the WSJ article:

Air France praised the three pilots, who "demonstrated a totally professional attitude and were committed to carrying out their task to the very end," the airline said in a statement.

The carrier, a unit of Air France-KLM SA, noted that "the initial problem was the failure of the speed probes which led to the disconnection of the autopilot and the loss of the associated piloting protection systems."

The largest trade union representing Air France pilots, SNPL, said Friday the report "describes only part of the sequence of events experienced by the crew" and it awaits the full report.

Now, I understand that the disconnection of the autopilot would be a problem, if (for example) I or even the intrepid world traveller Angus were sitting up front. We are not...PILOTS. Losing the piloting protection systems would indeed be a big problem for anyone who is not a trained pilot.

But I would have expected that the term "pilot" would connote some ability to fly a plane, and in particular it should mean you have training in flying the particular plane you are "piloting" across the big old ocean.

I also understand that the guys are dead, and that Air France is trying to avoid massive liability for what appears to be simple negligence in training.

Still wonder, though, how a stall alarm would say to any trained pilot, "Get your nose up!" (Two analyses, one here and then a really interesting one here. The actual pilot, the last link, seems to think it was a tough situation. And he mentions what it must have been like to have a 40 degree up angle, and then the long stall, falling into the ocean. Must have been terrifying.)

A video of the problem of stalling.


Marc said...

There is an interesting letter to AVWeb here (scroll down to the AVmail section) from an A-330 captain that talks about how difficult this particular scenario really is.

Anonymous said...


I actually also Foy The same air raft myself. I cannot imagine ANY pilot willingly pitch up the nose.
We dont k ow yet why the pitch trim wildly (uncommendedly) went from 3 to 13'?
We do not know wether it's the flight computer that 'orders' or flies itself the pitch-up because it believes to be in an overspeed situation. ?

I bet Airbus does not want to discuss those points especially before leBourget airshow.

I unfortunately believe that our fellow pilots tried their best, till the very end, in a situation that was probably not recoverable. And THAT situation was directly created by the loss of airspeed indications.

Dr. Tufte said...

I met an Air India *pilot* at a party about 15 years ago. For the most part, they were not allowed to fly the planes — the autopilot was regarded as safer and more dependable. He tended to support the idea that this made him a not-so-good pilot if there was ever a problem.

John R Henry said...

Adam Curry of the No Agenda Podcast is an aviator and has a different theory.

HE went on and on about how much training emphasis is placed on pitching the nose down in this kind of situation. He found it hard to believe that the pilot would pull up.

The Airbus is fly by wire which means that when you move the stick, it sends a signal to software which actually sends the signal to move the control surfaces.

Suppose the software had been corrupted? Suppose the pilot was pushing the stick forward and the software was saying "No, you don't know what you are doing, I'm going to pitch the nose up."

If that happened, there would probably be no way to ever know.

I am not clear if it is the case with the Airbus or even if it is still true at all but Curry also said that some fly by wire systems use Windows NT.

Now there is an encouraging thought.

John Henry

unblinkered said...

NASTY bit of commentary here Mungowitz... these pilots lost their lives trying to recover from this stall... if you want a good debate on just how tough things were in the flight deck.. go to and read the lengthy discussions by pilots and other aviation experts...

But that seems besides the point, for you to throw fecal matter at these guys with such childish sarcasm is pathetic....

Sorry, occasional but last time visitor.

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