Air France 447's Pilots Lacked Training, Investigation Finds

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French investigators have found that the pilots at the helm of Air France 447 when it plunged into the Atlantic killing all aboard lacked the training to deal with a crisis at altitude.

The plane went down on June 1, 2009 after flying through a high-altitude, high-intensity thunderstorm, killing 228 passengers bound flying to Paris from Rio de Janeiro.

According to a report based on the flight's recovered recorder by the Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses, France's civil aviation authority, the "copilots had received no high altitude training for the 'Unreliable IAS' (indicated air speed) procedure and manual aircraft handling." The captain of the aircraft was resting when the plane began to fall.

The report further found that one of the copilots tried to right the plane by bringing the aircraft's nose up, the wrong thing to do in the situation and that "the engines were working and always responded to the crew's inputs."

No announcement was made to passengers as the plane fell. The wreckage was found over 10,000 feet down, on the Atlantic sea floor.

Air France politely rejected the BEA's finding in a public statement, saying that "At this stage, there is no reason to question the crew's technical skill."

The statement went on to say that Air France will comply with any recommendations handed down be the BEA and praised the pilots for the "courage and determination they showed in such extreme conditions."

Air France and Airbus, the manufacturer of the plane, are being investigated for manslaughter.

Air France Crash Details Revealed

In May, the tapes from the plane were released:

At 02:06Z the pilot flying called the cabin informing cabin crew: "in two minutes we should enter an area where it'll move about a bit more than at the moment, you should watch out". At 02:08Z the pilot not flying suggested "you can maybe go a little to the left [...]", the airplane entered a slight left turn turning off the course by about 12 degrees. Levels of turbulence increased and the crew slowed to 0.8 mach in response.

At 02:10:05Z the autopilot followed by autothrust disengaged (and remained disengaged until impact), the pilot flying said "I have controls", the airplane began to turn right and the pilot made a left nose up input. The stall warning sounded twice in a row. The recorded parameters show a sharp decrease of airspeed from about 275 knots to 60 knots indicated airspeed displayed in the left hand primary display followed by a similiar indication in the stand by instruments (the right hand speed indications are not recorded by the FDR).

At 02:10:16Z the pilot monitoring said "so, we've lost the speeds" followed by "alternate law [...]".

The airplane's angle of attack progressively increased above 10 degrees nose up and the airplane started to climb reaching up to 7000 feet per minute of climb rate. The pilot flying made nose down inputs followed by left and right roll commands, the climb rate reduced to 700 feet per minute, the bank angles varied between 10 degrees left and 12 degrees right. The speed indication on the left primary instrument sharply increased to 215 KIAS (Mach 0.68), the airplane reached FL375, the angle of attack reduced to 4 degrees.

At 02:10:50Z the pilot monitoring repeatedly attempted to call the captain back into the cockpit.

At 02:10:51Z the stall warning sounded again. The thrust levers were placed into the TO/GA detent, and the pilot flying made nose up commands on his side stick. The angle of attack increased again through 6 degrees nose up and continued to increase, the trim went from 3 degrees to 13 degrees nose up in about one minute and remained there until impact.

About 15 seconds after the second stall warning the airspeed indicated on the standby instruments sharply increased to 185 KIAS and became consistent with the left hand speed. The pilot flying continued to make nose up inputs, the airplane reached FL380, pitch and angle of attack reached 16 degrees nose up.

At 02:11:40Z the captain entered the cockpit, at that time the indicated airspeeds became invalid (airspeeds are removed being considered invalid below 30 knots, AoA values are considered invalid below 60 KIAS) and the stall warning stopped.

The airplane at that point was at FL350, pitch did not exceed 15 degrees nose up, the angle of attack exceeded 40 degrees nose up and the descent rate had reached 10,000 feet per minute. The airplane encountered roll oscillations of up to 40 degrees of bank angles, the pilot flying made a control input to the full left and full nose up, that lasted for 30 seconds. Both co-pilots stated they had no (valid) indications.

At 02:12:02Z the thrust levers were placed into idle, the pilot flying made nose down inputs, the angle of attack reduced and the indicated airspeeds became valid again.

At 02:13:32Z the pilot flying remarked "we are going to arrive at flight level 100". About 15 seconds later inputs were recorded from both side sticks, the pilot flying said "go ahead you have the controls".
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