Skip to comments.(AF 447) Recording Indicates Pilot Wasn't In Cockpit During Critical Phase
Posted on 05/23/2011 6:36:43 AM PDT by libh8er
What happened on board the Air France jet that crashed into the Atlantic en route from Rio to Paris? According to information obtained by SPIEGEL from the analysis of flight recorder data, pilot Marc Dubois appears not to have been in the cockpit at the time the deadly accident started to unfold.
The fate of Air France Flight 447 was sealed in just four minutes. That short time span began with the first warning message on one of the Airbus A330 aircraft's monitors and ended with the plane crashing into the Atlantic between Brazil and Africa, killing all 228 people on board.
Since last week, investigators from France's BEA civil aviation safety bureau have been analyzing the flight data and voice recordings extracted from the cockpit of the Air France flight that crashed on June 1, 2009 while traveling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. What they have learned from the recordings seems to suggest both technical and human failure.
Sources close to the investigative team have revealed that the recordings indicate that Marc Dubois, the aircraft's 58-year-old pilot, was not in the cockpit at the time the trouble began. It is reportedly audible that Dubois rushed back into the cockpit. "He called instructions to the two co-pilots on how to save the aircraft," the source with inside knowledge of the investigation told SPIEGEL.
But their attempts to save the plane were ultimately in vain.
At the beginning of May, underwater robots were able to retrieve the flight recorders from the wreckage almost four kilometers (2.5 miles) below the surface of the Sargasso Sea. Two weekends ago, investigators succeeded in extracting data from the black boxes. Within 24 hours, reports were circulating suggesting that the crash seemed more likely the result of pilot error than a manufacturing flaw by Airbus.
(Excerpt) Read more at spiegel.de ...
So his going to the bathroom caused the crash?
The Captain would have flown the first leg of the flight, and so he would have been taking his break in the crew rest area. Normal procedure.
Turbulence would have alerted him to trouble, and he would have then rushed back to duty.
So, nothing unusual in the article, although they try to make it sound bad.
My luck is every time I try to go to the bathroom my phone rings. Maybe the pilot's luck was worse than mine is.
I can only imagine that it was horrifying ride down to the ocean.
**IF** human error is the real cause, then it’s not just the left seat guy who was in error.
It’s easy to get complacent when you’re on autopilot and have experienced hundreds if not thousands of hours of prior trouble-free automated flight control, and those have encouraged you to be less than fully attentive and/or situationally aware.
The folks IN the cockpit likely had SECONDS to gain control of the aircraft after the autopilot said “I completely and absolutely give up in 50 different ways”.
Sadly it appears they did NOT take the right series of initial steps in the right time frame.
Yes, I know the facts are still a long way off, but ...
That's why they invented cellphones. But, they don't work on transoceanic flights.
In that Egypt Air crash the one guy left the cockpit and the other started the death chanting.. Hopefully not the case here. If so, we’ll get the transcripts though. Not anymore.
<< AF 447 PING >>
(No need to worry about direct testimony or pesky rebuttals).
pure conjecture and I’m not a pilot but I did stay at a Holiday Inn.
The tube on the outside of the plane iced over and the computer was receiving inaccurate air speed information.
The plane stalled and the pilots spent as much time fighting the computer as they did trying to recover from a stall.
Assuming they were at approximately 35,000 feet they would have had at least 4 minutes to recover from the stall before impacting the water. They should have been able to recover if the computer let them. Or perhaps they did recover and were too aggressive causing some kind of structural failure.
None of this yet explains how they came to be in the middle of a huge thunderstorm. Events leading up to the last 4 minutes are far more interesting in my book.
Classic ‘Q/coffin corner’ scenario as shown in that illustration.
Illustration lists @ 2:11 a possible “deep stall” but my understanding of a deep stall is that it peculiar to T-Tail designs - like the MD-80 and the B-727.
But my Vne is a mere 128KIAS and we never get close. Why waste the gas? (have to look at that placard again) .
Q corner puts the nose down, and deep stall keeps you nose up. .... on PowerPoint anyways; reality I have no clue. So I dunno. Never flown or trained to fly a swept wing fast mover.
Other flight crews in similar Airbus ships with the same failures DID recover from the condition. ALL involved loss of altitude, IIRC. this is not the first time it happened.
For whatever reasons, this crew did/could not recover the aircraft, likely from some sort of a stall condition with very limited attitude information available to them.
Again, I fly small, single engine slow-movers with that spinning thing out front. IT is VERY hard to lose control of a Champ, a Tri-Pacer, or a 152, or a 172, or a Rocket, etc etc
I’m guessing pitot tube de-icing might have come in handy.
was the co-pilot named Ach-med or somepin???
From the documentary, even flying blind they could have maintained level flight by using the established procedure of 85% engine power and 5% flaps. With all their systems shutting down, that seems like the thing to have done.
Those planes you fly don’t have a fancy dancy computer flying the plane for you.
“Feel good solutions are what most “laws” created by the FAA are all about anyway.”
Technical error in sentence corrected:
Feel good solutions are what most “laws” created by all levels of government are all about anyway.
Needle, ball, airspeed, compass, and Mark I eyeballs ;-)
With the flying we do, generally in the Champ, the eyeball is more useful than the altimeter. Oh, and the seat of your pants provides a LOT of clues as well.
I love flying direct control light aircraft — you are one with the airframe.
The plane took off at maximum weight and technically didn't have enough fuel in reserve. That's why they flew straight into the bad weather that other aircraft were flying around.
Except for the very high rate of descent the aircraft was under control. They were in turbulent weather, though, and there probably was a feeling of weightlessness.
Bullshit. The plane had enough fuel to land short of its destination based on a reclear flight plan which I fly every month. Every pilot who is issued such a plan knows that if there is insufficient fuel to reach their final destination they are to land at their reclear destination and refuel. I’m getting sick and tired of seeing this bogus explanation being trotted out.
Killed by their plane’s computer.
That’s why I used the word “technically,” a-hole.
IIRC, the area they were in is notorious for violent thunder storms.
I am not sure where you are getting your information... an out of control airplane can use up 35,000 feet of altitude in seconds not minutes. If they lost all of their engines but were still under control they could easily glide for 4 minutes, but that is not the scenario here.
“That’s why they flew straight into the bad weather that other aircraft were flying around.”
Your words. That states the crew deliberately flew into the storm due to a lack of fuel. There is nothing “technical” in that wording. Stop while you’re ahead.
I learned to fly in a 7-AC Champ back in 1960. It was built in 1946. Sure would love to have that plane now. It belonged to a flying club in SW Alabama. I paid $3.00 an hour, wet, for it and $6.00 an hour dual. Its fuel gauge was a piece of wire with a float in the tank sticking out through a hole in the fuel cap.
With a sufficient head wind you could practically hover the thing.
It had no radio, no electrical system and maybe five instruments on the panel. And a heater that did little more than make your left foot very hot.
Propping it off when you were along was always fun.
Yup, sure would love to have little flying machine now.
“BS. They should have been flying to plane instead of dorking around with computer reboots.”
Can you fly those planes without the computer?
Suppose there is a specific set of conditions, a one-in-a-million confluence of factors that causes all three flight computers to reset, or stall, or simply shut down? An attitude of X, sensor input of Y and trim condition Z that uncovers a flaw in the programming? With a fly-by-wire system, you can, and often do, have a basically unstable and unbalanced flight attitude, that the computer can maintain in a "safe" manner, but that Yeager himself couldn't handle if he was directly in control, rather than one step removed.
Flying a Champ, or a 152 or a Piper Tomahawk, you can feel when the aircraft is out of balance, because the actual pressures on the control surfaces are transmitted back to the yoke and pedals by the control cables. A balanced standard turn feels good, in a Piper. If you are ham handed, the airplane will bite back. If the Air France pilot fed in a gross control correction, however, the computer wouldn't let that aircraft obey if that input was outside parameters.
A thought: I've had a couple of flight sim joysticks go bad, and it's unsettling that it could happen to the real thing...
The graphic in post 10 shows 4 minutes. Any fall from 35,000 feet takes time. Unless you are in a powered decent the 4 minute time frame is fairly conservative.
The possibility that they would have to stop and refuel (something airline bosses don't like) gave them the motivation to do what they did.
“Technically”, meaning legally and factually, they had enough fuel to reach their destination with required reserves on their reclear flight plan. Deviations enroute for weather might put them below their reclear point fuel but in that instance they are required, by their FAA equivalent, to proceed to their reclear destination and refuel.
So, not only is your assumption that they flew into the area of bad weather because of an insufficient fuel state wrong but your assertion they did it because their “bosses” would be pissed at them flies in the face of regulatory requirements that they comply with the rules regarding reclear flight plans.
You've still got the fact that AF 447 tried to pick its way through a weather system that other flights went around.
Once upon a time you pressed your foot on the accelerator and that force open the throttle through a simple mechanical linkage;now your car computer reads a sensor and calculates the pedal position and sends a signal to the injector system.Lots more stuff to go wrong;that it doesn't go wrong more often is a testament to good engineering.
I have a question. If an Airbus flight computer suffers the blue screen of death is it still possible to fly the aircraft? If the aircraft maintained a +5 degree pitch all the way down to the ocean why didn’t the PIC or co-pilot just put the nose down a little to get out of the stall? If the controls were locked up because of the flight computer was malfunctioning then there was nothing the pilots could do except press the reset button.
As far as I know you can still fly a Boeing jet even if the flight computer is not functioning, correct?
The first place where the cascade of error messages (sent automatically by the aircraft down to the ground) was a problem with one of the toilets. Maybe the captain had some really, really bad gas.
Let's nip it in the bud right now and stop using that phrase, shall we?
Deep stall is only possible with T-type tailplane.
I understand what you are saying; we own a Cherokee which I would argue is probably easier to fly than any of the other planes you just mentioned. But, actually it has been proved repeatedly by scores of pilots that it is fairly easy to lose control of almost any aircraft. All you have to do is pull the yolk all the way back and apply full rudder.
You can't do that in a stock “spin proof” Ercoupe since they don't have rudder pedals, but you can still fly it into a cloud ... get disoriented and inadvertently point the nose toward terra-firma.
I live on an airpark (a small airport with houses built around it). I personally have known several “pilots” over the years who have managed to permanently escape the limitations of this imperfect physical world. In most cases all it took was just a small amount of overconfidence in their aircraft or their abilities. I have shared similar personality traits so but for the grace of God go I. I like to think that most of them are still experiencing the joys of flight in a place where the laws of gravity and aerodynamics no longer can cause an abrupt end to what should have been another fun day of flying.
I remember when I was first getting into hang gliding; I had explained to my skeptical new bride how safe it really was. I thought it would be a good idea to take her to the Cloud Base Country Club monthly meeting to introduce her to some fellow pilots. Unfortunately it had been a turbulent spring. The Shakeys Pizza Parlor felt like eerily similar to a hospital ward from a Marx Brothers movie. It seemed like every other person was being wheeled in with one limb or another in some sort of traction. She is very courageous... so I still managed to get her 5000 feet over launch under a tandem hang glider.
Fortunately for me since that time my wife has been my constant flying companion. She brings up the Pizza Parlor when I start making risky decisions. I can't help but wonder if she couldn't have helped the crew of the ill fated Airbus. I suspect that the sequence of events leading to the incident started much earlier than when the captain had to leave the cockpit for a potty break.
I’m guessing it was due more to complacency than to a desire to make their reclear point with required fuel but only the CVR will tell the tale. If it is ever made public.
“They should have been flying to plane instead of dorking around with computer reboots.”
Except with the Airbus the computer is what flies the plane. There is no direct controls to engine/control surfaces interaction. If that flight computer fails then so does the ability to control the aircraft.
If you could see the booger eating morons that develop flight computers you would never get on an airplane.