Skip to comments.'Baby' Pilot at Controls of Doomed Air France Airbus
Posted on 05/29/2011 12:42:16 PM PDT by lbryce
HE was one of Air France's "company babies": a dashing 32-year-old junior pilot - and a keen amateur yachtsman - who had been qualified to fly the airline's ultra-sophisticated Airbus A330 jet for barely a year.
Yet despite his inexperience, Pierre-Cedric Bonin found himself responsible for the lives of 228 passengers and crew members on June 1, 2009, when the cockpit of his $190 million aircraft lit up with terrifying and contradictory alarm signals en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.
While Bonin held on to the plane's side-stick controller and looked at his instruments in disbelief, his co-pilot, David Robert, 37, began troubleshooting. The captain, Marc Dubois, 58, was napping outside the cockpit.
According to a newly-released report by French investigators - which finally answers some of the questions surrounding the mystery of Flight 447 - a fatal sequence of events had already been triggered when the plane's external speed sensors suddenly gave inconsistent readings, possibly because of ice.
This is thought to have caused the autopilot to disengage, which in turn brought warning of an aerodynamic stall.
That is when Bonin - who remained at the controls while Robert shouted with increasing desperation for the captain - did something that aviation experts have described as inexplicable: he pointed the nose of the Airbus upwards, causing it to slow down dramatically. He kept doing this for at least one minute until the plane had climbed 3,000ft to 38,000ft.
This one rudimentary mistake, according to the initial findings of France's aviation safety authority, might have been responsible for the aircraft no longer having enough air flow over its wings to remain aloft, although no blame has yet been officially assigned.
(Excerpt) Read more at theaustralian.com.au ...
The fact of the matter is that for many years airlines have been very anxious to have all flight data transmitted in real time to prevent just this very tragedy but the pilots' union has vehemently opposed just such measure because they did not want higher-ups questioning their judgment, decision-making process, and instead have opted for the "black box" approach that is mindbogglingly useless in saving lives.
The passengers are dead. It's very comforting to know the precises circumstances in how the passengers died. Instead of having provided live data that would have certainly saved flight 447, all that there is to show for it is Vive la France.
dashing 32-year-old junior pilot runs a $190 million plane and it’s passengers into a free fall. Hopefully his dashing co-workers take note and pay attention to their training.
It is hard to fathom how 3 pilots could have essentially ridden a stall from FL380 to the ground (sea) ... the combination of no external ques, and contradictory instrument information had to be confusing, but after a minute or 2 of holding a nose high AOA with no improvement, it seems at least they would have tried something different, like pointing the nose down. Very bizarre incident.
How the heck does the report know how the co-pilot looked? Stupid writing!
Whoops. I thought he was the co-pilot. He was the pilot.
Where was Sully Sullenberger III when you needed him?
>I don’t believe that for a second.
And you are entirely correct not to.
This article is mostly nonsense.
I still don’t see how 3 pilots could have held a nose high attitude right into the water from FL380, conflicting indications notwithstanding.
Something is missing although the report on PDF document is more inclusive.
Does Rio ice over in June? Since they are south of the equator, this is the equivalent of December 1st for them but I’ve always thought of Rio as being South America’s Miami.
Ice can be encountered at 38,000 feet during any season and at any latitude.
I am no pilot, but even I know that is bad.
You do realize that the average air temperature at 35,000 feet is -50 degrees, don’t you?
FL 350. Not exactly balmy up there. (rolls eyes)
The article says he held the nose up for one minute.
So you’re saying ground controllers could have intervened and saved the aircraft if the proper ground links were operational? How, precisely?
So Air France places greater importance on a “dashing appearance” than actual experience and expertise?
How typically French.
I think it was the center fuel tank
Question for any heavy metal pilots out there:
1. Does this aircraft have backup mechanical Artificial Horizon.
2. In case of the “glass cockpit” giving conflicting readouts, are the Air France Pilots trained to go back to a mechanical artificial horizon for attitude control? (Note: if airspeed depicted on the glass cockpit is wrong the only way to control speed is by attitude)
3. It sounds like the aircraft was in a flat spin?????
Can the A340 recover from a flat spin with input only from flight controls? What is the training for Air France Pilots in relationship to a flat spin in an A340.
4. How close would the center of gravity be to the max aft portion of the flight envelope for the aircraft with the fuel load and passenger distribution and also with 2 hours of fuel burned?
5. The old British Trident could get in “deep stall” and be
unrecoverable. This was a result of turbulence off the stalled wing hitting the horizontal stabilizer. However, the trident was a T Tail and the A340 is not.
ATP pilots please respond with your analysis.
If the pilot was getting high airspeed readings from the computers, then he did the correct thing to raise the nose if he didn't trust the other instruments (the plane must not be allowed to go into a dive and exceed NTE speed, because it will start to break up).
A quad-redundancy FCS might well have allowed it to sort out the mixed signals, but that's another story. I know Boeing was interested in using quad-R, but I don't know whether they have it in their production aircraft.
Please explain why a “flight command center” receiving data from an aircraft, in real time, as it occurs, to intervene, alert pilots on what is really going would not have saved flight 447.
Because the data being sent to the ‘center’ would have been the same data that was being sent to the fight deck instruments and causing great confusion there.
Because the flight command center would be even farther behind the aircraft
Unless his skills were way deficient, I don't see his 'inexperience' as being a factor.
How typically French.
That, and haughtily holding one's nose in the air...
A 38,000 foot STALL???? Look, I only flew little planes, but nobody has too little time to pull ANY sized plane from a stall at 38,000 feet!!!!! Sounds like a case of super-panic leading to a total mental collapse. But of 3 people??!!
Just as with the crash in which Secretary Ron Brown died (notice the careful use of words) could have been avoided if the crew had had a simple and inexpensive VFR GPS as a third reference, it appears that for all the fancy gear, this Airbus could not supply the flight crew with the simple raw attitude, groundspeed and groundtrack information that my Garmin 496 provides while running on independent internal battery pack.
I am willing to bet that Air France would forbid a flight crew member from even carrying a 496 in his bag just in case.
In both instances, the deaths could have been avoided.
Considering that every pilot is taught stall recovery before they are allowed to solo, I consider all these reports to be complete BS. And it's not something you are taught just once. It's drilled into you six ways from Sunday as you progress in your flying. My guess is that for an ATP to get certified in type he must have recovered from at least 100 stalls in various attitudes and power configurations in a flight simulator.
I was simply asking a question. Yes, I know it is colder higher up in the atmosphere although I’m no expert on the subject. But it doesn’t answer the question of why they are blaming icing as a possible cause of the crash. Planes fly across the Atlantic at 35,000 feet every day and do not crash. This one crashed. Why? Icing doesn’t explain it since all planes flying at 35,000 feet at -50 below do not crash into the ocean.
My question is what made *this* plane crash and the reports are not giving me acceptable explanations.
I see that the left seat is all set up for the Bamster.
According to the surviving pilot of the Airbus airshow crash, he was trying to climb and the computer was trying to land. The computer won and 'landed' in the trees off the runway end. My point being that the pilots here may have been doing everything right but couldn't overcome the computer. Just speculation on my part but there have been some control issues with this aircraft.
...nah, that could never happen again....
The attitude indicators (artificial horizon) are driven by the Inertial Reference Units (IRUs, a.k.a. INS), not the pitot static system. Stalling is only dependent on angle of attack, so they knew they were in a nose up situation, and based on the cockpit voice recorder, they knew airspeed indications were unreliable.
This was suicide by ignorance. Get the nose down, break the stall, level the airplane, and fly it by power settings (instead of airspeeds). Once out of the icing environment, the ice wil sublimate off of the pitot static system.
I trust U.S. airline pilots more than foreign airline pilots.
I’m not a ATP pilot, but I can categorically state:
3) the aircraft was NOT in a flat spin
4) per the BEA note to the 2nd Interim report, CG was at 29%. While this was far aft, it was within normal design limits and NOT at extreme design limit.
5) That’s correct, only T-type tailplanes can exhibit ‘deep’ stalls.
The BEA Interim Report No2 of Dec 2009 describes 32 similar icing pitot probe events which occured before AF447. 26 aircraft had the Thales C16195AA probes, two with the Thales C16195BA probes and one with the Goodrich 0851HL probes.
Nine of these A330/A340 events were identified by Air France before 1 June 2009, and their additional review of records located another six events that occured in 2008.
So 15 Air France flight crews experienced the same failures, the same warnings, the same cockpit confusion as AF447, and survived.
Across the multiple airlines which provided analysis data to BEA and Airbus - at least 10 of the icing incidents with at least two pitot probe failures apparently occured in the ITCZ between South America and Europe.
Kind of shoots the lack of training theory out the window.
The program done a couple of years ago (Bill Kurtis for — National Geographic (?)) theorized that ultra-rapid icing overwhelmed the heaters on all the pitots, thus throwing the instrument readings into complete confusion. They had some atmospheric physicists do some experiments in a wind tunnel to show how it could happen under the conditions that were apparently encountered.
They also examined the weather data for the time the crash happened, and concluded that the pilots had a storm cell showing up on their radar that they could negotiate. Unfortunately, hidden from radar behind that one was a mother-of-all-cells that presumably doomed them, perhaps indirectly due to the pitot icing.
This work was done at least a year before the black boxes were located and recovered.
Ice needs two things: low temps and water. 38,000 guarantees the low temp. There was an especially nasty storm between South America and North Africa that day, hence water. The first thing I did the morning of the crash was look at the equatorial Atlantic satellite image, and what I saw made me think the flew into an especially nasty storm, perhaps causing structural damage. Icing makes total sense.
This prompts me to recall more of the TV program I saw.
They piped the conditions they believed the 447 pilots encountered into an Airbus simulator with a highly experienced crew, and they pancaked in too.
The program said that training for Air France pilots has now been changed to cover this situation. I seem to recall an expert on the program mentioning “fly-by-throttle.”
Would you be surprised to learn that the Airbus approach to the stall recovery is almost identical to the Boeing one, the Airbus target pitch attitude is actually lower at higher altitudes?
I can see how that would have saved a lengthy aquatic search, but how would it have saved the airplane? If the instruments were not working for the guys in the cockpit, would have they have been working some controller in Paris?
If your ASI is showing you are at the NTE (not-to-exceed) speed, the last thing you want to do is lower the nose. Losing a wing is much less attractive at altitude than getting into a stall.
The CVR suggested the pilots knew the instruments were giving bad data. Regardless, as soon as one’s intestines lodge in one’s throat, and the checklist is on the ceiling, one knows they are in a stall. Stalls are stalls. They are unsettling. The horn, the burble, the sluggish controls, followed by that (literal) sinking feeling.
To be crude, I recall an Air Force instructor pilot who said the turn and slip indicator (needle and ball) served the same purpose as one’s sphincter. He used a different term, but you get my drift. If your sphincter rises into your chest, your instruments may be lying to you.
Reminds me of the old saying, “If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going.”
“You do realize that the average air temperature at 35,000 feet is -50 degrees, dont you?”
Tens of thousands of aircraft fly at this altitude daily and their pitot tubes don’t freeze. In fact, most commercial passenger aircraft have heated tubes to rule out single point failure including this one.
Air France has given several theories on this crash from a lightning strike to icing in an effort to shift blame.
Operator error and controlled crash into terrain.
You know what else is interesting, although the vertical stabilizers break off all the time, they reattach themselves while in flight and virtually none of the passengers ever notice the phenomenon occuring. Creepy.
Why the focus on the vertical stabilizer, how come nobody ever questions the cockpit breaking off?
True, but having a wing break off in a high-speed dive is even more unsettling (although there are few around to tell that tale).
Taking an aircraft of this design and size into a 'full stall' is never done. It is highly unlikely that even the manufactures test pilot could have recovered from that condition. It is not like stalling a 'Cub". Many things happen including most likely the failure of the engines due to disrupted air flow. Swept wing aircraft are notorious for their stall recovery problems.
In general, this is a ridiculous bit of yellow journalism. Pilots and co-pilots of commercial aircraft must have an ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) rating, or the international/ICAI equivalent. This was no student pilot in the cockpit. Because of the nature of long international flights, both pilots must be qualified in commanding the aircraft. The overdramatization and sheer creative writing I read in this report is reprehensible.
As to what happened with this particular flight, that’s another thing altogether, but their representation of the co-pilot’s qualifications should have been left on the cutting room floor.
Airbus has known that the pitot tubes on some of their planes were faulty and susceptible to icing.
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