Ten years on, questions remain over response to Air France 447

SEOUL/MONTREAL (Reuters) – As Air France pilots fought for control, an Airbus A330 passenger jet plummeted from 38,000 feet for four minutes, its engines running but its wings unable to seize enough air to fly.

FILE PHOTO: Debris from the missing Air France flight 447 is seen at the Air Force base in Recife June 12, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

The doomed jet, weighing 205 tonnes, was in freefall after entering an aerodynamic stall. The ordeal ended in tragedy in the early hours of June 1, 2009 reut.rs/2YYR1lt, mid-way from Rio de Janeiro to Paris during an Atlantic storm, killing all 228 people on board.

As relatives mark the disaster’s tenth anniversary, the aviation industry is still implementing lessons learned from Air France flight 447 even as it faces a new crisis over the two-month-old global grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft.

French investigators found the crew of AF447 mishandled the loss of speed readings from sensors blocked with ice from the storm, and pushed it into a stall by holding the nose too high.

The BEA investigation agency called for improved training of pilots, instructors and inspectors, and better cockpit design among recommendations to prevent a repeat of the catastrophe.

The crash, which sparked a wider debate about the balance of humans and technology, is seen as one of a handful of accidents that changed aviation. But it has taken as much as a decade to implement some recommendations put forward by the BEA.

Even before finding the main part of the wreckage, the agency called in late 2009 for improved tracking of aircraft.

The initial reaction of the airline industry was lukewarm and the regulatory panel charged with such discussions had gone for some time without meeting because it lacked a secretary, according to people with direct knowledge of the discussions.

It was not until after the disappearance of a second jet in 2014, the MH370 – a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, that regulators took firm action, they said.

A decision to require signals every 15 minutes in remote zones came into force last year.

“After AF447 many people had an intuitive perception that an accident of a plane cruising over the ocean is very, very rare and so it wasn’t evident that there would be another (case),” said the BEA’s current director, Remi Jouty.

“To see adoption of international norms taking time was frustrating. But we know processes are very slow, and then MH370 accelerated matters and there was momentum,” he told Reuters.

Airlines holding annual talks in Seoul this weekend will seek to restore confidence strained by the two recent Boeing crashes and still haunted by the disappearance of MH370.

A spokesman for the International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations’ aviation agency, cautioned against drawing links between AF447 and Malaysia’s MH370.”The real aircraft tracking recommendations came after MH370, and the only reason they appear to have been adopted more quickly is because they leveraged the work already initiated post-AF447,” he said.

AUTOPILOT DILEMMA

A second major upheaval from AF447 concerned training, BEA’s Jouty said. Investigators rarely cast blame for accidents but seek to understand the mental picture facing a confused crew and what training is needed to avoid future disasters.

Together with the fatal crash of a Colgan Air turboprop near Buffalo, New York, in 2009, the AF447 tragedy led to new procedures and training.

Yet other key recommendations remain mired in disagreement.

The BEA called in 2011 for an indicator showing pilots the “Angle of Attack” – a stall-related parameter that is once again in the spotlight after MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

Opponents say civil pilots are trained to rely on other data and the gauge would be redundant or even confusing.

For almost 20 years, many investigators have also called for cockpit video cameras to record what information is actually displayed to pilots. The BEA repeated the proposal after AF447.

Pilot unions oppose the idea due to concerns over privacy and fears it could be a distraction.

Loss of control remains a worry.

Air France and French unions have defended the AF447 pilots, saying they faced conflicting alarms.

“I’ve been really for the past 20 to 25 years pushing people to fly manual,” said Mohammed Aziz, a former air investigator and consultant with Aviation Strategies International, adding many pilots are ordered to use autopilot as much as possible.

“Automation is what makes your life much easier but then the minute you need to use your skills you find that most pilots have lost some,” Aziz added.

Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Himani Sarkar

Source

more recommended stories

  • Saudi minister says Iran’s actions are unacceptable

    Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned.

  • Smoke spread so fast at Japanese animation firm victims couldn’t open rooftop door

    KYOTO, Japan (Reuters) – Smoke spread.

  • China strikes secret deal to allow armed forces at Cambodian naval base – WSJ

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China will be.

  • Britain weighs response to Iran Gulf crisis with few good options

    DUBAI/LONDON (Reuters) – Britain was weighing.

  • UK weighs response to Iran Gulf crisis with few good options

    DUBAI/LONDON (Reuters) – Britain was weighing.

  • Hong Kong’s black-clad protesters target Beijing’s representative office

    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Thousands of.

  • All 23 crew of seized British-operated tanker are safe – Iranian TV

    Stena Impero, a British-flagged vessel owned.

  • Pacifist constitution reform at stake as Japan goes to polls

    TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister.

  • Leader of moderate Islamist party to stand for parliamentary elections in Tunisia

    FILE PHOTO: Rached Ghannouchi, head of.

  • Iran says it seized British tanker, denies U.S. brought down drone

    DUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iran said it.

  • U.S. should reject ‘prejudice’ on China religious rights – state media

    SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The United States.

  • Saudi king approves hosting U.S. troops to enhance regional security – SPA

    FILE PHOTO – Saudi Arabia’s King.

  • Pompeo says Iran needs to ‘come to the table’ for talks as tensions rise

    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

  • Meteo France revises June record temperature to 46 degrees Celsius

    FILE PHOTO: A woman escapes with.

  • Italy’s Di Maio calls for meeting with Salvini in peace offering

    ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s Deputy Prime.

  • Australia ‘deeply disappointed’ by writer’s detention in China

    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia is “deeply.

  • Japan summons South Korea envoy in escalating row over wartime forced labour

    TOKYO/SEOUL (Reuters) – Japanese Foreign Minister.

  • Mexico tells U.S. it’s not ready for ‘safe third country’ deal -ambassador

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Mexico has told.

  • U.S. not looking at sanctions on Turkey right now – Trump

    FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump.

  • Mexico not ready for safe-third-country agreement with U.S. – ambassador

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Mexico is not.

  • Bangladesh floods worsen after breach, death toll nears 100 in India

    DHAKA/GUWAHATI, INDIA (Reuters) – One of.

  • More than 10 feared dead in suspected Japan animation studio arson

    An aerial view shows firefighters battling.

  • U.S. Senator Schumer asks FBI, FTC to probe Russia’s FaceApp over security concerns

    (Reuters) – U.S. Senate minority leader.

  • Judge in Durst murder case rules jurors may consider handwriting evidence

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Jurors in.

  • ‘Artificial snow’ could save stricken Antarctic ice sheet – study

    LONDON (Reuters) – Governments could stop.

  • Mexican drug lord ‘El Chapo’ to spend life behind bars – U.S. judge

    NEW YORK (Reuters) – Joaquin “El.

  • WHO reports new Ebola incident in Uganda

    GENEVA (Reuters) – A fishmonger vomited.

  • Taiwan issues warnings for year’s first typhoon as thousands evacuated

    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan moved thousands.

  • Germany’s Von der Leyen secures powerful EU executive top job

    STRASBOURG (Reuters) – Germany’s Ursula von.

  • Apollo 11 astronaut returns to launch pad where first humans lifted off for the moon

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – Apollo.

  • Von der Leyen secures powerful EU executive top job

    STRASBOURG (Reuters) – Germany’s Ursula von.

  • Spanish judge blocks Madrid council bid to lift car ban

    FILE PHOTO: A police traffic officer.