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New account of Flight 447 disaster published

Computer rashly let pilots take over

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Lack of manual flying experience contributed to the crash of a fully functional commercial airliner two years ago, killing all 228 people aboard.

Air France Flight 447 crashed while flying through an Atlantic storm in July 2009, the worst ever French aviation accident. The black box recorders were not recovered for almost two years. They revealed that storm conditions caused instruments on the aircraft to temporarily malfunction, but that in fact it had crashed into the sea while completely airworthy, due to the pilots' failure to understand the situation. The official report concluded that lack of training in manual flying led them to actively fly the plane into the sea.

Now Popular Mechanics has published a step-by-step layman's explanation of the crash culled from black box recordings. Amongst the contributory factors were: confusion between the two inexperienced co-pilots, a possible failure to realise that the plane's flight computer - doubting its own assessment of the conditions - had temporarily allowed the pilots much more control authority than it normally would, and somewhat surprisingly a lack of synchronisation between the two joysticks.

Even more surprising is the lack of feedback. Even while the airline was plunging to earth at 10,000 feet per minute, the pilots were not certain whether it was climbing or falling.

It's old news, but it's a fascinating read - here. ®

Bootnote

Note that the magazine translates "putain" as "damn it", which isn't really accurate, something we attribute to prudery. ®

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