French Release Final Report on Air France 447

AINsafety » July 9, 2012
The French BEA has released the final accident report on the June 2009 fatal crash of an Airbus A330-200 similar to this one.
July 9, 2012, 3:11 PM

On July 5 the French BEA (Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses) released its much anticipated final report on Air France 447, the Airbus A330-200 that crashed in the South Atlantic on June 1, 2009. The nighttime accident, the result of a chain of events brought on by a lack of valid airspeed data after all three of the aircraft’s pitot tubes froze, killed all 228 people aboard when the aircraft plummeted from FL380 to the surface of the Atlantic, essentially out of control.

The BEA cited a number of concerns that could affect future aircraft designs. The A330’s angle-of-attack information, a crucial piece of data that might have allowed the pilots to understand more quickly the relationship of the aircraft’s wing to the air passing around it, was not available to the crew.

According to the BEA, 7.5 to 8.0 seconds elapsed between the sound of the first autopilot disconnect warning and the sound of the first stall warning in the A330. While the autopilot and autothrottle system disconnected, the flight director remained active and alternately displayed conflicting information to the pilots, most likely adding to a host of confusing messages.

The report also speaks to how that lack of angle-of-attack information, in conjunction with an Airbus design trait that silenced aural stall warnings when the speed decayed below 60 knots, might have confused the crew into believing the aircraft was still flying when in fact it was not. At one point in the final four minutes of the flight, the stall warning sounded continuously for 54 seconds.

The BEA also said that the pitot tubes installed aboard the accident aircraft “met requirements that were stricter than certification standards. The EASA had analyzed [before the accident] pitot-probe icing events; it had confirmed the severity of the [pitot] failure and decided not to make the probe change mandatory.”

The report calls into question some actions of the three pilots during the final four minutes of flight. In one section, the report says, “Although having identified and called out the loss of the airspeed indications, neither of the two copilots called [for] the ‘unreliable IAS [indicated airspeed] procedure.’” The captain was not on the flight deck at the onset of this event.

During the period when the stall warning did sound for 54 continuous seconds, neither of the pilots seemed to react verbally to the warnings. Because the captain had left the cockpit for a planned rest break, the BEA also noted that there was no formal CRM training at Air France for how two first officers should interact during an emergency. AIN Safety will report more about the BEA’s findings in future editions.

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Richard Main
on July 9, 2012 - 4:15pm

Does this mean that these a/c have no stand-by altitude indicators (altimeters) and no r/c indicators other than glass panel indicators? If they had either one, they would have known they were climbing to 38,000' and then rapidly descending. I really don't get this. Side stick controllers that are connected to nothing not even to each other is very poor design, IMO. Many pilots today are ignorant of flying basics it seems and rely totally on automatic aids to the extent they don't even know where they are in the sky. This is not confidence-building.

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Larru
on July 10, 2012 - 9:59pm

Seems similar to the Buffalo crash in some ways. Every student cub pilot is trained when you hear the stall horn push down on the interconnected stick. This aircraft doesn’t have an interconnected stick and the pilots aren’t trained in cubs.

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RenanZ
on July 16, 2012 - 4:03pm

Since the day of the accident, none of the reports, official or not, mention the Airbus control safety system, that automatically pitches up or down the aircraft, if the 'computer' thinks it needs to do it.

With conflicting and innacurate data, does anybody besides me thinks that the computer lead the aicraft into the accident?!

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Alejandro Carlos Lopez
on November 12, 2012 - 5:45pm

Ever since Airbus first appeared it always faced design problems. Further more, when it was first shown in France it crashed into the woods nearby the airport. Its always easier blaming the pilots whom by the way are dead. Systems HAVE to be ABNORMAL ready. When everything works fine, they work beautifully, but when something goes wrong, the system helps to add confusion instead of a solution. This in a way has been addressed by the NTSB when it blamed the FAA for procedures and systems NOT ready for human error. You CANNOT assume that never ever there is going to be a mistake. Once an A-340 flying from Rome to Madrid with the autopilot on, suddenly "decided" it had to descend. To the crew's horror power levers moved aft and the plane plunged in a 2500ft/min descend. The only way they could recover from the dive was when they rebooted the whole system. Should that plane have crashed I'm sure who was going to be blamed.

duncan.tribute's picture
duncan.tribute
on August 25, 2014 - 1:37pm

AF447 outcome or reports

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