French air accident investigators have highlighted gaps in flight crew training and management in the latest report into the June 2009 crash of an Air France Airbus A330-200 on a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. The third interim report from the Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses agency (BEA), published in Paris on July 29, focused mainly on inputs from AF447’s cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, which crews recovered from the Atlantic Ocean in May. It also proposed the addition of an angle of attack indicator and several changes related to flight data recording.
The report confirmed that the A330’s airspeed indicator and displays had not functioned correctly, partly due to obstruction of pitot tubes by ice crystals. Investigators reported that the two copilots flying the aircraft while its captain rested had not received training to handle the aircraft manually at high altitudes in “unreliable indicated airspeed” situations. They also suggested that the crew had not clearly communicated their respective tasks when the captain left the cockpit for rest, and had also not explicitly acknowledged the stall warning or subsequent stall itself.
Ten new safety recommendations from the BEA included three related to the need for training for manual airplane handling and definition of the relief captain’s role. It also proposed that regulators look into a new requirement for an angle-of-attack indicator directly accessible by pilots. Other recommendations included a call for an image recorder to show the whole instrument panel, and additional parameters for flight data recording and the transmission of data.
During a press briefing in Paris, BEA director Jean-Paul Troadec said “the situation was salvageable.” The agency plans to issue a final report on the accident in due course.
In a brief statement, Air France said that the facts uncovered so far indicate no reason to question the crew’s technical skills. “After the maneuvers carried out by the crew in deteriorated and destabilizing piloting conditions, the aircraft stalled at high altitude, could not be recovered and struck the surface of the Atlantic Ocean at high speed,” said the airline. “It should be noted that the misleading stopping and starting of the stall warning alarm, contradicting the actual state of the aircraft, greatly contributed to the crew’s difficulty in analyzing the situation.”