Air France 447 Crash a Result of Crew Ignoring Alarms

By Jamie Condliffe on at

In June 2009 an Airbus A330-200, Air France flight 447, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean tragically killing 228 people. Now, the final BEA report into the event reveals that the tragedy occurred because the crew ignored the warning alarms in the cabin.

While initial analysis of flight recordings pointed to crew error, subsequent evidence suggested that faulty pitot tubes might have been to blame. Now, the BEA report makes it clear that it was the flight crew at fault. From the report:

In the first minute after the autopilot disconnection, the failure of the attempt to understand the situation and the disruption of crew cooperation had a multiplying effect, inducing total loss of cognitive control of the situation... The combination of the [Airbus] warning system ergonomics, and the conditions under which [Air France] pilots are trained and exposed to stalls during their professional and recurrent training, did not result in reasonably reliable expected behavior patterns.

As New Scientist points out, at the heart of the tragedy is the simple fact that the stall alarms were ignored. From New Scientist's coverage:

Despite a stall warning sounding continually, it was ignored and the pilot kept the plane's nose pointing upward - while the plane was in fact plummeting toward the ocean. All the crew needed to do was push the nose down to regain lift - but they didn't.

As a result, the report questions whether pilot training is currently sufficient. It goes on to suggest that, as a minimum, they need to be equipped with a more rigorous knowledge of the physics of flight at high altitude. You can read the BEA's full recommendations here. [BEA via New Scientist]

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