AF447 and the locked cockpit door

At the Paris Air Show today I was talking to a person who has reason to be interested in the loss of AF447, and she raised an interesting point: did the fact that the cockpit door is a post-9/11 security door make a material difference to the time it took for the captain to re-enter the flightdeck after the accident sequence had begun?

The BEA (the French accident investigation agency) may be able to determine the answer, and if they can, they will reveal it in the accident report.

Maybe even if the door did NOT delay the captain’s re-entry the accident would have happened anyway, but there are a few hints - among the currently incomplete summary of what the pilot flying was doing with the controls - that, shortly after the captain’s arrival, the pilot flying momentarily changed his attempted recovery tactics in a way that might have been successful if he had maintained the change.

Whatever we ultimately find out about this from the BEA’s investigation, it is a valid time to review whether the cockpit security door is a net safety benefit or disbenefit. In less than three months it will be the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Maybe the aviation industry should use the occasion to review all the changes, on the ground and in the air, that were adopted in the immediate aftermath of that truly shocking event.

3 Responses to AF447 and the locked cockpit door

  1. David Connolly 24 June, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    Alas, that horse has long bolted and the door is always going to remain so for the forseeable future. Apart from AF-447 you could make just the same case regarding the THY B-738 in Amsterdam in 2009.

  2. Dan 1 July, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

    As a widebody Captain flying several models of Boeing and Airbus aircraft over the years, there is not that much of a delay, so it should not really matter.

    What does matter is the Captain never returned to his seat and resumed command of the situation and let the least experianced pilot fly it into the ocean without changing anything he was doing!

    The stabilizer trim was stuck at full up and the copilots death grip holding full up elevator caused a deep stall that caused the plane to plunge into the ocean from cruise altitude!

  3. Frank Elias 23 January, 2013 at 6:15 am #

    For the attention of all Davids and Dan. I would like to make a comment here Dan. If the Captain stood where he did and synchronously moved both the trim wheels to nose down against the automatic trimming, which is a design fault in my oppinion (it should never be automatic when flying manual), perhaps the aircraft would have recovered from the deep stall. If it ever happens again, which is most unlikely, the pilots could try this.