As more detail of Air France flight 447′s surreal last four-and-a-half minutes emerges in the latest interim factual report by the French investigation agency (BEA), we see yet another example of a crew that lost touch with the aeroplane it was flying.
It’s not difficult to see some predisposing reasons: it was 2 a.m. on a moonless night, not the time people are at their sharpest. A BALPA release just out warns people not to rush to judgement and to consider that fatigue may turn out to be a factor.
The BEA itself cites lack of high altitude handling training for the crew, and they were faced with suddenly having to carry out high altitude manual handling because the autopilot and autothrottle tripped out when faced with momentarily unreliable airspeed readings.
But when the autopilot did trip out, the pilot flying immediately said he had control and promptly made a nose-up input on his sidestick that led to a steep climb, even though moments earlier he had briefed the pilot not flying that climbing higher to avoid turbulence was not an option. So he knew the aeroplane was close to its performance limits, yet made an input that caused the aeroplane to go beyond them.
Then when the stall warning sounded the pilots made no verbal acknowlegement of it, nor did they apply stall recovery control inputs.
The BEA confirms that everything the aeroplane did from the moment the problems started was the result of crew control inputs. At any time during the critical period the appropriate control inputs could have resulted in recovery of control.
This blog is littered with pleas for regulators to update pilot training requirements to acknowledge how aeroplanes have changed and so has the pilot’s job. There is a consistent pattern now of pilot failings that lead to accidents.
No, it’s not “pilot error”, it’s lack of the skills needed for managing modern aeroplanes, and the reason for the lack of skills is the lack of appropriate training, and the reason for that is the regulators’ refusal to modernise the training parameters. The airlines are required to train pilots for 1950s aeroplanes and then to put them in charge of 21st century ones.