Pilot error suspected in Air France crash

This was the flight from Rio to Paris that mysteriously disappeared over the Atlantic two years ago. Thanks to information from the plane's two flight recorders that were recently recovered, authorities now believe that the pilots became distracted with faulty airspeed indicators and couldn't deal with the cascading system failures that brought down the Airbus A330. All 228 people aboard died in the accident. What's extraordinary is that the pilots were never trained to handle such an emergency at high altitude. Does Air France have a checkbook handy? It may need one. From the WSJ:

The final moments inside the cockpit of the twin-engine Airbus A330, these people said, indicates the pilots seemingly were confused by alarms they received from various automated flight-control systems as the plane bucked through some turbulence expected on the route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris but also faced unexpectedly heavy icing at 35,000 feet. Such icing is renowned for making airspeed-indicators and other external sensors unreliable. Ultimately, the crew failed to follow standard procedures to maintain or increase thrust and keep the aircraft's nose level, while trouble-shooting and waiting for the airspeed sensors and related functions to return to normal, according to these people.

The PBS series "Nova" ran a segment on the crash earlier this year - before the flight recorders had been recovered. It raised a basic question: How could a state-of-the-art airliner with elaborate electronic safety and navigation features simply fall out of the sky?

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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