NTSB Advisory – Eurocockpit – Le Figaro – Composites

In the interest of caution, the NTSB advisory appeared earlier yesterday evening in my RSS feed however the advisory was not published on the NTSB website until this morning and I wanted to wait until official confirmation.  As Eurocockpit says:

“This initiative of the NTSB is more than welcome: almost a month after an accident for which no one can say that the probes did not play a major role, no airworthiness directive (AD) has been issued (yet?) by Europe.

If the NTSB was to “discover” an anomaly in the AA type probes, the U.S. Administration of Civil Aviation (FAA) could launch an Airworthiness Directive for A330 and A340. It would be a historic premiere.”

The BEA “le circus” in Paris is getting very old.  Why not simply tell the truth, provide the public the facts.  That is all we ask…

bar_ntsbNTSB Advisory
National Transportation Safety Board
Washington, DC 20594
June 25, 2009


The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating two recent incidents in which airspeed and altitude indications in the cockpits of Airbus A-330 aircraft may have malfunctioned.

The first incident occurred May 21, 2009, when TAM Airlines flight 8091 (Brazilian registration PT-MVB) flying from Miami, Florida to Sao Paulo, Brazil, experienced a loss of primary speed and altitude information while in cruise flight.  Initial reports indicate that the flight crew noted an abrupt drop in indicated outside air temperature, followed by the loss of the Air Data Reference System and disconnections of the autopilot and autothrust, along with the loss of speed and altitude information.  The flight crew used backup instruments and primary data was restored in about 5 minutes.  The flight landed at Sao Paulo with no further incident and there were no injuries and damage.

The Safety Board has become aware of another possibly similar incident that occurred on June 23 on a Northwest Airlines A-330 (registration unknown) flying between Hong Kong and Tokyo.  The aircraft landed safely in Tokyo; no injuries or damage was reported.  Data recorder information, Aircraft Condition Monitoring System messages, crew statements and weather information are being collected by NTSB investigators.

Further information on both incidents will be released when it becomes available.


NTSB Public Affairs
(202) 314-6100
Ted Lopatkiewicz


NTSB is probing A330 Pitot (Emphasis mine)

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announces an investigation on “two recent incidents in which airspeed and altitude indications in the cockpits of Airbus A-330 aircraft may have malfunctioned“.

The NTSB found an opportunity to investigate on its own, without relying on the French BEA : on may 21st, 2009, a TAM A330 who left Miami to Sao Paulo, lost Air Data Reference (ADR). Consequently the cockpit crew experienced disconnection of the autopilot and autothrust. The NTSB is entitled to act internationally as the TAM flight left the U.S. territory.

The NTSB is also focusing on the incident of a Northwest Airlines A330, June 23rd 2009, on a flight between Hong Kong and Tokyo. We reproduce herewith the testimony of the NWA pilot. The carrier being American, the NTSB has then again the power of investigation.

The aircraft has experienced the same set of ADR problems, and the NTSB said that they [will] gather all the necessary elements for analysis.

This initiative of the NTSB is more than welcome: almost a month after an accident for which no one can say that the probes did not play a major role, no airworthiness directive (AD) has been issued (yet?) by Europe.

If the NTSB was to “discover” an anomaly in the AA type probes, the U.S. Administration of Civil Aviation (FAA) could launch an Airworthiness Directive for A330 and A340. It would be a historic premiere.


When Air France pointed negligence of its pilots (English Translation)(Emphasis mine)

The company had received a report in 2006 denouncing the “heterogeneity” of its employees and the dangers of a form of “auto compliance.

He finds himself, since the disappearance of flight AF 447, in the heart of conversations some drivers who believe that the working atmosphere has deteriorated in the cockpits. “This accident is a cold shower for many of us, said a pilot. Some had forgotten they were doing a dangerous job and took a bit to the knights of the sky. “

Colin’s report, the Head of Division 777, was commissioned in autumn 2005 by Gilbert Rovetto, head of flight operations following the accident in Toronto that had not made a victim. Delivered a few months later, he was uncompromising.

“Too great confidence in the reliability of equipment”

He denounced as a change in attitudes. “A certain confidence and a little autocomplaisance.” Concerns extra during phases of flight preparation. “” Too much trust in the reliability of devices. “According to the management of Air France, this report has the status of audit and its tone was deliberately alarmist to raise awareness among its pilots.

The report also indicates that human factors “under-estimated by the crews. The company is still in a state of denial vis-à-vis these factors and their contribution to accidents. “Jean-Michel Colin concludes that” whatever the type of accident, the human factors that came first in the causal factors of accidents at Air France. “

The report also highlights the lack of training for young pilots, “heterogeneity” of their level, “their lack of capacity due to the low number of actual hours of flights that can not be replaced by hours virtual “or” general aviation down notorious “. The company ensures that all the report’s recommendations were followed up with, in particular, more simulator sessions and new courses.


I crossed the Doldrums 20 minutes after the flight AF447 (English Translation)(Emphasis mine)

The Captain of Air France, which has flown Sao Paulo-Paris the same night that the flight AF 447 recounts the crossing of the Atlantic.

It is a key witness in the investigation into the disappearance of the Air France Airbus over the Atlantic. The commander of flight AF 459, who left Sao Paulo on Monday, June 1 at 0:10, French time, on board a AirbusA330 similar to the aircraft, which disappeared, wishes to remain anonymous. But he remembers precisely the conditions encountered [that night].

The route earlier in the flight AF 447. Under this pilot, the weather report that day of major cloud masses in the pot black. “The satellite maps indicated a thunderstorm but nothing alarming, he says, they are very frequent in this region.” Once in the intertropical convergence zone, the crew increases the “gain” of his radar, ie its sensitivity.

This manipulation can make reading the screen, which is polluted by many unnecessary details, but enhances the reliability of data on clouds. “This manipulation allowed us to avoid a big cloud mass that we would not have identified with the radar in automatic mode.”

According to one of its two co-pilots, “the cloud mass was difficult to detect because there was no lightning.”  The flight AF 459 to make a detour of 70 miles or 126 kilometers, while the flight AF 447, spent twenty minutes earlier, to lead through this area, added the officer. His captain did not want to confirm this information.

Human error unlikely

In the pot black, the crew of flight AF 459 remark does nothing special. “Apart from this cloud mass, the flight conditions were normal and we did not hear anything on the distress frequency. We have not had any radio contact with flight AF 447 before the disaster, as a rumor has been suggested for three weeks. “The captain has then no information on the disappearance of flight AF 447. This part of the Atlantic is not covered by the air traffic control frequencies ranging up to 200 miles offshore.

Arriving near the Canary Islands, the Captain of flight AF 459 between the first contact since the tragedy with the air traffic controllers. They asked him to relay and try to contact the flight AF 447. “We have called in vain on the frequency of distress,” he says. But we did not concern it, because radio cuts on an airplane, that can happen. We also hoped that another plane closest to him has come into contact with him. “

The captain and his crew discover that the disaster landing at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport on Monday morning at 11.35 am, French time. “It’s terrible to hear such news. In addition, we were next door. While the crew was very shaken. It is welded and remained in regular contact since. “

For this captain, human error is unlikely to explain the disappearance of flight AF 447:” The satellite photos were clear at the outset, and any pilot is capable to use its radar. “The question is whether the flight 459 was unable to escape a cloud mass active but difficult to locate by pushing up the sensitivity of the radar, a manipulation that could not take flight 447. “It is certain that everyone does not make this maneuver,” says the captain of Sao Paulo-Paris.

The crew was not heard

Upon arrival, the crew of Flight 459 has produced a report that was given to  safety officer. Curiously, however, more than three weeks after the tragedy, he has not yet been heard by the Office of Investigations and Analysis (BEA), responsible for investigations. The crew continued its rotation without being summoned. The captain of flight AF 459 departed Tuesday for Thailand not knowing when they would hear from BEA, which has announced the publication of its report by the end of the month. Contacted by Le Figaro, the [BEA] Office did not wish to comment on this delay.


Ground the Airbus? by William John Cox

June 19, 2009

Since entering service in 1974 with many technological innovations, such as computerized fly-by-wire control systems, user-friendly cockpits, and extended use of composite materials, 5,717 aircraft have been manufactured by Airbus, an European aerospace company. More than 5,100 Airbuses remain in service.

Not including losses attributable to terrorism, rebellion or military action, Airbuses have been involved in 23 fatal crashes causing the deaths of 2,584 passengers, crew members and people on the ground. In addition, there have been five nonfatal accidents causing 21 serious injuries.

While the overall number of accidents and fatalities are not disproportionate to the crash experience of Boeing aircraft, three of the Airbus crashes involved a separation of the composite vertical stabilizer (tail fin) from the fuselage. Five hundred, or one in five of the Airbus deaths, including 228 from Air France Flight 447, resulted from these three crashes.

In addition, Airbus composite stabilizers, rudders and couplers have also been involved in a number of other emergency in-flight incidents that did not lead to crashes, injuries or deaths.

There is now a question whether all Airbus aircraft equipped with composite stabilizers and rudders should be grounded until the cause of the crash of Flight 447 can be identified and it can be determined if the aircraft can be inspected, safely repaired, and returned to service.

Used in law, science and philosophy, a rule known as Occam’s Razor requires that the simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex, and/or that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities.

We do not know if Air France Flight 447 was brought down by a lightning storm, a failure of speed sensors, rudder problems or pilot error. What we do know is that its plastic tail fin fell off and the plane fell almost seven miles into the ocean killing everyone aboard.

What are Composites?

The essential definition of a plastic is the capability of being molded or modeled. Thus, the word can be accurately used to describe the various processes by which “composite” materials are coated, laminated and shaped into the various structures used in the construction of an aircraft.

Basically, a composite “indicates the use of different materials that provide strengths, light weight, or other functional benefits when used in combination that they cannot provide when used separately. They usually consist of a fibre-reinforced resin matrix. The resin can be a vinyl ester, epoxy, or polyester, while the reinforcement might be any of a variety of fibres, ranging from glass through carbon, boron, and a number of proprietary types.” [1]

There are both advantages and disadvantages to using plastic composites instead of metal. They “have lower density and greater strength and stiffness than aluminum, therefore a smaller lighter structure can carry the same load.” [2]

Composite materials can be shaped and molded far easier than aluminum into compound curves for maximum drag reduction and it is easier to get smooth surfaces for laminar flow designs which allows for increased speeds. [3]

Among the risks of using plastic composites are: (a.) Strengths varies from batch to batch and it’s difficult to detect voids; (b.) lightning protection is very poor since the material does not conduct electricity; c.) materials degrade in the sun due to ultraviolet rays; (d.) delamination problems are caused by moisture; and (e.) composites tend to break without warning at failure loads, unlike aluminum which can bend and still survive and usually provide some warning prior to failure. [4]

If plastic composites “are bumped, beaten or excessively shaken, they can develop microscopic cracks that, if allowed to fester, can widen and critically weaken” the material. Delamination is another concern “in which heat, cold, humidity or manufacturing errors cause layers of the composite to separate.” [5]


[1] Encyclopedia Britannica, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/11014/airplane/64167/Current-trends-in-aircraft-design-and-construction

[2] Nordeen, Lon, Composites in Combat,http://www.global-defence.com/2003/uavs_03.htm

[3] Meyers Aircraft Company, “Aluminum vs Composite Construction, http://www.meyersaircraft.com/Common/Aluminum%20vs%20Composite%20Construction.html

[4] Ibid.

[5] Gugliotta, Guy, Air Crash Investigators Focus on Carbon Fiber, Washington Post, November 18, 2001, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/Composite18.html