The Case of the Cruise Crew — NYT — Der Spiegel — Eurocockpit — Examiner


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The Case of the Cruise Crew

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Task attributions are generally well defined in a modern flight-deck: One pilot flies and communicates, the other manages the systems and the check-lists.

There is some uncertainty, though, as to who the “Pilot Flying” was. With the Captain in the LH seat, either one could have been it. During the Captain’s rest, only the most experienced co-pilot could have been PF and only from the RH seat, the second co-pilot being in charge of the systems, radio-com and navigation from the left-hand seat.

It was then up to him to keep an update of the weather at alternates, keep a sharp eye on the ETPs between the alternates in an ETOPS environment, fuel situation, including the aircraft balance, help with the radar… It’s also his job to compute at every reporting waypoint engine and speed parameters for turbulence penetration, altitude capability and possible step climb…etc.

This is how AF captains generally manage their crews: to establish a roster, take off ½ an hour for climb and ½ hour for descent; then divide the remaining time by three — that’s the times of rest. So we have (hours rounded up) as per the flight plan:

22.30 Takeoff

23.00 end of climb

08.30 Descent

09.00 Landing

So remain 9 hrs and 30 mins for rest, divided by 3 = 3 hrs and 10 mins each., minus 5 to 10 minutes for hand over, control transfer and instructions :  So we have this roster:

* From T/O to 23.00Z All three in Flight Deck

* From 23.00Z to 0210Z, One co-pilot resting

* From 0210Z to 0520Z, F/O and SF/O on duty, Captain resting

* From 0520Z to 0830Z, Second cop-pilot resting

* From 0830Z to landing (ETA 0900) All three in Flight Deck

But looking at the above, that 0210Z time is striking… and you know this is the moment of the first of the ACARS failure messages.

Captains in general chose the middle bunk-slot as they want to be in the cockpit during the most work-loaded phases of the flight:

Dense ATC, multiple clearances for level changes, direct routings, Departure and arrival procedures…etc…leaving the – comparatively – quieter and more routine phase of the cruise to his young aides.

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Disclaimer:  The above is posted in a respected aviation forum and all personal information has been removed.  Note this cockpit crew speculation is  based on the available facts as presented by BEA in the interim report (i.e. Not known who was in the cockpit at the time of the event.


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Brazil: Ships Stop Black Box Hunt

Two ships using listening devices to search for the black boxes of Air France Flight 447 were ending their hunt on Friday, an American commander said. Col. Willie Berges of the United States Air Force, the commander of American military forces supporting the effort, said one French-contracted ship towing an American Navy listening device had already stopped searching, and a second was to stop at some point on Friday. Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, more than 900 miles off Brazil’s northeastern coast, on June 1. All 228 people aboard died. Investigators have said that without the black boxes, it may be impossible to know with certainty what caused the crash. Colonel Berges said a French nuclear submarine would continue to look for them.

Published: July 10, 2009 (AP) A version of this article appeared in print on July 11, 2009, on page A8 of the New York edition.


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July 11, 2009

Secret calculations aviation circles reveal a devastating result for Air France: Airbus to the French airline crash often from above. An internal report to the SPIEGEL exists, criticized poor safety culture of the company.

High crash rate for Airbus Air France (English Translation)(Emphasis mine)

Hamburg – The crash of the Airbus A330 in the Atlantic of the French airline Air France is not good anyway the safety statistics.

According to secret calculations aviation circles comes from the airline with its Airbus fleet at a rate of 1.26 aircraft losses per million flights. That was about four times as high as the average (0.3 losses per million flights) lines of other airlines.

Of the 19 injured since 1988 were 3 to Airbus, Air France and one of its later subsidiary Air Inter. The new figures in France burst into a debate over whether the Air France pilots of the crashed Airbus A330 could have acted negligently.

In an interview with “Le Figaro” was Air France CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon speculation opposed, the pilots were straight into a storm zone because they save fuel, or wanted to avoid a delay.

A poor safety culture at the airline had already three years ago, an internal report criticized the SPIEGEL available. It says the company lacked a “clear and objective view of the performance in the field of aviation.” Eight out of ten accidents or incidents at Air France were down to human factors, such as lack of attention, poor decision-making and wrong between the pilot and co-pilot.

In particular, it follows from an analysis of incidents with A330/340-Modellen that captains “a degree of over-confidence or even complacency” on the day submitted.  Air France claims that they had, since the report in June 2006, all of the shortcomings off.  Nevertheless acknowledged Jean-Cyril Spinetta, chief of the Air-France/KLM-Gruppe, before shareholders last week, the poor safety record, and announced: “We need to understand how this could happen.”

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AF447 : Like Lufthansa, the plane deviated west of track

publié le 2009-07-11 22:51 par EuroCockpit (Emphasis mine)

On page 71 of his report, the BEA provides a list of so-called “established facts.” The semantic is used on purpose : the meaning of sentences takes full scale as their sorting is also important. It is true that the BEA had a month to think about it carefully…

Here is the demonstration:

  • “Until the last point of the automatic position report, received 2 h 10 min 34, the flight took place on the flight planned route”

Meaning : AF447 made no route diversion.

  • “The weather was consistent with what is commonly found in June in the inter-tropical convergence zone”

Meaning : there are always storms in the area.

  • “There is a powerful cluster of cumulonimbus clouds on AF447 flight path. Some of them could be the seat of a marked turbulence”

Meaning : there was just “huge” storms on AF447 flight path, who did not deviate as we just told you.

  • “Several aircraft that evolved before and after AF447, substantially at the same altitude, have altered their course to avoid the clouds”.

Meaning : the other aircraft that flew the same route – those who have not crashed – have changed their course to avoid the “huge” storms.

In summary: all planes that have altered their path survived, and AF 447, which would have remained on the flight plan route, crashed.

Would someone have any idea of who are those responsible for not having altered the aircraft path around the storms?

If you do not, because it is complicated, the CEO of Air France Pierre-Henri Gourgeon just helped with his statements in the newspaper Le Figaro on July 8th 2009: “

The Captain of the Sao Paulo – Paris passed shortly after the flight AF 447 in the area, and said they had flown in a stormy area that was not depicted by the radar, and this have prevented them from a much more important storm by strengthening manually the radar sensitivity.

AF447 may not have been lucky enough to have the first warning shot, and may not have avoided a very active thunderstorm. This testimony will motivate us to reconsider how to use radar. Whether or not this is the cause of the disappearance of AF447, we must consider all factors and evolutionary processes and rules.”

Meaning : the pilots of AF447 did not use their radar and were not lucky enough not to get killed. Air France will train its dummy pilots to finally be able to use the radar. As for the statement “whether or not this is the cause of the disappearance of flight AF447, we must consider all factors and evolutionary processes and rules», it must be underlined that these words surprisingly do not apply when it comes to the Pitot probes… Because Pitot probes are not, can not be, and are prohibited from being the cause of AF447 crash.

This is it, the case is solved, the aircraft crashed because the BEA and Air France say with one voice the aircraft remained on the flight plan route and flew straight in the “big huge storms” described by Mr. Feldzer.

But is this only true? Is this really a “fact” as alleged by the BEA?

On page 13 the BEA report, there is a map showing the sequence of ACARS automatic position reports sent every 10 minutes, as confirmed page 25.

At 2:00 am UTC, the aircraft is located before ORARO waypoint. At 2:10 UTC, the aircraft is located after “ORARO” and before “TASIL”.

On page 69 of the BEA report, we are given the case of Lufthansa flight 507, which preceded AF447 by twenty minutes on the same flight level and on the same airway. The Lufthansa flight has diverted its path “of a dozen miles to the west” to avoid an area with radar echoes in the region of ORARO. Meaning the Lufthansa Boeing 747 was using his radar, and therefore survived. He survived only by deviating 10 Nm to the west in the region ORARO…

So what did the flight AF447, “twenty minutes” later in this same region ORARO, between 2:00 and 2:10 UTC?

According to the BEA, “the flight took place on the flight planned route.” But to be able to say this, the BEA would need two things:

  • a continuous position report of the aircraft, and not just position reports every 10 minutes.
  • it is true the aircraft remained on its flight planned route.

Because by watching someone once every 10 minutes, you can’t tell where that person is during the 9 other minutes. During each interval of 9 minutes the aircraft position is unknown…

There is no evidence, therefore, AF447 did not altered its path near ORARO (between 2:00 and 2h10) as flight LH507 did. On the contrary, there are evidences that AF447 has deviated from its planned route!

Page 48 of the BEA report, it says “the last position received” at 2:10 UTC is 2.98° (2° 58.8′) North and 30.59° (030°35.4′) West.

On a map, it is easy to find the “flight plan route” between “ORARO and TASIL.

Between these two points, the course is similar to the great circle route (corresponding to the curved line between those two points on the earth sphere). Indeed, the distance between these two points being only 119Nm the lateral deviation is negligible.

The report of the position of AF447 at 2:10 UTC, provided by the BEA, place the aircraft at about 2.9 nm West of the airway.

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For the curious, an official Jeppesen electronic chart can be checked (see above pictures).

A calculation of spherical trigonometry, mathematical and precise, gives a distance close to 2.9439071 Nm. The maximum accuracy error of the values given by the BEA is 5 thousandths of degree (approximately 0.3 Nm), one way or the other.

In other words: at 2:10, Flight AF 447 is not on the planned route of the flight plan, as said by the BEA, but almost 3Nm west of it.

Between 2:00 and 2:10, around the ORARO region “where the Lufthansa flight deviated from 10Nm to the west», AF447 could also have changed its track westerly of the planned route. In 10 minutes, at a Mach speed of about 0.80, the deviation was even able to easily reach 10Nm to the west and still allow AF447 to return on track at TASIL.

At 2:10 UTC, 3 Nm to the west of its flight plan route, AF447 may be returning from an west deviation – as Lufthansa did before him in the same “region” – and then face the first failure : the Pitot probes.

Today, thanks to satellite navigation, everyone understands that a difference of 3 miles (about 6 km) can not be due to a navigation error. This can not be, either, a voluntary “offset” : enroute “offset” is always right of track – in accordance with the SLOP requirements (Strategic Lateral Offset Procedure). In this case, a SLOP would have resulted in one mile variation east of AF447 flight plan route, and not 3 miles to the west …

No, this variation of 3 miles west can only come from action by the crew that flew the plane west of the flight plan route, as did Lufthansa in the same area, and this happened before the probes problems raised.

Simply observe from the cockpit planes crossing each others on airways, including over the Atlantic, to realize the accuracy of navigation is such that the planes intersect exactly one above the other. Three miles west can’t be a navigation error…

Whatever say the BEA and Mr Gourgeon, the crew was not incompetent to the point of failing to use the radar. As confirmed page 61 of the BEA report, the crew had even taken actions to follow the weather during the flight by asking many possible diversion airports (San Salvador and Sal, Amilcar) and others ETOPS diversion airports.

While the last position of the aircraft is 3 Nm west of the flight plan route, and while positions reports are separated by 10 minutes, how can the BEA write that until 2:10 “the flight remained on the flight planned route” ?

Is this really true and accurate ? Is this factual ?

Presenting as a fact the Lufthansa deviation 10 miles west, and hiding away AF447 deviation 3 miles west will not make us believe the crew was stupid enough to fly straight into “the big gigantic storm”.


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Capt Tom Bunn LCSW, July 10, 2009

us-airways-0906-01Air France Crash Blame Game Starts Early (Emphasis mine)

… When Captain Sullenberger landed an Airbus in the Hudson, aviation writer William Langewiesche praised the highly automated Airbus fly-by-wire computerized flight control system as the key factor in the successful landing. Langewiesche wrote, that before contacting the water, the Airbus automated system “raised the nose to the perfect landing attitude.”

Normally, an airliner descends on a 2.5 to 3.5 degree glide angle with a descent rate of about seven-hundred feet-per-minute. Then, a few feet above the runway, the pilot “flares” the glide angle by raising the nose and reducing the descent rate, so the plane can touch down gently, at a descent rate of one-hundred feet-per-minute, or less.

According to investigation testimony, and as can be seen on video of the landing, the perfect landing Mr. Langewiesche described in eloquent detail did not happen. The plane did not “flare” prior to contact with the water. The so-called miracle in the Hudson was very nearly a disasterWhen the engines of the Airbus shut down, the electrical system switched to emergency back-up power. Some of the computer logic used in the fly-by-wire was lost causing the plane to contact the water with several times the force the Airbus fuselage was designed to withstand.

During the certification process, an airliner must show it can ditch without catastrophic damage. But upon impact with the water, the rear fuselage of the Airbus broke open and rapidly began to flood. Fortunately, perhaps miraculously, passengers in the flooding area were able to keep their heads above water long enough to escape.

Though the Airbus could land in the water gently with normal electrical power and full automation working, when on emergency power, the full fly-by-wire logic needed for a gentle landing was impaired. Noting that the plane did not perform according to certification criteria for ditching, during investigative hearings Airbus disingenuously asserted the landing in the Hudson was not a ditiching. Airbus claimed a ditching is a prepared water landing with at least one engine operating, and since no engines were operating, this was not a prepared water landing, thus not a ditching.

Clearly, the aft fuselage failed due to failure of the plane to flare prior to entry into the water. The automation Langewiesche praised for saving the day, apparently almost doomed the plane…

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See previous post (Air France Flight 447: En Ligne De Vol (Normal Attitude – Wing Level) for Investigation Reports.


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