Did Design of Airbus Control Stick Play a Role in Air France Crash?
There’s new information about the deadly 2009 crash of an Air France plane that took the lives of 216 passengers. The official report on the crash is set to be released by French investigators, and it is raising new questions about a design flaw in the control stick that is used in all Airbus cockpits. Megyn Kelly points out that Airbus makes half the world’s airliners.
Trace Gallagher reminds us of the details of the crash – the plane was four hours into a 10-hour flight between Rio de Janiero, Brazil and Paris, France when it hit a thunderstorm. The captain went on a scheduled break, leaving the deputy captain and a junior pilot, both of whom had years of experience, in the cockpit. The junior pilot was flying the plane.
Gallagher reports that the plane’s pitot tubes, which are cigar-shaped meters which measure airflow and airspeed, had frozen over, so the plane showed that it was slowing down when it wasn’t. Instead of leveling the plane off, the pilot kept trying to climb. The stall warning sounded 75 times when the deputy captain finally realized what was happening and leveled the plane. For reasons that are unknown, the junior pilot then pulled the plane back up, not realizing they were plummeting 11,000 feet per minute. At that point, the captain finally returned to the cockpit.
The transcript of the cockpit audio reveals the following conversation:
Deputy Pilot: “Climb … climb … climb .. climb …”
Junior Pilot: “But I’ve had the stick back the whole time!”
Captain: “No, no, no … Don’t climb… no, no.”
Deputy Pilot: “Descend, then … Give me the control… Give me the controls!”
Deputy Pilot: “Damn it, we’re going to crash … This can’t be happening!”
Junior Pilot: “But what’s happening?”
Captain: “Ten degrees of pitch…”
The plane hit the water about a second later.
Gallagher explained that attention is being focused now on the control stick because in Boeing planes both the pilot and the co-pilot can feel the pressure on the control stick, while in Airbuses the other pilot in the plane can’t feel the pressure so one doesn’t know what the other is doing.
Airbus, and other aviation experts, don’t believe the control stick contributed to the crash.