Most professional pilots have a pretty good idea what it’s going to say though … pilot error. No big surprise there.
From the headlines lately, the need for one media outlet to trump the BEA to their final report is powerful. London’s Daily Telegraph decided that not only were the AF 447 pilots at fault, but that Airbus has been hiding behind a sidestick design flaw for two decades since the A330 was certified. In another, a writer claims that the angle of attack indicator was faulty. Then ABC’s Nightline claimed last week that Captain Marc Dubois had a lady friend — an Air France flight attendant — along for the ride that night, someone who kept him quite distracted after he departed the cockpit for a rest break.
Technical issues on the A330′s pitot tubes? That’s fact already. Fresh pitots just hadn’t found their way onto this airframe before the accident unfortunately. Major sidestick design flaw though, after 20 years … I don’t believe it.
These airplane stories become easily jumbled up when non-aviation types get too close though. I’m trying to do my part and keep the story straight for some of the mainstream media when I can. Fox News gave me another opportunity last week when the PIC’s girlfriend story began circulating. Fox News and other networks about Air France 447.But we as aviators need to be serious about the depth of what this accident represents.
It proves the point made again and again by experts that loss of control is now THE most critical shortcoming for many professional pilots today … not simply in recognizing the situation, but in their ability to fix the problem.
High-altitude stalls, for example, are much different than what we experience in any airplane down low where the air is a bit meatier. But even the big bazillion-dollar simulators can’t accurately represent how an A330 will react when it stops flying at FL360. So how do we train pilots to be ready?
AF 447 is also about responsibility. And there’s a difference to me between responsibility and blame.
Truth be told, all the pilots on 447 are responsible to some degree for the accident. They were, after all, the guys in the cockpit, confused by a dozen different warning lights and aural chimes and computer generated voices in the turbulence that night, weren’t they?
In all flying jobs though, there is always one person who must under all circumstances, accept all the responsibility. In this case, that man was the captain … 58-year old Marc Dubois, a pilot with 11,000 hours in his logbook. Despite other pilots handling the controls in those final four minutes, men like Pierre-Cedric Bonin, the young man most of the world seems to have pinned this accident on, as well as the more experienced aviator David Robert, Marc DuBois was in charge. He was the Pilot in Command. To non-aviation folks, that means the buck stopped with him.
It’s time to stop blaming Pierre-Cedric Bonin and David Robert for the crash of Air France 447. Yes they both handled the controls, but when the captain did return to the flight deck, the transcript proves one thing. Dubois did not act like any captain I’ve ever flown with, or even known.
Rather than take action, Dubois is heard to shout orders at Robert and Bonin. Dubois displayed no clear-headedness in those final moments. He seemed as confused as the other two pilots. And while he might have been to start since he just arrived in the cockpit (for whatever reason) the confusion about whether the airplane was flying or not should have evaporated pretty quickly when Dubois entered the cockpit.
But it didn’t.
Almost to the end, he told people what to do and nothing more. Clearly neither Robert or Bonin were capable of making that airplane fly, for whatever reason. The captain should have. But he never did.
When I made this statement at a pilot meeting a few weeks ago, someone asked what Dubois should have done. “Whatever it took to make the airplane fly,” I replied. Whether that meant grabbing one of the other pilots by the collar and dragging him out of the seat, telling the other two to let go of everything while he flew … or quite frankly, anything else it took to make that airplane fly.
But he never did.
So get ready for summer, because when that BEA report is released July 5, the fireworks are going to begin.
Rob Mark, publisher
BTW, in case you missed a few of these interesting stories about AF 447, I’d pasted a few links below. I’m not endorsing them, just sharing.