Monthly Archives: March 2013

AIR FRANCE FLIGHT 447 PILOTS WERE “DEAD TIRED”

Airbus 330

ANOTHER TOO-SHORT LAY-OVER

ANOTHER TOO-SHORT LAY-OVER

On June 1, 2009 Air France Flight # 447, en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in airspace located approximately 400 miles north of the northwest corner of Brazil, inexplicably crashed in the ocean. It was somewhat inexplicable at the time, but eventually the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder were recovered from the floor of the ocean. These two devices, when reviewed, analyzed, and evaluated presented a despicably ugly picture. It revealed a scenario that was very similar to the highly publicized and equally ugly Continental (Colgan Air) flight 3407 crash on approach into Buffalo, New York, killing all 49 people on board and one person on the ground
The commonalities in these two aircraft crashes are uncannily similar. The pilots of Continental Flight 3407 were extremely tired and in a state of advanced sleep deprivation. They were also relatively inexperienced and poorly trained. These factors resulted in a breaking of the chain of elements that result in a successful flight. The pilots of Air France flight 447 were equally handicapped. The initial information released by the BAE (A European aviation investigation organization) and Air France indicated a very minor abnormality on the flight deck that related to an iced pitot tube resulting in erroneous airspeed. Unfortunately, as is the case in all too many aviation accidents, this was a recurring problem that had been identified by both Airbus manufacturing the aircraft and Air France, the operator of aircraft. It had, however, not been given the priority that it shouldn’t been given.
The NTSB, after sifting through the ashes of Continental #3407, determined that improper manipulation of the flight controls, along with a counterproductive retraction of the flaps by the copilot, was the cause of this accident. They also cited poor or inadequate training. Flight crew experience, particularly in this new aircraft, the Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 also played a small role. Neither pilot of this aircraft had had adequate rest in the previous 30 hours. While this was, subjectively, but unquantifiable, the primary precursor, it was only mentioned as a contributing factor. A significant sidebar to this accident is the fact that the last six fatal domestic accidents with the US domestic air carriers involved regional carriers, or, as they are more commonly referred to, “commuters.” Four of these six accidents occurred when tired pilots in the cockpit were entrapped in an excessively long duty period.
Nearly five years after the Air France Flight 447 accident, it was just recently revealed that the pilots assigned to this flight were also extremely tired. The captain had stated that he had only one hour of sleep during the previous rest period and his relatively inexperienced copilots—this was an augmented crew with one extra pilot—also were extremely tired when they began their projected long duty period (13 hours). As was the case with Continental # 3407, the Air France pilots were relatively inexperienced, but more importantly, they had no experience flying the Airbus 330 at high-altitude. The two pilots on the flight deck severely over controlled the aircraft and it entered into a deep stall. The airplane plummeted tail first, with the nose high pitch attitude of 35°, and engines at full power. It plummeted 38,000 feet to the ocean surface in three minutes and 30 seconds. The aircraft splattered into the water and 216 passengers and 12 flight crew members were killed instantly. A sadder chapter is that the pilots, and most likely all of the passengers and cabin attendants, were fully aware that the airplane was out of control and would soon be crashing. That awareness that your life will be soon coming to a very abrupt end, will most certainly create an unparalleled state of horror and emotional turmoil.
These two accidents when evaluated by the NTSB, the FAA, and the BAE in the many pilots who have read and reviewed the accident information leave those aviation oriented folks in a state of disgust. Why had the Air France pilots never been trained to fly their aircraft and cruise altitude? Like Capt. Marvin Renslow of Colgan air infamy, the two pilots on the flight deck of AF 447 flew the airplane into a deep stall and maintained that catastrophe-inducing pitch attitude. In the AF 447 flight the captain arose from his designated nap, rushed to the cockpit—actually there was a significant delay—and stood on the flight deck repeating the mantra from the two seated copilots, “What’s going on here; what’s happening.” Continental # 3407 had two tired, poorly trained, inexperienced pilots in the cockpit. AF # 447 had three pilots in the cockpit. They were somewhat more experienced and perhaps better trained, but they all experienced the common thread of diminished performance capability as a result of sleep deprivation.
For additional information relating to the problem of tired pilots in the cockpit, you can listen to my recent interview at http://webtalkradio.net/ by clicking on HOST and Ace Abbott’s Aviation Affair. The book, Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue- Aviation’s Insidious Killer is available at http://www.deadtiredpilots.com/
This blog is prepared by Allen Morris, a.k.a. Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator: In the Back Alleys of Aviation (http://www.therogueaviator.com/) and the above mentioned “Dead Tired”

THE DRONE DRAMA INTENSIFIES

href=”https://therogueaviator.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/airlan7271.jpg”>A PILOTLESS AIRPLANE

The drones shall soon dominate life on planet Earth. Disregard the concern about extraterrestrial aliens taking over. The man-made sci-fi device, commonly referred to as a drone, but more accurately described as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), will be playing a bigger role in our lives at a rapidly expanding pace. Currently a front-and-center news media issue, that is already fraught with controversy, the issue of drone usage and the resulting consequences will potentially create very seriously heated debate on an issue that is a classic example of the “double-edged sword.”
Just recently, the pilots of an Alitalia Airlines commercial aircraft on approach at JFK International Airport in New York reported seeing a drone. The description of the drone was consistent with that of the very popular drone device called a quad copter. These quad copter critters can be purchased and used by anyone. They are designed to be a toy, but they are already proving to be a menace. It will certainly be a menace to more than commercial aircraft as their potential for wreaking havoc has no limits.
These high-tech toys are often equipped with a small, but technologically advanced camera that can provide illegal surveillance, particularly by men who are afflicted with the voyeur syndrome. For those folks that enjoy nude sunbathing, too many of them will discover that they are the stars in a highly provocative YouTube video that reveals, pimples, scars, and sagging tissue, along with very private nooks and crannies, and perhaps tattoos that were not meant to be shown to the general public. Considering man’s natural inclination to lust after women with youthful attractive bodies we may see numerous midair collisions of these snooping quad copters. And this just represents one small arena of the potential abuse of unregulated civilian drones.
On the bright side, drones can be used for certain rescue missions, a variety of functions that will assist farmers, the oversight of pipelines and electrical wires, the transport of needed supplies or medicine to a remote location, monitoring of traffic flow, and most importantly, the rescue of little kittens who are trapped high up in their trees. Law enforcement will be greatly enabled with drone use and we can hopefully eliminate the high speed and frequently counterproductive high-speed car chase. Drones are already being used very effectively to monitor the Mexican-American border to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs. As drone technology continues to improve we will find an endless variety of functions for these remote-controlled UAVs.
The use of military drones has been in effect for more than 20 years and now dominates the United States warfare activity in the Middle East. Unfortunately, it is extremely controversial, and justifiably so. Several international organizations have published figures that indicate far more innocent people are being killed by drone strikes, primarily with Hellfire missiles, than the US government would like to admit. The concept of “collateral damage” is a very sticky wicket. Although the US military-might remains dominant there are now nearly 50 countries that have drone technology and perhaps as many as 10, including Iran, that have operational drones that can be used for military purposes. The UAV technology is relatively simple and the proliferation of drones operated by nongovernment agencies as well as military organizations has opened a Pandora’s Box. We have just seen the tip of the iceberg. A US predator drone operated by Homeland security was recently hacked by a University of Texas college professor. Iran has captured an American Predator drone. Its computers were most assuredly hacked as it landed in Iranian territory without being damaged.
A discussion of the intended use of UAVs as commercial passenger-carrying aircraft is too lengthy to be covered in this blog. An interview with author and web talk radio host Ace Abbott will provide the listener with some interesting insights and information on this topic. To access this interview go to: http://webtalkradio.net/ and select Ace Abbott’s Aviation Affair.
This blog is prepared by retired commercial pilot and aviation author, Allen Morris, aka Ace Abbott (pen name). His books can be accessed at http://www.therogueaviator.com