The investigation into why an Air France plane plunged into the Atlantic two years ago continues, and it looks more and more like pilot error.
The latest information, Bloomberg reports, is an analysis of the cockpit voice recorder, which shows that the pilots disregarded the alarming reading on the plane’s “vertical speed indicator” because they thought it couldn’t possibly be right.
The instrument, called the VSI, showed that the plane was plunging toward the Atlantic at 15,000 feet per minute. One of the two co-pilots concluded that the VSI was broken.
The plane crashed because it entered an aerodynamic “stall” at 38,000 feet. For a couple of minutes thereafter, the plane dropped precipitously toward the ocean, and the voice and data recorders suggest that the pilots never figured out what was going on.
Air France Flight 447’s crew reacted badly to an autopilot shutdown and misread instruments including a gauge indicating how fast the plane was losing height as it plunged into the Atlantic, killing 228 people, a report says.
“I’ve lost VSI,” the junior copilot said of the Airbus’s vertical-speed indicator, according to a recording detailed in the report from court-appointed experts. In fact, the instrument was functioning normally, its analogue needle immobilized at the bottom limit because the plane was hurtling toward the ocean at 15,000 feet per minute, the document seen by Bloomberg says…
“The aircraft’s stall went completely unnoticed by the crew, who made no reference to it,” says the report, which was presented to victims’ families today. Faced with unusual readings, the two copilots, alone at the controls while the captain was on a rest break, “rejected them en masse.”
For what it’s worth, one of the things they teach you in flight school is that, when your gut and body tell you one thing is happening, and the instruments say another thing is happening, the instruments are probably right.
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