Second Near-Disaster Reignites Air France 447 Debate

French examiners look into possible parallels with AF 447.

A340

A340

A second wild ride of an Air France Airbus has gained the attention of safety investigators. French media reports emerged last week about an Air France flight that recently experienced some events similar to those of Flight 447 shortly before it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, reigniting debate over what caused the fatal crash that killed 228 people more than two years ago.

The new incident took place in July on an Air France flight en route from Paris to Caracas, Venezuela, according to the French newspaper Le Figaro, which said it obtained a report of the incident.

The aircraft in question was an Airbus A340 that hit severe turbulence while cruising at an altitude of 35,000 feet.
_
Le Figaro_ reported that the A340 accelerated rapidly, after which the autopilot disengaged and the aircraft began a sharp climb to 38,000 feet, events that parallel those experienced by Air France 447 before the A330 stalled and descended into the Atlantic Ocean.

According to other news outlets covering the recent incident, the A340 pilots likely disengaged the autopilot after turbulence triggered a temporary overspeed warning. The crew then made nose-up inputs, which increased the aircraft’s pitch attitude to 11 degrees and slowed its speed to Mach 0.66.

The crew corrected this deviation, however, after which the A340 continued on to Caracas without further incident.

France’s accident investigation unit, the BEA, confirmed it has opened an investigation into the incident, but advised against drawing connections to Air France 447, which experienced speed indication malfunctions not seen in the July episode.

Nonetheless, investigators are reportedly interested in whether the response of the A340 crew illustrates any similarities to that of the AF 447 pilots.

The causes of Air France 447 have been the subject of much debate since the aircraft’s black boxes were recovered earlier this year. While BEA investigators have pointed to the pilots’ lack of stall recognition and recovery, several design features of the Airbus’ fly-by-wire flight control system and stall warning system have also been called into question.