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Investigation of 2009 Plane Crash Reveals Widespread Negligence

June 12, 2012  ·  By HM&M


The investigation of the tragic crash of Air France Flight 447 in 2009 had led experts to suggest that the pilots were not properly trained to handle the plane in an emergency situation and were too dependent on the plane's autopilot system. Air France Flight 447 was traveling from Rio de Janiero to Paris on May 31, 2009 when it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. The crash resulted in the deaths of all 228 passengers and crew on board the plane.

The black box tapes revealed that the flight's captain left the cockpit for a scheduled nap around the time that the plane entered a thunderstorm. Other flights that night had avoided this particular thunderstorm. While flying through the storm, a critical piece of the plane's equipment failed, causing the plane's autopilot system to disengage and shift control of the plane to an inexperienced pilot. At this point, the pilot incorrectly pulled the plane's nose up, which caused it to stall.

According to a French official investigating the crash, the pilots did not understand the situation and were unaware that the plane had stalled. Once the stall alarm sounded, the pilot frantically pulled up on the controls, but the plane continued to stall. As this occurred, the pilots tried to reach the captain for help, but he did not return to the cockpit until more than a minute of crucial time had passed. Shockingly, the pilots did not even realize the plane was going to crash until about three seconds before it occurred.

How could it be possible that these pilots were so unprepared to handle this situation? Bill Voss, the president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, suggests that Air France was so confident in the design of its airplanes that the company failed to train its pilots for the type of emergency that occurred that night. In addition, he argues that pilots are becoming overly dependent on computers to fly their planes and are rarely in control of the aircraft. This can lead to a very scary scenario where a pilot takes manual control of the plane for one of his first times when something goes wrong and the autopilot disengages.

As a personal injury lawyer and a regular airline passenger, I find the results of this investigation very troubling. Airline companies owe it to their passengers to train their pilots to manually control the plane in emergency situations, regardless of the technological advances in automated flight programs. I think I speak for many other airline travelers when I say that I would feel much safer on a flight knowing that the pilots have been trained to respond to any conceivable emergency during the flight. I hope some positive can come out of this tragic event by it prompting airline companies to update and enhance their pilot training.

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