The question was whether anyone really wanted to know.
May 5, 2011 4:48 PM   Subscribe

Interesting article, I had never even heard of a 'pitot'.

But yeah, really, did I want to know? Reminds me of when I was about 20 and read Crighton's Airframe a week before getting on my first transatlantic flight. It was like taking a crash course (no pun intended) in how to have waking nightmares.

This part was especially alarming:

During that time, another airline, Air Caraïbes, experienced two close calls with the Thales AA on its Airbus A330s. The company’s chief executive immediately ordered the part scrapped from the fleet and alerted European regulators, who then began asking questions. In their conversations with Airbus, regulators learned of the 17 cases of icing, and they also discovered, looking at those cases, that the failures seemed to be happening more often (9 of the 17 occured in 2008). None of the failures seemed to signal an immediate danger, so the Thales AA was not removed from service. Regulators simply asked Airbus to watch the problem and report back in a year.
posted by mannequito at 5:08 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

NOVA had an episode about the flight a couple months ago.
posted by borkencode at 5:33 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

great article find Xowie, the article hits the cause , like a nail on its head.
How long can Air France not admit they screwed up by ignoring the problem that brought down the plane. Replaceing a cheap part that has a history of failing.
posted by taxpayer at 6:37 PM on May 5, 2011

I was somewhere over the Atlantic, on an Air France flight from Detroit to Paris that landed at CDG 30 minutes before when AF447 was supposed to arrive. My girlfriend was waiting for me at the airport while I was going through immigration and baggage claim. At that point, though, I think all that was known was that the plane had never regained radio contact, and certainly nothing had been publicly announced. Air France personnel, looking very stressed, kept coming over to her and asking what flight the person she was waiting for was on and, when she answered, would quickly move along to ask others in the waiting area. When I finally had my bags and could walk through the customs door, I walked past about a dozen Air France employers in a close circle, clearly having a very intense impromptu meeting.

Both my girlfriend and I could tell that there was something weird going on, but despite the obvious-in-retrospect situation, we had no idea what. It wasn't until an hour or so later, back at her apartment, that we checked the NYT web page and saw that an A330, just like the one I had been on two hours previous, had "disappeared." The combination of being in such a similar situation as those passengers on the ill-fated plane and then being around the clear, albeit subtle, wrongness of the situation at CDG creeped me out for days. I still find myself curious what happened on AF447 far more closely than any other airline accident out of this strange affinity I feel to that flight.
posted by Schismatic at 6:42 PM on May 5, 2011 [7 favorites]

I told him, ‘Listen, there was an accident with Daddy’s plane, and he’s not coming home.’ And he started crying as I never saw him cry before. He was saying, ‘But there are so many things I wanted to make for him.’ ”

I lost it right there.
posted by pjern at 6:55 PM on May 5, 2011 [8 favorites]

Jesus just reading that quote made me start tearing up.
posted by ChrisHartley at 8:00 PM on May 5, 2011

That NOVA episode was weak. And frankly, since the key wreckage was just found a couple days ago, I'm betting the NYT feature is going to rehash the same ground too, so I'll have to skip it for now. But I'll say this: radar shadowing. None of these media features have really said much about this, and the crew error in not respecting it, and therein lies a very important factor. Yeah, the pitot tubes iced over, and they should have gone to the 5% pitch and 85% throttle positions that would have gotten them through it even without the pitot data, but if they're respected the limits of their radar they would have avoided the whole thing altogether.

Every time something like this comes up in the commercial aviation business, I find the commentary at incredibly valuable. In this case, just scan for threads with AF447 in the title and prepare to be schooled.
posted by intermod at 8:21 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow that article was good. Gripping.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:58 PM on May 5, 2011

Its disappointing that the benefit of the 'no blame' approach to safety investigation that some in the article criticise, isn't mentioned, so I offer a quick explanation for mefite's benefit.

Many safety investigation authorities adopt a no blame approach because their focus is on improving safety into the future, rather than supporting litigation in the past. A strong no blame approach is essential to get people to reveal errors - for the purposes of ensuring that the same error doesn't happen again - that they may be hesitant to otherwise do so.

Allocation of blame is best left to the legal system - police and the courts. Safety investigation is rightly focused on reducing the risk of future accidents, not so that some people can have closure or others go to jail.
posted by jjderooy at 10:37 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I lost it right there.

I came back to post exactly that quote. Devastating.
posted by rory at 2:21 AM on May 6, 2011

Allocation of blame is best left to the legal system

And NTSB reports are apparently not admissible in court.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:06 AM on May 6, 2011

backseatpilot: "And NTSB reports are apparently not admissible in court."

That is correct.
posted by wierdo at 11:31 AM on May 6, 2011

Sad, but very, very interesting.

Thank you for this.
posted by Rei Toei at 12:42 PM on May 6, 2011

What an excellent article. We had returned from France the night before Flight 447 disappeared and it was the first thing I read about when I woke up in the morning. I remember having a sense of panic for the people on the flight and some anxiety about how it could have been our Air France flight instead (I have mostly conquered a lifelong paralyzing fear of flying with the odd lapse now and then). I still have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach thinking about the people waiting at CDG for the plane that wasn't going to come.
posted by Heretic at 3:41 PM on May 6, 2011

While the article does a good job of reporting the trauma suffered by the passengers' families, it is filled with rampant speculation about the cause of the crash and is horribly misinformed about aircraft safety and continuing airworthiness.
posted by cardboard at 5:05 PM on May 6, 2011

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