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Old 11th Nov 2011, 15:05
  #91 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: UK
Posts: 3,182

By attempting to force me into the debate on your terms, I think you'll find that it is you who is arguing like a politician. I've already stated numerous times that I don't want to go there again because we've already been there before - you *know* we've been there before, and because I've stated my position that I don't think it's relevant to this case I think it's only fair that is accepted.

Probably going to take a break for a while after this, as it appears the thread is being sucked into the old "interconnected" debate for something like the fifth time, but just to summarise:

Based on historical data, we have incidents where inappropriate backpressure following UAS has occurred on aircraft equipped with interconnected yokes and independent sidesticks, most of which have led to an airframe loss. We also have historical data that proves lack of interconnection is no barrier to recovery (specifically the other 30-or-so A330/340 incidents which did not lead to a crash). That suggests to me that any round-robin discussion of interconnection vs. independence is not relevant to the case at hand, which is why I'm not going to get involved any further there.

Yes, the Airbus sidestick design drops the tactile feedback channel, but whether that is a big deal or not largely depends on your opinion. Some pilots who have grown up flying on feel distrust the design, and they wouldn't be human if they didn't. From an engineering standpoint most of the reason for having interconnection (i.e. the ability to apply extra leverage from the second pilot in the old cable days) was gone by the time controls became fully-hydraulic over 40 years ago. The yokes are cumbersome, and inadvertent bumping or moving of the columns have led to several incidents over the years, some of them fatal. The Airbus engineers ran the sidestick design past the pilots (at least one of whom was the most respected safety pilot in the world at the time) and got approval. Muddying the issue was the rise in automation during the '70s and '80s and a lot of people got their wires crossed - not helped by the press, who always like a "let's you and him fight" situation.

To my mind, this is irrelevant in this discussion for the reasons I laid out in my third paragraph, and what makes it more so is that while arguing over whether having a badly-positioned yoke in front of him might have made the PNF react more decisively, the thread is missing the point that neither of the F/Os at any point seemed to acknowledge that they were in a stall, and without that it's arguable that even if the PNF had taken control he might not have been able to recover in time.

The reason I say this comes from my sim session, which taught me some things I didn't know - namely that when stalled, the tendency is for the aircraft to respond to aileron input with a roll in the *opposite* direction, and as such it is advisable to use the sidestick for pitch only and to control roll with gentle rudder, which took less than 30 seconds to explain (albeit several attempts for my lead feet to get right ) - but if we are to believe what the BEA is saying then this little bit of life-saving knowledge was something that these professional line pilots had never been told, or at least not recently.

So (sorry for the lengthiness of this rant), Air France was routinely sending up 3-man crews, two of whom had no manual handling instruction at high altitude, in a type that they were aware had a known problem with the pitot tubes that in a worst-case scenario would force the handling crew into handling the aircraft manually at altitude. That's almost priming the system for an accident eventually, and no amount of debate over automation or interconnection will alter that fact. Whether Air France were alone in this practice (I suspect they weren't), they were the ones who ended up with the bad cards and had the accident and in my opinion it is they who should shoulder the lion's share of responsibility for allowing it to happen. I think "blame" is a non-helpful concept in aviation accident investigation and I'm not a fan of the continental practice of making it a judicial matter because it makes getting at the truth problematic (although, truth be told, the Anglo system is much the same but handled by the civil courts).

@gums - I can assure you that once the aircraft stops responding in the manner you expect, the last thought on your mind should be what is protected and what isn't - it's safest to assume that nothing is protected and the utmost caution be taken to get your response right.

Safe journeys folks.
DozyWannabe is offline