View Full Version : Air France and Airbus to stand trial 2009 crash

12th May 2021, 08:39

12th May 2021, 13:34
BBC had a story on the same subject today.
BBC on AF447 court case 2021
​​​​​​​ (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-57084090)
Would be interesting to be able to read to court 'verdicts' both the old and the new. Does anyone have the link to them? Perhaps one of the French Ppruners?

12th May 2021, 15:38
AFAIK, there has never been a trial so far - what "verdicts" are you referring to ?

12th May 2021, 17:36
Translation of France24 report today:

Airbus and the Air France company were sent back on Wednesday for the crash of flight AF447 between Rio and Paris, which caused the death of 228 passengers and crew members on June 1, 2009, we learned from a judicial source.

Airbus and Air France have announced that they are going to appeal. Publicity The Paris Court of Appeal ordered, Wednesday, May 12, the referral to correctional for "manslaughter" of Air France and Airbus for their indirect responsibilities in the Rio-Paris crash which killed 228 people in 2009. This decision, requested by the general prosecutor's office and eagerly awaited by the families of the victims, invalidates the dismissal pronounced in 2019 in favor of the company and the builder at the end of the investigations.

Airbus lawyers also immediately announced an appeal in cassation, denouncing an "unjustified decision" according to them, "in contradiction with the investigating judges who knew the file well". Air France reacted by assuring that it had "not committed any criminal fault" at the origin of the crash of the Rio-Paris flight, and decided to appeal in cassation after the announcement of its dismissal in correctional. On June 1, 2009, flight AF447 connecting Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashed in the middle of the Atlantic.

The pilots, disoriented by a technical failure while crossing the unstable meteorological zone of the Doldrums, were unable to catch up with the stall of the A330, resulting in the death of 216 passengers and 12 crew members. The wreckage and the black boxes were found two years later, at a depth of nearly 4,000 m. More than 10 years of legal battle In 2019, after ten years of expert battles and the indictment of the company and the manufacturer for "manslaughter", the Paris prosecutor's office had only requested a trial for Air France, retaining its indirect responsibility for "negligence and recklessness "in the training of its pilots.

The analysis had not convinced the examining magistrates who had pronounced a general dismissal on August 29, 2019: for them, this accident was explained "obviously by a conjunction of elements which had never occurred" , highlighting "dangers which could not have been perceived before". The investigations "did not lead to characterizing a culpable failure by Airbus or Air France in connection (...) with the piloting faults (...) at the origin of the accident", had- they estimated. Scandalized, the relatives of the disappeared and the pilots' unions had appealed, denouncing a decision which only overwhelmed the missing crew. The prosecution had also appealed. On March 4, the reopening of closed-door proceedings before the investigating chamber lasted more than five hours. "We are not asking for revenge but justice for the dignity of families and victims," ​​Danièle Lamy, president of the Entraide et Solidarité AF447 association, told AFP, fearing that "a certain form of impunity would lead to that such a catastrophe is repeated ". "How is a national company appreciated, how an aircraft of the highest technology, reputed to be unbreakable, from a famous aircraft manufacturer, how these two entities could they have allowed such a catastrophe to occur?", Asked Ms. Lamy to the court.

The indirect causes of the crash In support of the civil parties, the general prosecutor went beyond the requisitions of the Paris prosecutor's office, of which he is the hierarchical superior, by requesting the referral to correctional not only of Air France but also of Airbus. Without diminishing the "direct cause attributable to the crew", the Advocate General considers that the indirect causes of the crash are to be found in the shortcomings of the two companies: the managers of Air France "refrained from implementing the training and the information of the crews "necessary, while Airbus" underestimated the seriousness of the failures of the Pitot speed probes and did not act sufficiently to correct this dangerous defect. These failures had multiplied in the months preceding the accident.

The icing of these probes was the trigger for the disaster. Caused by the formation of ice crystals during a passage at high altitude in a cluster of cumulonimbus, the incident had led to an inconsistency in the speed measurements and disoriented the pilots until the fatal stall in less than 4 minutes.

The disaster was the subject of a long debate by experts from the world of aeronautics, accused of corporatism by the civil parties. In a first report in 2012, experts attributed the accident to the accumulation of technical problems, crew failures and a lack of information from the pilots on the attitude to be taken in the event of an imbalance in speed measurements. A 2014 second opinion, requested by Airbus, had been more favorable to the cons

AF447 French (https://www.france24.com/fr/info-en-continu/20210512-crash-du-rio-paris-en-2009-air-france-et-airbus-renvoy%C3%A9es-en-correctionnelle) with all credit to France24 and AFP

12th May 2021, 17:56
@Dave I wrote 'verdict' because the legal context was not clear to me, so not "verdict". @Imagegear in his, much appreciated :ok:, response translates it to 'decision' and provides helpful context.

12th May 2021, 18:50
I have no comment re whether French courts should / could / will decide that Airbus had any culpability re the loss of AF447. But when it comes to Air France I believe this: IF a court decided there was some culpability on the part of Air France, re contributory causes (training, procedures, etc.) then I would suggest there is clear evidence of at least as much responsibility for contributory cause regarding the action / inaction of the Captain.

13th May 2021, 05:14
For the legal pundits following the process:

When a case has been appealed, (https://www.dictionnaire-juridique.com/definition/pourvoi.php)and the Court of Cassation, (https://www.dictionnaire-juridique.com/definition/cour-de-cassation.php) which has been brought before it by one of the parties to the trial, quashes the judgment or judgment referred to it, the sanction for the irregularity which the Court has accepted is called "cassation". The cancellation may be total or partial, and the file may or may not be the subject of a referral. (https://www.dictionnaire-juridique.com/definition/renvoi.php) The quashing of a judgment of appeal that has imposed convictions on payment entitles the return of the sums paid in the execution of that judgment, excluding those corresponding to the convictions handed down by the trial judgment with provisional execution and confirmed by the broken judgment (2nd Civil Chamber 12 April 2018, appeal 16-23176 (tel:16-23176), BICC No.888 of 1 October 2018 and Legifrance).

The scope of the cassation is determined by the device of the judgment that pronounces it; it also extends to all the provisions of the broken judgment that have a necessary link of indivisibility or dependence. (3rd Civil Chamber 18 February 2021, appeal No. 20-11899 (tel:20-11899), Legifrance). The cassation of the head of the scheme referring the file to the over-indebtedness commission to deal with the debtor's situation results in the cassation, as a result, of the other heads of scheme which do not attach themselves to it a necessary dependency relationship. (2nd Civil Chamber 1 October 2020, appeal No. 19-15613 (tel:19-15613), Legifrance).

When the procedure is done with reference, it is forwarded to a court which the judgment of the Court of Cassaton refers to in the device of its judgment. The practice names this court, "the court of reference." It is generally to the same degree as the one whose decision was overturned. In some cases, however, the referral is ordered and forwarded to the same court but otherwise composed.

In the event of a post-cassation referral, the proceedings continue before the referring court and, after appearing before the courts whose decision has been overturned, one of the parties does not appear, it is deemed to be sticking to the means and claims it had submitted to the court whose decision was overturned and the judge rules by contradictory judgment. As a result, the judgment rendered on removal after cassation is not subject to opposition on the part of a party who appeared before the Court of Appeal whose judgment was overturned. (2nd Chamber October 1, 2020, Appeal No.18-23210, Legifrance)

The cassation results, without the need for a new decision, the annulment by consequence of any decision which is the result of the subsequent, the application or execution of the judgment broken or which is related to it by a necessary dependency. (1st Civil Chamber October 14, 2020, Appeal No. 19-15783 (tel:19-15783), Legifrance).

To say that Mr. X's responsibility... is initiated on the basis of Article L. 111-10 of the Code of Civil Enforcement Procedures, a judgment held that he had carried out the enforced execution at his peril of a judgment on the appeal, constituting an enforceable provisional title that had not been decided on the merits. But it is not important that it has been rendered in the case of a referral, an executed judgment can only give rise to restitution (2nd Civil Chamber 31 January 2019, appeal No.17-28605, BICC No. 903 of 1 June 2019 and Legifrance).

13th May 2021, 05:54
This is going to be interesting to follow...

13th May 2021, 08:04

Tragic situation, but it was a heavy crew and the Captain was on his break, not in the cockpit, when the incident occurred. Two supposedly fully trained pilots were at the controls.

Secondly, were Captains (and crews) given training in deep stall recognition and recovery?

13th May 2021, 11:49
What is the relevance of deep stall recognition and recovery training?

13th May 2021, 14:52

Yes, I know the Captain was on his break. A break he began immediately after engaging in discussion with the two co-pilots about the fact they were entering the ICZ and were expecting the associated turbulence and icing for the next 15 or 20 minutes. For the Captain -- responsible for the safety of the aircraft -- to decide not to wait another 20 minutes to start his sleep, is a contributory factor.
Even more damning is the fact that he spent the previous night partying in Rio and said he had only an hour's sleep (his own words). So he had slept for an hour in the previous 36 to 40 hours (approximately). Whether his actions were simply a reflection of his own attitude to Captaincy and leadership, or a reflection of an Air France cultural attitude, I don't know.
Lastly I'd also suggest possible cultural bias for the BEA not to have considered the crews' partying and lack of sleep in Rio worth mentioning in the report, at least in the context of fatigue.

13th May 2021, 15:40
We might be talking at cross purposes - I am not disputing his actions prior to the flight, or his decision making leading up to his break.

As regards : ......the action / inaction of the Captain.
I meant that if Captains have never been given training how to recognise and fly out of a deep stall, then how was he expected to do it when he came back into the cockpit and undo the mess the other two had got into?

13th May 2021, 15:41

I wonder if one of the two pilots at the controls were trained, qualified and designated as a 'Cruise Captain'

13th May 2021, 15:43

What is the definition of a deep stall? I do not believe the aircraft entered a deep stall or a deep stall is a characteristic of the aircraft.

13th May 2021, 16:07
This wasn't a 'deep stall' which is more normally associated with turbulent air from the stalled wing impinging on the tailplane and reducing its ability to control the aircraft in pitch so that the angle of attack can't be reduced to exit the stall. In this particular circumstance the pitch moment of underslung engines at full power had a similar effect, but that was recoverable, a deep stall isn't always. Was in not the Caravelle that first brought the problem of a deep stall to light?

13th May 2021, 17:40
I see a huge problem going back to basic training in much of this sort of situation. There are schools that do not teach their students fully developed stalls during their basic training!! Don't worry about any sort of 'deep stalls', this is just normal fully developed stalls. From that poor basic background, situations like this are sadly not surprising.

I remember being astounded when I read the BEA's two-page initial findings. I discussed them with colleagues of mine (on aeroplanes where the control inputs by one pilot were traditionally fully visible to the other pilot) and asked what they would do if I ever had full up and full left control input (demonstrating it, while shut down on the ground of course!) for more than 30 seconds. The answers were always very 'blunt' (often displaying a clenched fist!). But then if the other pilot could not see those control inputs or had the same deficient basic training, what realistic chance did anyone have?

Another point that I have made from that crash is that the resting pilot was called from his rest eleven minutes before he became pilot monitoring in a major emergency. Who is fully awake for a situation like that in that time?

13th May 2021, 18:13
There are some cultures that resist the open concept of learning from mistakes and adapting to prevent recurrences. In such situations resort to law to show the benefits of avoiding the in-built hubris are necessary. It's not just that the training was deficient it's that it was wilfully deficient (in my opinion)

14th May 2021, 07:46
Perhaps my terminology was off - I am obviously referring to AF447 after the upset: dropping with stalled wings, extremely low forward IAS, and very high downwards V/S. Perhaps I meant 'fully developed stall'?

The piloting error of course, as Noel reminds us; was holding the side-stick fully back for an extended period of time whilst in the cruise.

14th May 2021, 09:45
They didn't follow the Unreliable Airspeed procedure

14th May 2021, 09:47
I always remember the best advice my Father gave me when I first started flying twins. He had amassed over 28000 hours in aircraft ranging from Blackburn B2’s to Boeing 707’s.
The advice was “don’t do or touch anything until you have identified the problem”.
As this aircraft was in the cruise I often wonder if the result would have been better had the crew done nothing.

14th May 2021, 10:05

"Perhaps my terminology was off - I am obviously referring to AF447 after the upset: dropping with stalled wings, extremely low forward IAS, and very high downwards V/S. Perhaps I meant 'fully developed stall'?"

The BEA, in its report, simply refers to a "sustained stall".

14th May 2021, 10:49
Court case I hope would bring out a couple of points. 1) I did stall training in the A330 simulator in alternate law. (Prior to the crash) the simulator buffeted & then dropped its nose as most aircraft do. Hence after the crash I thought oh it doesn’t stall conventionally.
2) I have always wondered what Bonin meant when he supposedly said. “We have no indications”

As said on this forum the final report missed out quite a bit.

14th May 2021, 10:55

I wonder if one of the two pilots at the controls were trained, qualified and designated as a 'Cruise Captain'

Does such a position exist at AF?

It certainly doesn't happen/exist at some other airlines that do augmented crew operations.

14th May 2021, 11:10
Aren't we missing the point here? If the pilots in the seats had applied the appropriate pages of the "Unreliable Speed" QRH (roughly 2.5 degrees NU and 80% N1) instead of applying the pages which apply to "After TO", this would not have happened. So it is an AF training matter and, depending on who delivered their TR training, maybe Airbus as well.

14th May 2021, 11:25
Aren't we missing the point here?

Given the sudden emphasis in some quarters in the captain's action/inaction/whereabouts there does certainly seems to be some danger of that.

14th May 2021, 11:33

The airspeed dropped below 60kts and was treated by computer as non computed data to stop the stall warning. Can any stall be deeper than this?

14th May 2021, 12:43

Yes we are, technique analysis has been done to death. The point now is the use of the law following an accident and the implications for open reporting.

14th May 2021, 13:38

There is a specific definition of a deep stall.

14th May 2021, 14:01

It appears that the best "nothing" that they could have done was just to let go the controls. Everyone would most likely then have survived.

14th May 2021, 18:25

I'm not so sure about that. A deep stall is commonly accepted as a stall condition which can't be recovered from - at least not using 'conventional' techniques (i.e. command nose down). However I've never seen or heard where that is an official definition of a deep stall.

14th May 2021, 20:28

"However I've never seen or heard where that is an official definition of a deep stall."

I'm not sure I'd know where to look for an "official definition" of even a simple stall. Nor many other generally-understood aeronautical terms, come to that.

14th May 2021, 21:48
DP Davies (Chief test pilot CAA from years ago) wrote about aerodynamics so "handling the big jets" is a must read.
The link below explains what you already know, but is included for readers of the thread who may not be familiar with fluid dynamics.

Stall (fluid dynamics) - Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stall_(fluid_dynamics))

blind pew
14th May 2021, 21:57
He discusses the super stall in handling the big jets with an unconventional pitch up characteristic approaching the stall followed by turbulent flow over the tailplane inhibiting conventional recovery.
Iirc the 737 max "fix" was because of the reduction of normal pitch down force approaching the stall.

15th May 2021, 08:12
By all means read Davies, but bear in mind that the book is now over 50 years old and pre-dates FBW (the most modern aircraft mentioned is the A300). His stall recovery advice is no longer taught. That said, his explanation of aerodynamics is excellent.

Timmy Tomkins
15th May 2021, 11:31
I always understood that the deep stall - so called - was asociated with T Tail Jets, like the Trident, 111, 727 etc. We certainly did training on that and unusual attitude recovery in the T Tail that I flew and I thought that unusual attitude recovery on instruments was a standard sim element. If it isn't then it should be

15th May 2021, 11:54
Still is on a recurrent basis.

15th May 2021, 12:20
I think deep stall is a thread drift. There's another stall on highly swept supersonic fighter like the Russian MiG-21, the super stall where it's not possible to power out with full power and after burner unless the AoA is reduced. It causes significant loss of altitude.There's nothing like that on Airbus 320/330. What can happen to most commercial aircraft is incipient stall or fully stalled. AF447 was not on the verge of stall but taken well beyond that and held there in fully stalled state. There were 24000 posts on AF447. You can't chew it anymore. The courts will decide if at all, whether the training syllabus of the manufacturer sufficiently covered unreliable airspeed and stall recovery and for Air France part did they train their pilots accordingly.

ATC Watcher
15th May 2021, 13:09
The courts will decide if at all, whether the training syllabus of the manufacturer sufficiently covered unreliable airspeed and stall recovery and for Air France part did they train their pilots accordingly. Indeed and the Judges do not have aviation training and aircraft manufacturing knowledge so they rely on various experts and their reports . The problem for them is that there are by now 3 reports saying slightly different things. The accident occurred 12 years ago and for the family's victims this has turned into a nightmare', which is complicated by the presence a a few lawyers on a crusade to make a name for themselves as it is well mediatized as we are talking about Airbus and air France..

From a purely technical , training and safety point of view, everything on AF447 has been learned, and corrected . This type of accident will almost certainly never happen again .. What we see now are legal issues about who has to pay money to who and how much...

15th May 2021, 14:41
Dave, here's a quotation from a 1998 Boeing document that may touch on what you're looking for:

" Aerodynamic principles of large aircraft upsets (https://www.boeing.com/commercial/aeromagazine/aero_03/textonly/fo01txt.html#aid) An airplane stall is characterized by any one (or a combination) of the following conditions:

Lack of pitch authority.
Lack of roll control.
Inability to arrest descent rate.

These conditions are usually accompanied by a continuous stall warning. A stall must not be confused with the stall warning that alerts the pilot to an approaching stall. Recovery from an approach to stall is not the same as a recovery from an actual stall. An approach to stall is a controlled flight maneuver; a stall is an out-of-control, but recoverable, condition. "

15th May 2021, 17:38

the fact that anyone here is using the term “deep stall” just highlights the total lack of knowledge of aerodynamics and SOP on stall recovery. Shocking

15th May 2021, 22:22
Agree entirely with vilas.
Imho the use of the term 'deep stall' is a dishonest distraction in this case.
The term 'deep stall' was introduced, iirc, for aircraft whose configuration ( usually T tail) allowed them to enter configurations where the tail plane was rendered ineffective because it was washed by the wing turbulence.
In the AF 447 case, the airplane was stalled by the PF and then held in the stall configuration. As has been pointed out by others, just letting go of the controls might have save the day.
So no sign of a 'deep stall', except perhaps in the mind of the PF.
The legal case really should focus on AF CRM, the PM who was senior recognized that the PF was mishandling the aircraft, yet failed to intervene. That points to a serious weakness, but it still was not a 'deep stall'.

16th May 2021, 12:49
“… technique analysis has been done to death. The point now is the use of the law following an accident and the implications …” beardy #27
“This type of accident will almost certainly never happen again .. What we see now are legal issues about who has to pay money to who and how much...” ATC Watcher #38

A concern for the industry is if the findings set unwarranted precedents.

Whereas the 737 Max identified deficiencies in the design requirements and certification process - must be chnged, these aspects were not an issue with AF447.

AF447 involved assumptions about conditions outside of the requirements; the fault had been identified and was being addressed. The crew behaved as reasonably could be expected in conditions which were beyond regulatory assumtions, and thus any recovery would be classified as fortuitous, even if previous crews had succeeded. There are no reports of investigations into the previous successes, nor how the encounters differed environmentally; thus there is little or no justification to assume that subsequent crews would manage similarly.

Whist the legal process could have adverse outcomes, we should leave those battles to Airbus and AF until there is fact. The important aspect is to review what can be - should be learnt about aspects beyond the accident and thus what everyone should consider to improve safety.
Design, certification, regulatory, training, operation, and individually.

17th May 2021, 07:43
70 Mustang

what do you mean, deep? A stall is a stall, the recovery is the same. Show me in the Airbus FCOM where the recovery procedure for a Deep Stall is vs a Stall.

ATC Watcher
17th May 2021, 07:57
Some humor is being lost in the translation here :rolleyes:

But we seem to be only discussing the depth of stalls now which is not the subject of this thread . The AF447 court case is .

17th May 2021, 08:08
Most of us are trained to recover a stall as soon as it is recognised, at the incipient stage. Or, if instructed to; at the first wing drop. We do so primarily by pitching down to unstall the wing.

As I understand it; AF447 was held in a stall for an extended period, with full back-stick, resulting in low forward IAS, and high downward V/S, during which time, the Stab trim wound NU as far as the FBW allowed.

Call that what you want, but it wasn't really a 'normal' stall situation that we are all used to recovering from.

For the court case: How was that pilot trained? Was he trained? What part of his training told him to hold full back-stick during a stall?

ATC Watcher
17th May 2021, 10:26
That is the essence of the part of the current trial which is against AF : training . Reading the first (BEA) report one can see that they did not recognize the stall. Not only the PF but the 2 others as well, including the Captain at the beginning , only towards the end, he , and he alone , realized it but it was(far) too late.
One chapter in one of the reports, I forgot which one , goes in detail into the AF training syllabus, as far as I remember hands on training was concentrating on approach to stall, not on stall recovery. Those were the requirements of that time, although most airlines and AF in particular have changed that drastically since then. In addition against AF are their decision not to install /buy the BUSS, the late change of the Pitot sensors and some other small differences AF had compared to other airlines that were more pro-active in that respect. , That is what the Judges , lawyers and their experts are debating now.

17th May 2021, 12:00
I think the court should also look at what kind of 'rest' the captain had before this flight and what AF's instructions on the subject may have been. There is also the question of how the captain managed the flight. Would you, as the commander, decide to take your rest period when flying through the ITCZ? I know I would have wanted to be in my seat during that time and would have managed the crew rest accordingly.

Nick 1
17th May 2021, 12:35
This it’ s difficult to understand for me too , first you decide not to avoid an area of cb topping FL530 and , instead to sit there and make tactical deviation with the two other pilot , you decide to go for rest probably for the most difficult or critical part of the flight .

17th May 2021, 14:11
Closing stable door when the Cheval has bolted and all that, but no, very few of us would have taken that action. Whatever - he and his (alleged) mistress died in the ensuing. Only his 'estate' remains liable in law for that decision, unless AF 'rules' at the time rigidly prescribed when rest MUST be taken by the Captain, in which case, lawyers................alert!

17th May 2021, 16:08
They never realised they were in a stall, and the right-seater flying never acknowledged the PNF's quiet call out of Alternate mode, so he might well have believed he couldn't stall, being in normal mode. Of course all this was hashed out at the time, and it probably makes little sense to go over it again here, but I think questions about their training are indeed relevant to the judicial matters.

ATC Watcher
17th May 2021, 17:33
Bergerie1 : I think the court should also look at what kind of 'rest' the captain had before this flight and what AF's instructions on the subject may have been. This has been debated already during one of the trials, , and if I remember correctly the SNPL (AF union) had obtained earlier an injunction that actions during off-duty periods are private and should not be included in the BEA report . The gutter media reported wild stories but very few people if any know exactly what really happened during the rest period as all the direct witnesses perished in the accident , What remains as facts are only a 1h helicopter tour , one email to a friend that he slept badly prior the flight , and some wild rumours. .

17th May 2021, 18:06

Hence the comment I made (and criticized for) in one of the other AF447 threads - perhaps it's not such a good idea to teach pilots that they can't stall a particular aircraft.

17th May 2021, 18:15
ATC Watcher

The court is not going to decide what the crew did was right or wrong even when to take rest. So many accidents SOPs are violated, mistakes are made. The only issue is did the manufacturer know unreliable speed can happen if so did they have an adequate procedure to deal with it. If yes, Airbus is off the hook. Did AF impart that training to this crew? If yes the case is closed.

ATC Watcher
17th May 2021, 20:25
Fully agree with you . That was my point too and I concur with your logical conclusion.

17th May 2021, 20:56
Many of the complexities of the crew's decision making, and lack thereof, got addressed in the report from the California Training Institute: https://www.hptinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Air-France-4472.pdf

18th May 2021, 15:21

Pilots need to know it doesn't stall in normal law because that affects GPWS terrain procedure. It only stalls once out of normal law. The pilots knew it they were taught stall recovery which can only be alternate law. Pilots were engulfed by fear because they didn't know what had happened and may be hyperventilating devoid of rational thought. Otherwise the Stall warning was blaring in the cockpit only a deaf couldn't hear that.

18th May 2021, 16:49
The 'Stall warning' was not 'blaring in the cockpit'. They had the angle of attack well beyond what Airbus had considered was likely and therefore beyond the angle where a stall warning was given. Therefore it was silent. At one stage they briefly lowered the angle of attack to a point where the stall warning was given. Their immediate response was to "undo what they had done that gave them the stall warning" and raised the nose again, silencing the stall warner. That does not sound like pilots who have been trained to understand the concept of a stall, let alone how to recover from one.

I will go back to the problem that I have mentioned of basic flying schools not even demonstrating fully developed stalls, let alone teaching their students to handle them correctly. The problem starts there...

But they end with Airbus 'designing out' stall warnings being given at extremely high angles of attack (stall warnings should be given whenever the aeroplane is stalled, without limits) and Air France having to answer questions about the stall recognition and recovery training.

18th May 2021, 17:45
Appreciate that but the stall is the essence of this case!

18th May 2021, 17:48
When the stall warning sounded it kept sounding till the crew took the AoA beyond the warning design. The AoA probes are like aerofoils need certain forward speed to measure the AoA. When the aircraft speed dropped below 60kts it was beyond design and was taken as unreliable and treated as non computed data and rejected. Then the warning stopped. But during this time the only action the crew had taken was opposite of what was required. So they were already confused. AoA probes are manufactured by another agency. Does anyone has any idea about say Boeing 737/777/787 (tel:737/777/787) whether stall warning will sound at at all forward speeds?

19th May 2021, 02:45
I have friends who joined Air France in 2015 and they told me flying raw data in daily line operations is a very common practice. They follow Airbus recommendations on that matter. I’m curious to know if that was the case before 2009?

21st May 2021, 06:39
A challenge for the industry is an increasingly litigious society, where people seek retribution with little consideration of the much higher standard of safety. This could restrain learning from events required to improve, or at least to maintain existing standards.
An emerging risk of inaction could reduce the perceived level of safety, continuing a vicious circle of more procedures, rules and litigation.

The baseline for the legal action was an accident resulting from simultaneous multiple sensor malfunctions where the acceptable probability of occurrence was beyond the certification requirements. It might be argued that the in-flight risk pending modifications identified from previous malfunctions could have been better judged; which would rely on on human (crew) understanding in real time.

The regulator has responsibilities for both design requirements and airworthiness issues, thus with increasing complexity in systems and operations the regulator should also be involved in the legal process - but to what point. Ever increasing systems integrity to counter extremely rare, and often unforeseeable circumstances which involve indeterminate human response - another vicious circle in the quest for perfect safety.

21st May 2021, 16:43
It's perhaps unfair to label as vengeful those who take legal action against parties they believe responsible for killing their family members. Retribution in the eyes of some may be just, if inadequate, compensation in the eyes of others. But the issue isn't about a point of perspective. I fully understand that learning from errors requires transparency which may be at odds with the adversarial nature of litigation. That tension isn't new and will never be resolved. But there is also a corner where the failures of supposedly highly-trained and trusted professionals reach the level of negligence, even criminal negligence. And to justify allowing culpable individuals to escape responsibility on the alter of fixing safety flaws in the system seems unjust.

23rd May 2021, 13:21
The baseline for the legal action was an accident resulting from simultaneous multiple sensor malfunctions where the acceptable probability of occurrence was beyond the certification requirements. .

So, to follow you, in fact, it should not be Air France or Airbus going to court but the certification authorities because they did not define strong certification requirements..

23rd May 2021, 16:19
voyageur, agreed; it would be unfair to ‘label’ people, but that was not the intention. The point was to highlight that the apparent change - seeking more compensation etc, could have greater effect on the industry than we appreciate.

With increasing safety the industry moves way from blame, more towards understanding and thence learning. If there is no corresponding adjustment of legal view then the widening gap may create greater opportunity for compensation. With different viewpoints, the public might be less appreciative of the concept of error and blame as is aviation; thus legal findings could tend towards public perception. Also, whilst operations are conducted in complex multitasking situations where there are many demands on thinking and understanding, the legal process with hindsight, might only consider each of the demands sequentially, without the context of a demanding situation.
The legal process might not fully understand the tasks the crews face during an event, or designers and operators inability to foresee every alternative human reaction in surprising situations; thus culpability might only be concluded with hindsight.

23rd May 2021, 16:48
Bidule, we should not blame certification authorities for a judgement of risk which has been accepted world wide and shown to be be adequate for many systems - and in other industries.
A rule change at this level would probably generate more automation vice attempting to quantifying the variable human in a risk assessment.

The critical point in this safety event is that it happened at all - obviously. There was a component malfunction - three simultaneously, which by all available means had been shown to be adequate. Meeting the requirements at the time, requirements which via higher accountability were acceptable to government and thence the public.

If change is warranted, then consider the process; which apparently has been improved in the icing requirements in CS 25; greater emphasis on ice crystals.

Also, in addition to the mandated modified probe, the manufacture has improved ADC logic, switching, and crew interface, yet some views cite this as an admission of prior error. Operators have reviewed checklists and training, but these and modification are obvious fallacies if used to justify uneducated criticism, which could generate a reluctance to improve safety - ‘we meet the regulation’ - ok, no more.

The industry requires a learning culture to progress safety, a willingness to advance beyond the minimum standard; the question is if increasing litigious action will hinder developing a safety culture - not change rules.
The Certification Authorities should appear for the defence.

23rd May 2021, 22:50
safetypee. You are absolutely correct that the legal process to assign blame and/or impose punishment or set compensation is backwards-looking. Juries (or judges) reach binary verdicts (guilty or not guilty) or assign shares of culpability and hence compensatory and/or punitive damages in a process that requires judgement in hindsight. It's also true that it may be easier to conclude negligence when a babysitter allows an infant to drown in a bathtub because he/she didn't notice the plug was in than when three supposedly skilled, highly-trained, and expensively compensated professional pilots fail to recognize a stall for several minutes in perfectly flyable aircraft thus causing the deaths of several hundred people. I was only pressing the point that culpability in the cockpit (or the training school, or even the regulatory agencies) shouldn't be set aside because it might make lesson-learning more difficult. best regards.

WillowRun 6-3
24th May 2021, 03:38

It would be enlightening, and at the least quite interesting, to find out what KSAs you hold with regard to civil litigation involving air crashes or accidents (knowledge, skills, and abilities - a standard assessment metric in American higher education including legal education).

i say this not because I disagree with any particuar assertion you've articulated about legal processes in general or about ""the" legal process. Rather, as a result of having had a fairly broad set of professional interactions with accomplished litigators - some in the defense bar, others for plaintiffs - over several years now, it's unclear to me which interrogative is the more pertinent one: Other than abstruse pronouncements about how safety-related processes function, what basis in actual fact or experience do you assert supports your view about litigation in these cases? (Aren't your posts generally long on abstractions, tending toward theoretical?) Or..... let's say you're actually one of the above-referenced top-drawer American courtroom litigators of renown, posting behind an assumed identity.....So, what foundational changes are you advocating in the Montreal system which (as is widely known and recognized) is the bedrock of civil litigation for international civil aviation?

[Any perceived snark or sarcasm in this post is both apologized for in advance, and not intentional.]

24th May 2021, 14:29
Hi Willow, no legal expertise as in your sphere; at best a layman (see pm).
However, sufficient experience in aviation, flying, testing and certification, and incident investigation - supporting formal investigations - to participate an abstract discussion from the aviation viewpoint.

My simple view of the legal position is that AF & Airbus are appealing the investigation finding, and subsequent court rulings and appeals which allow a prosecution to proceed - post #2, et al.

How can a manufacturer be held responsible for an aircraft which met all requirements, yet suffered a failure at a level of probability not considered by certification.
How might any differences between world aviation standards and local legal findings to be judged.

Similarly, how can an operator be held responsible for a situation (triple ADC malfunction and consequential system alerts) for which specific training was not required, and that training which was required had been approved by the regulator.

An adverse outcome, Manufacturer and/or Operator being held accountable for a situation, which previously met requirements of certification and training, would have detrimental effect for aviation and safety in general.

24th May 2021, 21:28

Having pilots who do not understand or recognise a stall, or who do not know what action to take to recover from a stall it rather startling. It is one of the fundamental aspects of flying a fixed-wing aeroplane.

25th May 2021, 23:01

these are good points and as in any accident, ‘everything’ should be considered relevant, unless proven otherwise i.e. rule out factors one by one and not have to rule them in

ATC Watcher
26th May 2021, 07:43
The probable answer to that question "why did nobody, ( 3 of them) recognize the stall " is described in the the 1984 Charles Perrow book , " Normal accidents " describing among other things the 3 Miles Island nuclear accident.
There is a difference in Human factors between what is logical on paper, and how humans faced with unknowns and stress react. Training is supposed to help bridging that gap. Training for stall recovery in one thing, but recognizing a stall starting with wrong indications on displays is another.

Nick 1
26th May 2021, 08:22
And consider also the condition at the moment , was not a stall recovery in still air by day , they where by night , in the middle of ITCZ , cb all around maybe inside , so probably extreme shear and turbulence , lightning , add the startle effect , not an easy job even will full data working .

26th May 2021, 09:12
Noel, et al, we have to consider what assumptions are in the questions; our inability to understand crews’ behaviour at the time, without benefit of hindsight.

Pilots are trained for stall recognition and recovery; they are not trained for the combination of erroneous airspeed and stall - manual flight at high altitude with many systems alerts and distractions. Nor in turbulence which masks natural stall warning, or stall at night / IMC, or with revised control laws, or …, … or in the real aircraft in a rare, surprising, complex situation.

The article below is an overview of the investigation and HF issues relevant to the questions.
Also see page 6 which relates to legal aspects (this thread), particularly the French view:-
“This investigation does not seek to determine responsibilities—that is the role of the judicial investigation that takes place in parallel and independently of ours, as laid out in French law. Unfortunately, in the mind of the public, it is not always easy to understand the difference. Many people expected the BEA investigation to point out responsibilities and even culpabilities.”
Accident Investigation page 6 - ; and Human Factors Issues page 9 -.

26th May 2021, 14:51
"why did nobody, ( 3 of them) recognize the stall "

As I have pointed out before. At the time simulators portrayed the A330 stall as conventional. i.e In alternate law pulling back stick stalled the simulator first buffet & then nose drop. Also simulators flew in alternate law the same at 38000 ft as 12000 ft. This is not the case in reality. IMHO the aircraft did not respond the way they may have been trained.

26th May 2021, 18:18
For everyone who has an interest in the causes and contributory factors for this accident, the following article, written for Vanity Fair by William Langewiesche in 2014, is as good a summary as you will find. The interrelationships that came together that night (automation, training, human factors, culture, CRM, etc.) are all discussed – and explained well enough for a general audience to comprehend.


There is much more to this accident than "the pitot tubes became blocked with ice", or "there was no adequate procedure at the time", or "lack of training in high altitude stall", or "awareness and implications of Alternate Law".

26th May 2021, 22:13

But were they actually trained at all in a relevant scenario (whether sim was faithful or not) ? I understood from the report that they were definitely not trained in either stall or UAS at cruise alt, only at low level where handling and required responses are different. Were they ever trained in alternate law at cruise altitude, at all ? - the report mentions alt law training but also states it was at low level, in fact high altitude alternate law training is stated as a change made following the accident (which pretty much implies it wasn't done before). If they were never trained, the simulator fidelity, or lack of, is kind of irrelevant.

26th May 2021, 22:40
Quite right, hence my word may. One of my annoyances is that at the time our training aides did not represent the real aircraft. It will be interesting to see if this comes up in the court case. I also wonder in reality how many pilots have actually “hand” flown any FBW Airbus at high altitude. Certainly a skill you need when everything goes “pear shaped”.