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Airbus A320 crashed in Southern France

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Airbus A320 crashed in Southern France

Old 27th Mar 2015, 09:53
  #1841 (permalink)  
 
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Some things are not adding up

Apologies in advance if I have missed any vital pieces of information; I have tried to check the published information thoroughly before posting.

Some things are simply not adding up for me, particularly the 'evidence' supporting the theory that this was a malicious act by the FO. It seems that the FO has as good as been found guilty of murder without full evidence or any trial, however...

1. We are assured that the sound of the FO breathing (note: 'normally', not hyperventilating or panicked) is heard through to the end. Similarly, we're told that the Alt select can be heard being wound down, a seat being moved, and the door being opened and/or closed. Yet I haven't heard of any reports of the FD door being positively locked in the 'Lock' position, yet this should be clearly audible if these other faint sounds have been picked up. I cannot help feeling that this would be of sufficient importance to have been explicitly stated in the very detailed account offered by the French authorities of what they have heard. Some have questioned how breathing, described as gentle can be heard. I can assure readers that with digital signal processing techniques, including correlation and autocorrelation, signals significantly below the noise floor (ie completely drowned out by noise to the human ear) can be measured and heard, making the CVR a very rich source of audio clues that we wouldn't normally be able to hear. Few are aware that GPS operates by receiving signals sometimes 30dB or even 40dB below ambient noise levels (ie when massively swamped by noise which is many orders of magnitudes stronger than the actual GPS signal) by using this very technique.

2. Is the reported 'normal' breathing consistent with the alleged actions the FO is apparently guilty of doing? It gives the impression of being indicative of a relaxed, possibly incapacitated or even semi-conscious or unconscious person rather than someone knowing they are pointing at a mountain and about to die.

3. It has been assumed that the FO was conscious, if for no other reason than because he HAD to repeatedly re-lock the door after the 5 minute time-out. Have we had this explicitly stated by the authorities who know the facts or heard the CVR audio? If so, wouldn't this positive re-locking be clearly audible on the CVR as per my point above? However, the FO did not NEED to re-lock the door. If the Captain was preoccupied with banging on the door, as has been reported, it is entirely possible, even likely that he never made a (further) attempt to activate the access code as by this time his desperation to re-enter the FD would very likely be closing down options in his mind, to simply trying to smash his way in, just as we have been told. And wouldn't any attempt to re-enter the entry code be reported on as significant? A brief break in the door banging while a code is re-entered would be quite obvious on the CVR.

4. We are informed that the passengers were apparently unaware of the problem until the final seconds. By all accounts, the Captain made significant efforts to either gain the FO's attention, or indeed to break the door down. Are we really to believe that this all went completely unnoticed by the passengers?

Given these anomalies, I don't believe we have been told significant facts that have been revealed by the CVR. And it also seems very premature to judge the FO as totally guilty, as many have done so on this very forum, until the full facts are known. Maybe the media reports forced their hand, but I believe this partial revelation of CVR evidence combined with strong suggestion that the FO deliberately did this is not the way to handle such an important investigation as this.
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 09:57
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A German ex-pilot said in an interview that the descent rate of 3000-4000 ft/min would mean a nose down attitude of 12°-15° and would have been noticed by the passengers (IIRC he even said "definitely noticed")

Can you pilots confirm this?
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 09:58
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Risk Assessment

It is always going to be very difficult to design procedures to prevent deliberate sabotage of aircraft. They will never be 100% foolproof and will often have the potential to create some of the scenarios they are trying to avoid. For example;

1. Any door designed to keep out intruders will always have the potential to keep out rescuers.

2. Psychological screening will never catch every risk and if taken to extremes exclude perfectly safe pilots.

3. As most cockpit doors open inwards a determined individual will always be able to overcome a pilot swapping places with an FA and get that door locked.

We must therefore be careful to be realistic about what can be done and what the industry will be prepared to do -

1. No airline is going to add a third crew member - although that would probably be the most effective way to prevent this.

2. No aircraft manufacturer is going to add double doors as specified by EL Al - although clearly they would help significantly.

3. no regulator is going to remove the requirement for lockable doors depite the fact they have the potential in certain circumstances to create the very scenarios they are designed to prevent.

So we all know what is coming

- Low to no cost, high inconvenience reactive measures ...

1. Procedures to swap pilots with FAs as in the US cost nothing - but make life operationally complicated and will never be 100% effective. Cockpit doors usually open inwards so a determined individual could always push out an unsuspecting colleague and lock him or her out. Has the US experiment prevented any sabotage attempts?

2. Increased psychological screening. This too will never be 100% effective. It relies in part on the individual not trying to trick the assessor and if practiced in extremes would result in many perfectly safe individuals being denied their careers.

3. Fatuous justifications - for example - "we know of no incidents that have been detected but how many might have been prevented". By such justifications we could ban almost anything from flying. i.e. The 911 guys had pilots licences so should we ban pilots - a ridiculous example but it is all about a sense of proportion.

... so my point in summary

If we are not going to do something because the cost is considered too high versus the real risk, let's not do it either if it causes daily inconvenience to crew and passengers and has very little chance of preventing future incidents
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 09:59
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No where near 12-15 degrees at normal cruise speeds. You're not likely to see more than 10 in an emergency descent.
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 09:59
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@Silverstrata 1817 - agreed, these are the issues that need to be raised urgently...
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 10:02
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We are very quick to sacrifice anyone in pursuit of a quick and convenient “answer” before moving on to the next big event.
The “evidence” so far leaked certainly points towards the right seat but this is only day 3 and the “investigation” already has the aura of a lynch mob.
We should remind ourselves how the family and friends of the MH370 captain were hounded after he was accused of having a flight simulator at home, marriage breakup, etc. when he was likely a totally devoted pilot trying to save his aircraft and passengers under impossible circumstances. The captain’s reputation was instantly ruined and I cannot imagine what his poor family was put though. Any apologies?
Far more important to get a quick answer and keep bums on seats than draw attention to something commercially damaging like having to ban carriage of cheapo Lithium batteries on aircraft?
There is a lot more to this investigation and airlines and authorities might spend time better looking into the relationship between GP and Company Doctor and themselves.
The initial training and 6-monthly SIM checks and line checks would normally reveal clues but they tend to remain hidden in our PC world and we just keep ticking the boxes and refrain from comment.
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 10:04
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With regards the door mechanism :

If someone outside inputs the correct or incorrect code, does it make an audible noise (a 'pip' perhaps) ? And likewise does the lock button make any noise ?

And if the person outside types in the wrong code, what then ? Is the door locked for 5 minutes before retry, or can he immediately retry with the correct code ?
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 10:05
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Ryanair pilots do a max of 900 per annum but only work perhaps half that in the winter. So 40 hours is not far out for a low hours flyer
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 10:09
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With this crash we are looking at around 4000 ft per minute
Pilots what is the normal rate of descent ?? I am guessing half of that ???

Would also be interesting to know if there was any other triggers on the DUS to BCN leg between pilots
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 10:09
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Not sure if it's a translation issue but this jumped out on the GW own press release:

26.03. 07.30 p.m.: Daily summary, 26 March 2015A few hours ago we thought last Tuesday was the darkest day in the history of our company. But today, Thursday, has been no less devastating.
We were stunned to learn today that the airplane we lost in southern France was to all appearances made to crash by deliberate act—presumably by the co-pilot. This is evidently the conclusion of the French investigative authorities who have studied the voice recorder that was recovered from the ill-fated Airbus A320. It appears that, once the plane had reached cruising altitude, the captain stepped out of the cockpit but was unable to re-enter it a short while later, as the co-pilot had bolted the cockpit door.
(Bolding mine)

Is this just a reslt of translation from German to English, or actually what they mean? because if so that is very different to denying entry via the normal method....
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 10:10
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If we are not going to do something because the cost is considered too high versus the real risk, let's not do it either if it causes daily inconvenience to crew and passengers and has very little chance of preventing future incidents
The public will demand that "something must be done to prevent this" from the regulators.
They, in turn, will increase the regulations to appease the public and keep their jobs.
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 10:13
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Quote:
How secure would you feel if you had to trundle along on regular occasions for a medical where someone would look at you and say " sorry mate your law career is over "
They do have insurance for that, however. I used to know a Virgin pilot who had a standard £250k cover against losing his Class 1.
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Many do not have loss of licence insurance. Years ago this was a given perk with most employers who could negotiate block rates to get a better deal but not any more.

Like all insurances there are let out clauses and if you've not disclosed anything and this emerges when you make a claim you're not likely to receive a payment.
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 10:14
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With this crash we are looking at around 4000 ft per minute
Pilots what is the normal rate of descent ?? I am guessing half of that ???
Work on 5x G/S ~2500'/m.

But any increase in IAS, speedbrake, reduction in HW would easily see 4000'/m or more in a normal descent. A descent at Max M/IAS will produce a high RoD, when compared to a fuel efficient, unrushed, comfortable descent.
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 10:16
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I agree that the French have not provided sufficient evidence to convict the guy.

All that has been released so far suggests that the aircraft was deliberately flown into the ground but not substantive proof of that. A review of its decent from TOC to crash makes that scenario highly probable however.

I assume they must have evidence not yet in the public domain in order to make such a claim for example from the tape or at the police search at his house. If they do not then I agree convicting him is hasty at best.
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 10:17
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To all of the non-believers I can't believe the prosecuter would have publicly blamed the FO if there wasn't sufficient evidence. I think that anyone who actually flies the A320 would understand how a CVR and mode S report can prove it beyond reasonable doubt.

Captain leaving the flight deck can be gleamed from the conversation between the 2 pilots, the seat moving and the door opening and closing.

If the aircraft had experienced any technical problem which justified a descent a chime or CRC would be heard. If there's no chime you have to ask why the descent?

I believe the Mode S shows that an altitude of 100ft was selected on the FCU and there's a corresponding sound of clicking when the selector was moved.

The door tone would be heard when the Captain tried to gain access (which I guess was very soon after the descent was noticed).

The chime for the emergency door code would be heard and if that is silenced before 30 seconds it's yet another sign of intent on the FO's part.

Regardless of the sound of breathing it's very easy to conclude this was a deliberate act by the FO based on the information available.

It's scary to think that a fellow pilot could do that, and I'd love to believe otherwise, however we need to wake up and smell the coffee.
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 10:18
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I don't think we can assume that the CVR would clearly record the operation the small toggle switch for unlocking/locking the cockpit door. The small shielded switch is gripped between finger and thumb, has to be lifted up and then moved towards "lock" or "unlock" before returning to the centre position. Whatever sounds it makes would be small and might not be easy to distinguish from the sounds made by other switches or from other background noises.
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 10:20
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Confirmation Bias or Confirmatory Bias, is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions, leading to statistical errors.

It is human condition that pilots are trained to avoid, it is safer to DISCOUNT a theory/problem by proving it isn't there rather than looking for things that prove your theory, Air Accident Investigators also use the same ethos.

Can we discount Hypoxia yet? No we can't
Can we discount Pilot Suicide yet? No we can't
Can we discount onboard equipment failure? No we can't
Can we discount aircraft structural failure? Yes we can
Can we discount a bomb on board? Yes we can

Those who have already come to the conclusion that pilot suicide is the only probable cause are suffering from Confirmation Bias.

It may or may not transpire that this was a pilot induced accident, all we and many others are saying is it's too early to come to any kind of informed conclusion about what happened.
If pilots were as rash as sky news, the daily mail, all their readers and the majority of posters in 'Rumours & News' aircraft would be crashing on a daily basis
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 10:21
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Originally Posted by NigelOnDraft
Are you certain the aircraft was flown above VMO?

The only analysis I have seen was someone did a quick calc, and showed the aircraft at, or slightly above VMO. Their data (they said) did not include allowing for wind, and the wind that day (they said) was southerly.

If that is true, it raises the prospect the aircraft was flown at/close to VMO using normal AP modes?
The published transponder data shows groundspeeds from about FL250 until impact that equate to around 330-340 KIAS in still air.
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 10:25
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Originally Posted by DB64
I leave you with this thought, if your wife, child, brother, sister, parent was one of the poor souls on board, would you be so quick to dismiss the findings the evidence so far is pointing to?
DB64, I leave you with this thought, if your wife, husband, child, brother, sister, parent was the pilot being accused of killing everyone on board would you be so quick to accept the still inconclusive evidence of the sounds on the CVR or would you prefer to wait until the data on the FDR was analysed to determine, more accurately, whether this was or was not a controlled and deliberate act?

I know I would.

I'm not a lawyer, nor a pilot, but I am frequently a passenger and I'd certainly like to know that every piece of evidence has been investigated and re-investigated before any conclusions are made in this case so that I can be sure that next time I board an aircraft there is every reasonable chance that the cause of this disaster, whether it be mechanical, medical or psychological is unlikely to affect my flight.
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Old 27th Mar 2015, 10:27
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The published transponder data shows groundspeeds from about FL250 until impact that equate to around 330-340 KIAS in still air.
Which is close to but below VMO (350kias).
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