x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Mandatory pilot training recommended in Air France crash report

The French air accident investigation agency is recommending mandatory training for all pilots to help them fly planes manually and handle a high-altitude stall.

LE BOURGET, France // French investigators describe a string of unexplained pilot errors and unreliable equipment in a report on the 2009 crash of an Air France plane in the Atlantic.

Based on its probe into the crash so far, the French air accident investigation agency is recommending mandatory training for all pilots to help them fly planes manually and handle a high-altitude stall.

The BEA agency released a summary of its latest findings Friday into the crash of Flight 447, the worst crash in Air France's history. All 228 people aboard were killed.

The summary says the crew's least-experienced pilot struggled to come out of an aerodynamic stall that was dooming the flight.

The BEA will release a fuller report later Friday, based on cockpit voice and data recorders retrieved from the ocean depths in May. The French air accident investigation agency BEA is issuing a report Friday into the crash based on readings from those so-called black box flight recorders.

French daily Le Figaro reported Friday that the report will point to a succession of pilot errors in the June 1, 2009, crash. The BEA would not comment on the Figaro report before a news conference scheduled later Friday.

A brief preliminary BEA report in May said that the pilots struggled to tame the aircraft as it went into an aerodynamic stall, rolled, and finally plunged 38,000 feet (11,500 meters) into the Atlantic Ocean in just 3 1/2 minutes.

But the passengers on the doomed Rio de Janeiro-to-Paris flight were probably asleep or nodding off and didn't realize what was going on as the aircraft fell nose-up toward the sea, the BEA said at the time.

Families of the victims are eager to hear more about what happened, and several met with investigators Friday morning at Le Bourget outside Paris, where the BEA is based.

"It's mainly the technical elements that we are missing," Robert Soulas, who lost his daughter in the crash, told AP Television News. "It's completely premature to accuse the pilots if we don't know what situation they were confronted with."

The report released Friday will be the agency's third report on the crash and the most extensive yet, but is not the investigators' final word. The next, and final, report is expected in early 2012.

The plane's external speed sensors, called Pitot tubes, have long been considered a likely culprit in the disaster, with experts suggesting they may have been iced over and caused the initial problem in the crash. Since the accident, Air France has replaced the speed monitors on all its Airbus A330 and A340 aircraft.

The May report contained only selective remarks from the cockpit recorder, offered no analysis and assigned no blame.

But several experts familiar with the report said the co-pilot at the controls - Cedric Bonin, 32, the youngest of the three-man cockpit crew - may have responded incorrectly to the emergency by pointing the nose upward, perhaps because he was confused by the incorrect readings.

Aviation experts say the aircraft's nose should have been pointed slightly downward to enable the plane to regain lift after it had gone into an aerodynamic stall.

In such a stall, a plane most often loses lift because it is traveling too slowly, and begins to fall out of the sky. Pointing the nose downward enables the aircraft to pick up speed, gain lift and pull out of the stall.

In a separate criminal investigation, French authorities have filed preliminary manslaughter charges against Air France and Airbus.

France's minister overseeing environment and transport, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, said it's not up to the BEA to assign blame.

"That is the role of the justice system. The BEA establishes facts. On the basis of these facts, they make recommendations. I hope that international air safety authorities immediately examine the BEA's recommendations," she said Friday on LCI television.