It is June 1st 2009. Air France flight 447 is making departure from Rio De Janeiro,Brazil. It is going to Paris,France. It will take 12-13 hours to get to Paris, but while they are over the Atlantic ocean, Flight 447 disappears from the radars. In the cockpit is main pilot Duboi (the oldest), his copilot Bonin (the youngest of them all), and another copilot Robert (the second oldest). Altogether there are 228 people in the Airbus A330-208.
Flight 447 is over the Atlantic Ocean, it’s almost midnight so most of the passengers are asleep. In the cockpit, Dubois is at the controls and Bonin is his copilot. It is almost the end of rest time in the cockpit for Robert. He goes to the cockpit, Dubois wants to rest now, so he goes in the rest room behind the cockpit.
Bonin takes control and puts the auto-pilot on and sits. After a while Bonin smells something in the cockpit, he asks “Do you smell that?” to Robert. The more experienced person says that it is the smell of the Ozone layer, but Bonin seems startled. They are heading into a thunderstorm, and it is very cold outside the aircraft – so cold that ice-crystals start to form in the pitot tube.
What even is a pitot tube, you may ask? Pilots need correct information to fly an aircraft. A pitot tube senses the outside of the plane and passes the information back to the cockpit. The pitot tube on Flight 447 is getting covered with ice-crystals, making it hard to navigate. Now they have to turn off autopilot because of wrong information, and have to fly the plane manually. Since they are heading into a thunderstorm, Bonin wants to fly over the storm. However, something goes wrong…Bonin pulls back the stick to make the plane’s nose go up too much, causing the plane to go into a stall, and there is a STALL STALL alert going off in the cockpit.
When the plane cruised ahead a bit the outside of the aircraft became warmer, which means that the ice crystals that formed on the plane earlier is now melting. This means the pilots are getting correct information, but the pilots thought that the ice crystals are still on the pitot tube and they are still getting wrong information. What they should do now is call the most experienced one of them all – Dubois – who is resting behind the cockpit.
There is still the STALL STALL alert going off in the cockpit, and things are heating up. The pilots are thinking that they can’t trust any instruments in the cockpit and that there is something very wrong with the aircraft, but no! Nothing is wrong with the aircraft. All this commotion in the cockpit wakes Dubois up, he goes to the cockpit and tries to help but meanwhile Bonin is still pulling up the stick – the plane is descending with it’s nose up. Then, Robert has an idea – he pulls his stick down, thinking that it would take them out of the stall. And he is right! It would take them out of the stall, but since Bonin is still pulling up and Robert is pulling down it says DUAL INPUT, which means that if one pilot is pulling up for a long time and then the other pilot pulls the stick down and they put different inputs, the plane will discard the nose down command. Back to Flight 447 – they can’t think of anything anymore and so Flight 447 plummets into the Atlantic Ocean at 152 knots, killing all 228 people onboard the Airbus A330.
This crash fascinates me because the plane involved in the crash was a perfectly healthy A330: nothing wrong with ATC, nothing wrong with weather and nothing wrong with the pilots. This crash happened simply because of a tiny miscommunication between man and machine. I still think a lot about this plane crash.