I enjoyed your article on the Air France crash right up until the final statement. You are right on many levels regarding the crash but the assumption that automation should someday replace the humans in the cockpit as they are the weakest link is not appropriate. Automation is a tool to assist the pilot in managing workloads during different phases of flight. Air France is one instance, however all of the variables of a given flight can best be handled by the decision making process of a properly trained human brain or set of human brains that can appropriately adapt to the situation at hand through training and experience. I site Captain Sulliven and the incident in the Hudson River. No computer would have produced such an outcome. Flying is an inherently dangerous endeavor. We have come to expect tremendous levels of safety and very little risk through the continuing and endless processs of study, pilot training, aircraft design reliability and regulations all working together to give the desired outcome. We stack the deck in our favor as much as possible before we even leave the ground, but when things start going wrong and systems start failing I want a highly trained professional at the controls and not a computer running an algorithm that may or may not be appropriate to the situation at hand. I do not take the liberty of analyzing the actions of the crew in the Air France crash we did not sit in their seats and face what they faced on that fateful day God rest their souls but I know for certain that we will study their case, train and adapt to avoid such tragedy in the future. Had the aircraft design been different both pilots would perhaps have been clued in to the position of the flight controls and the crew could have produced a different outcome. No one knows for sure but that in and of itself is a lesson that perhaps design engineers could consider to enhance crew coordination in the future. Safety is best attacked from all angles.It has been proven time again that automation is only part of the equation.(Apollo Thirteen proved that if the Astronauts were passengers and not a trained professional crew the mission would have ended in disaster.) The Air France crash was one example but there are many examples that prove that a trained flight crew is a valuable and essential part of the safety equation.
I enjoyed your article about Air France. I completly understand as I have about 28,000 hours of which over 8,000 are instructor hours. As for fear, I never had that after the one and only time I had a sever case of vertigo. I allowed new Co-pilots that I was checking out in the 757 to land in stron x-wind conditions if they were doing OK. So much so that they were amazed at me letting them do it. I do not know FEAR let along Extreme Fear. I taught a class one time on Fear and with 17 students, it was an interesting group to work with.
Again, thank you for your very interesting article about AF.
Just read your article on AF449. Immediately brings to mind the saying: If it ain’t Boeing I’m not going. Sullenburger would most likely have been able to land his aircraft safely at Newark if it had been a Boeing craft. Paul
Below is a letter I sent to the International Herald Tribune immediately after the crash of AF447 and then again the other day when a Qantas A380 experienced an uncontained engine explosion. Perhaps I am a poor writer but the content is without any question of paramount importance as industry proceeds ahead of safety, sanity and most surely morality
Yesterday a Qantas A380 had an accident that could have been fatal as the engine could have structurally damaged the main spar and ignited torn fuel lines. Today we read of two accidents, one in Cuba and one in India claiming at total of 90 lives.
I am not going to speculate as to what caused the crash of AF447 or the potentially catastrophic explosion of the engine on the Qantas A380. What is paramount is that it happened. Aircraft will continue to crash; but consider this, have we reached a theoretical maximum number of passengers, either morally or economically, that we can put into one aircraft?
When one considers the extent of the grief and suffering as it spread through the families and friends of the victims of AF447 one is already at a number that is terrifying enough. But consider this; the A380 Airbus is certified for 853 passengers.
Economically there is less ambiguity, as it is doubtful that there is an aircraft manufacturer, insurance company or airline in the world that would recover from the litigation and subsequent awards stemming from a crash that claimed 853 victims. And it is perhaps this fact in our age of greed that will bring industry to a moral reality check.
I submit that from every angle the Aviation industry has yet to achieve the level of safety that would permit aircraft operations (max Pax) as envisioned for the A380 Airbus.
Krov Menuhin (USA Airline Transport Pilot)
St. Remy de Provence
+ 33 (0) 607195832
Below are the findings of the Qantas incident after take off from Singapore
Very lucky not to lose the aircraft.
Qantas A380 superjumbo full of holes
Richard Woodward, vice-president of the International Air Pilots’ Federation, told the Herald Sun yesterday that the lesson from the near disaster was the value of an experienced flight crew.
“There was a wealth of experience in the cockpit, even the lowest ranked officer on board had thousands of hours of experience in his former role as a military flying instructor,” said Capt Woodward, himself an A380 pilot on leave from Qantas.
As another senior pilot said: “It is bad enough for an engine to explode in mid-air let alone lose so many secondary systems”.
Investigators found shrapnel damage to the flaps, a huge hole in the upper surface of the left wing and a generator that was not working.
The crew could not shutdown the No. 1 engine using the fire switch.
As a result the engine’s fire extinguishers could not be deployed.
Captain Richard de Crespigny, first officer Matt Hicks and Mark Johnson, the second officer, could not jettison the volume of fuel required for a safe emergency landing.
With more than 80 tonnes of highly volatile jet kerosene still in the 11 tanks – two of which were leaking – they made an overweight and high speed approach to Changi Airport.
Without full hydraulics the spoilers – the hinged flaps on the front of the wings – could not be fully deployed to slow the jet.
The crew also had to rely on gravity for the undercarriage to drop and lock into place.
On landing they had no anti-skid brakes and could rely on only one engine for reverse thrust – needing all of the 4km runway at Changi to bring the jet to a stop.
The three crew have been interviewed by Australian investigators and cleared to return to duties.
Industry sources said the damage will almost certainly put the airline’s flagship jet – the Nancy Bird-Walton – out of service for months.
Investigators found that an oil fire may have caused the engine to explode.
Details of the stricken jet’s problems were revealed yesterday in an emergency directive by the European Aviation Safety Authority.
The authority made it mandatory for airlines with the now suspect Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines to make checks for excess oil.
If not detected, excess oil can cause a fire and ultimately result in “uncontained” engine failure, with potential damage to the aeroplane and to people or property on the ground.
Qantas made it clear it will keep its six superjumbos grounded indefinitely and has rearranged flight schedules using substitute aircraft.
“The specific checks mandated by the directive were already being carried out by Qantas in conjunction with Rolls-Royce,” it said.
“Qantas’s A380 aircraft will not return to service until there is complete certainty that the fleet can operate safely.”
Damage to the A380:
MASSIVE fuel leak in the left mid fuel tank (there are 11 tanks, including in the horizontal stabiliser on the tail)
MASSIVE fuel leak in the left inner fuel tank
A HOLE on the flap fairing big enough to climb through
THE aft gallery in the fuel system failed, preventing many fuel transfer functions
PROBLEM jettisoning fuel
MASSIVE hole in the upper wing surface
PARTIAL failure of leading edge slats
PARTIAL failure of speed brakes/ground spoilers
SHRAPNEL damage to the flaps
TOTAL loss of hydraulic fluid in one of the jet’s two systems
MANUAL extension of landing gear
LOSS of one generator and associated systems
LOSS of brake anti-skid system
NO 1. engine could not be shut down in the usual way after landing because of major damage to systems
ECAM (electronic centralised aircraft monitor) warnings about the major fuel imbalance (because of fuel leaks on the left side) could not be fixed with cross-feeding
FUEL was trapped in the trim tank (in the tail) creating a balance problem for landing
LEFT wing forward spar penetrated by debris
In light of the recent findings it might be useful if you would have a thought about what would have happened if the aircraft involved had been a Boeing? “Keep the pilot(s) in the loop” is Boeing’s philosophy. Trying to sort out a series of control laws, ‘Alpha Floor’ in an emergency when you are trying to communicate with the aeroplane’s control surfaces through a computer would be a great ‘Play Station’ game. In real life it is folly!
Thank you for your excellent blog!
Your article on the Air France crash did rightly mention that the icing up of air-speed sensors started a chain of errors.
However, you failed to mention that this was due to the fact that the air-speed sensors were made of the wrong material. Air-speed sensors need to have a inner coat of beryllium, the only material that is conductive (electricity needs to go through to heat the sensor and avoid freezing) ànd remains stable with strongly changing teperatures up in the sky.
The Air France sensors on the crashed plane were not of (expensive) beryllium, leading to its malfunctioning. This is rather relevant information to my opinion.
I enjoyed your frightening piece on the Air France crash. I wanted to let you know that I tried to click on the RSS feed button on your website to add your blog to iGoogle, but there’s something wrong with that button.
I don’t know much about RSS — how about Twitter? I’m @extremefear.
Hi,very interesting report of the AF 447 crash.
Pls see link of good timeline plot of the AF 447 last 45 min.
Jeff, your article on AF 447 was sophomoric at best. At FL410, all pilots are confronted with a “coffin corner” problem. If they fly too fast, they fly through maximum mach speed or MMO. If they fly too slow, they stall. The difference is usually 20 kts or less. So imagine flying along with no accurate airspeed indication and having to guess if you are too slow or too fast. (Try covering your speedometer on the highway and see how close you get to maintaining 70 mph). In a non-panic mode, pilots know that their aircraft might fly at one or two degrees nose pitch up and a certain power setting, say 90% max continuous power. Pilots also have an AOA indicator or angle of attack gauge that measures critical airflow over the wings and bypasses the information from the air data computer (ADC) or pitot static system. (Aircraft carrier pilots fly their approach using AOA information and ignore airspeed for the most part.) So the AF 447 pilots had plenty of options to recover including re-engaging the auto-pilot at lower altitudes where icing was not a factor; using the standby electric attitude and airspeed indicator to establish normal pitch attitude and airspeed; setting power to normal ranges and releasing the side stick; using the AOA gauge to re establish normal flight and airflow over the wings. These are all options covered under simulator training on all airlines. Had the Captain been at the controls (instead of in the head, not napping as you wrote), his experience would likely have kicked in and the tragedy avoided. The co-pilots were qualified to deal with the problem but did not fall back on their training and the results were deadly. Finally, under new RVSM rules (Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums), pilots are no longer permitted to “hand fly” aircraft above FL290. FAA and IATA mandate that autopilots fly the aircraft so airplanes can be flight planned at 1,000 ft. vertical separation. Thus, it is very likely the young co-pilots of AF 447 had never “hand flown” their aircraft at normal cruising altitudes of FL370-410. Hence their unfamiliarity with the controls especially under panic conditions. Bottom line: more simulator training and more experienced pilots at the controls.
Loved your article on What happened to AIR FRANCE
447. One of the best articles I ‘ve read this read.
Thank you. I;m not looking forward to flying now
but that was an excellent article.
from Manhattan Beach, CALIFORNIA
It was sad reading about AF 447. The article was thought provoking and report was an eye-opener. I work for an International Airline and I understand the gravity of the issues the report has detailed. However, PM report is not conclusive, we need to wait for BEAs report.
A clarification in the next to last paragraph you said: “paying closer attention to the weather and to what the planes around you are doing;”
Did you mean to say?: “paying closer attention to the weather and what your fellow pilots in the cockpit are doing”.
Enjoyed your article very much.
Well, that’s true, but what I meant was that if all the other planes in the area are avoiding an area of intense thunderstorms, maybe you should think of following their example.
Jeff, I have a broad Christian audience that will love seeing your article on 2012 end of the world stuff. So many live in fear, it is truly amazing as it really opposes faith. I also would like to read the full article Deadly Mind traps, can you email me the full article? Thanks so much
Dear Jeff: I heard you for the first time early this a.m. on the KFI-AM Nouri show. I sure know about fears, real and unreal. At 22 in ’64 I lasted 7 months in the army warrant officer pilot program in s. Alabama after 30 months in W.Germany at two helicopter bases in flight operations. I made it through preflight and primary of the 9 month course, but I just became full of fear and even broke out in hives. I left active duty in early ’65 just as LBJ committed ground forces to ‘Nam. As for airlines, I lost a girlfriend in May ’79 in the infamous AA DC-10 wreck on takeoff as she was a flight attendant with over ten yrs. She was 32 and based in San Diego. Over 273 died, still the worst domestic wreck..AA Flight 191. The port engine fell off at 400ft, severing all hydraulics. Thanks, I like your site…I think Les Stroud as “Survivor Man” is more than Grylls…Stroud has no crew with him.
Thanks for your book. I foud it very interesting.
Do you know the work of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche? (It’s a buddhist monk who suffered panic attacks when he was young) ?
No, I haven’t, but I’d be interested to hear more.
On this website, you could find some elements about using anxiety to become more aware at this adress:
He wrote two books and was involved in the research of the neuroscientist Richard Davidson.
Thanks, Vincent, I’ll check it out.
It’s been awhile, but I wanted to let you know that I very much appreciated your article on the AF447 crash. It was illuminating, gripping, and (as it turns out) correct. I have one question:
When the pitot tubes freeze over, is it clear to the pilots that only those sensors have failed? What I mean is, is there some indication that only those sensors have failed and all other readings are to be considered accurate? I’m trying to understand why these pilots would not have fallen back on the dozens of other instruments to help them, and I’m wondering, perhaps – because one sensor failed – it wasn’t clear that several sensors could have failed.
Can you provide any insight on this?
That’s an excellent question. The final accident report just released suggests that, just as you surmise, the pilots really didn’t know what was wrong, and what instruments to trust and what not to trust. So they wound up ignoring (apparently) a stall warning horn that was in fact entirely accurate. This raises some troubling issues, that I plan to address in a follow-up blog post very shortly.
I recently read your excellent article The Mystery of Music which relates to a worldly, music project that I am creating. Would you have a couple of minutes to provide me with your opinion or any input? If so, please email me directly as I cannot expose the project at this time.
Hi Jeff. I’ve read some of your work and I saw you on the “How the Earth Made Man” special. I really enjoyed that program – what books can you recommend on those topics? Thanks a bunch.
Thanks for watching, Vinny! Are you looking for books on evolution in general?
I read your article about McAfee and started reading the thread on bluelight from the beginning. Although he said he was going to stop posting on January 4th, 2011, he continued posting well after that. I am not done reading the entire thread, but I have found some amazing things on there.
Thanks for the tip! I’ll check it out.
If you read through the posts on bluelight, stuffmonger gives instructions on making hypersexual drugs, and dodges questions about whereabouts but gradually drops hints and shows photos. He eventually introduces himself to the forum as John, says he is in Central America doing research on bacteria and shows numerous pictures of his houses, lab, dogs, boats etc.
Was doing research for a piece I’m working on and found my way to your website and book Extreme Fear.
I’m a sports journalist and I wanted to pick your brain about this piece. Would it be possible to email you?
I really enjoy your website and was wondering if you’ve come across the recent New York Times article “Avalanche at Tunnel Creek.” I would love to read your perspective on the decision-making process that occurred in that situation. Thanks!
I’ve been meaning to sit down and read/watch it for some time and finally did at your prompting — really quite a story. The most interesting thing about it, for me, is how the decision making of this expert group went so badly awry. Being in a group obviously has both advantages and drawbacks, when it comes to handling danger; in this case the individual members succumbed to groupthink, each unwilling to express their (in some cases intense) misgivings. Perhaps they were all too impressed by one another’s credentials. It seems that many shared the notion that “if those other guys are willing to ski these conditions, it can’t be too bad.” There are definitely some lessons to be learned here.
I enjoyed your recent article, Fearing the Worst, in the January issue of Success Magazine. Your book and expertise are just what we are looking for to add to the Living Proof website!
The site we are getting ready to launch came about because of Marti’s attack and the upcoming interview with CBS 48 Hours Live To Tell in February. A local NBC affiliate aired her story last year and after watching it you’ll see why we call her Miracle Marti: http://www.kshb.com/dpp/news/region_kansas/johnson_county/Prairie-Village-woman-shares-survival-story-after-being-stabbed-at-least-seven-times-feb2012swp
Marti and I are working closely with the Prairie Village Police Department to make sure the content is solid, and would like permission to add your book along with a link to your site since this is vital information. We are also looking for guest bloggers and would be thrilled if you would consider helping us.
Thanks so much and looking forward to your reply!
Wow, what a horrifying account. Sure, feel free to link away, I’ll look forward to seeing the site when it’s up.
Jeff I just read your article in Red Buletin January 2013 Mind’s Eye BEHIND THE SMILE. How may I get an online copy of that article? I know I can scan and send but didn’t know if it was archieved somewhere online? Thank you and Yes. I was married to a “John McAfee for 17 years. Not free yet but will be. Praise. That’s all I can say Praise!
I just stumbled across your recent piece in the Red Bull Magazine entitled The Grandeur of Delusion and really enjoyed it. Is it possible to get a PDF copy or article link to share with a couple colleagues?
Thanks for your note. Red Bulletin doesn’t put the columns online, so I’ve posted the text to my website:
I’m a senior at Shorewood High School in Shoreline, WA, and I have a research paper regarding what would happen if fertility became scarce and the government had to hire women to have children (aka like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale). One of the requirements is to contact someone for evidence in the paper and I read your article about how the world is actually facing underpopulation. I wondered what you think about the government possibly providing economic incentives for women to have children? For instance if you think that would actually help solve the fear of underpopulation?
I’m a high school junior and I’m currently working on a research paper about what is causing a decrease in population growth, what possible outcomes there are, and if this trend is a good thing or a bad thing. I would love to know what you think a possible outcome is.
mh370 a man set the auotpilot at the terminal and redirected at 1.20 he then went to a plane which he was told to fly to south australia he is a pilot and flew for hours sending handshakes saying he is mh370 that sent investigators to all the wrong places and cost millions . no doubt he laught before he set off on his next flight back to kuala lumpur
Given this news that someone has hacked into an airline control system using the inflight entertainment module, your theory about MH370 seems quite plausible
Check out this article from USA TODAY:
FBI: Computer expert made plane fly sideways
(sorry for the dup submission, but the form provided zero acknowledgement… as if my words had been consigned to the void… … maybe the leave-a-comment form doesn’t work after it’s already ‘consigned’ a 2nd attempt to email you?)
Do you realize that, thanks to the MH370 ACARS data+analysis, we have more/harder leads about what became of MH370 than we do about AA11, UA175, AA77, and UA93? Combined!?
Can you comment on the possibility of a “man-in-the-middle” — actually computer in the middle — attack scenario? (If a specially-programmed computer were covertly maliciously inserted between the flight deck controls and the craft’s avionics … it could pass along all inputs immediately, thus behaving transparently, concealing its existence, until it suddenly took over the craft and disabled the flight deck by ignoring all operator inputs…)
Once upon a time, the Boeing web site told the world that 757s, 767s, and 777s all come from the factory with the ability to fly, navigate, and even land WITH NOBODY AT ALL IN THE COCKPIT… archived Boeing web page (see 2nd paragraph under “Flight Deck”)
Can you please comment on why this possibility has never been (publicly) addressed by government, or in the media, for any of the 5 lost flights? IOW, why it is persistently and mistakenly assumed — even when supposedly considering all the possibilities — that only someone in the cockpit could have assumed control of such planes?) The media seems to go out of its way to promote such misperceptions! (video)
PS: what is your opinion/feeling about the fact that none of the 4 9/11 Boeing-planes-in-question crash-sites-in-question were subjected to government-mandated NTSB crash site investigations? (Or [m]any of the other 0-for-4s, such as lack of “hijacked” transponder alert codes, no Payne-Stewart-like-interceptions, no CVRs info, no FDRs data, no ACARS data, no AFIRS data, no ground radar data, etc.) If AA and UA were paying subscribers to Inmarsat/ACARS on 9/11/01, shouldn’t there be a lot more info than just hourly empty pings (as happened with MH370)?
PS2: in 2001, how reliably do you believe cell phones could make (and sustain) outbound calls from Boeing 757s/767s at cruising speed+altitude?
Thanks again, and in advance, for the application of your expertise and intellect in trying to honestly investigate recent aviation anomalies.
VH-OCV. I posted on my Facebook and even emailed CNN about a Bombardier CL604 owned by Execujet flying out from Perth in the general direction of the alleged crash zone on 24th March 2014. I was browsing Flight Radar for transponders of possible search aircraft in the area. My first logical thought was that this could have been a privately chartered search aircraft or a media agency. My more creative thinking posed a scenario where the transponder could have been moved to a larger aircraft to conveniently ditch in the search area. I have the screen shots of the aircraft. It turned off its transponder somewhere before the crash zone. From my research there aren’t any islands anywhere in that region as a logical destination. The South Pole is in direct line but it’s out of range of a CL604. I left my thoughts back in last year until a friendly debate with a fellow CT for the past 2 days on why there hasn’t been a confirmation on th flaperon by any official Aviation Authority lead me to check back in my records. Maybe an aircraft using the transponder of VH-OCV to drop an aircraft part into the ocean is as far fetched as being used to ditch a 777 in the crash zone? But it’s not an impossible feat. Then I researched the Execujet. The outgoing CEO/Chairman was originally an investor and director for a flight simulator manufacturer. A link is maybe even more far fetched. If you want the flight radar screenshots or more info please feel free to email me.
It’s fair to follow up after my earlier concern over the execujet aircraft, on this website it’s officially listed as a search aircraft. In fact execujet contributed a few aircraft. This is likely through private charter or donation? There is a link to execujet as one of their engineers from Malaysia was on board MH370 and investigated at one point as being a person with the ability to take control of the aircraft. I am sure that the link is too outlandish ( as well as the excujet investors also being investors in flight simulator manufacturer ). Something for conspiracy theorists to look into further but just wanted to tie up my loose ends.
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