In stockdunkler Nacht ohne irgendeine visuelle Referenz fällt bei Flug AF 447 plötzlich die Geschwindigkeitsanzeige aus. Ohne Vorwarnung. Die Piloten sind von einem Augenblick zum anderen ohne diese wichtige Information auf sich allein gestellt. Was passiert? Eine Fehlreaktion folgt auf die andere und am Ende schlägt das Flugzeug mit minimaler Fahrt und sehr hoher Sinkgeschwindigkeit auf dem Ozean auf. Das was ein Flugschüler in den ersten Lektionen lernt, ist völlig vergessen. Konnte die Technik nicht helfen? Nein, konnte sie nicht, auch ein Autopilot braucht Geschwindigkeitsdaten. Hat man so eine Situation nicht im Simulator trainiert? Nein hat man nicht, brauchte man nicht - so war die Meinung. Beim Fahrmesser gibt es ja 2 redundante Systeme. Es ist völlig unwahrscheinlich, dass beide gleichzeitig ausfallen. Sind sie aber. Was ist die (meine) Lehre daraus: Piloten werden nicht für den Schönwetterflug bezahlt. Das kann der Computer auch. Aber die Situation der AF 447 konnte er nicht bewältigen. Genau dafür braucht man Piloten. Und die müssen fliegen können. Nicht bloß einen Computer bedienen. Hervorragende und detaillierte Analyse des AF 447 Absturzes. Sehr empfehlenswert!
Bill Palmer’s analysis of the events leading to the accident is insightful and well written. Many concepts of modern civil aviation are explained short enough not to bore those who understand them already, but very efficiently to those who are not familiar with them.
There is only one point, where, in my opinion, the book falls short of its promise:
Bill Palmer presents evidence that the First Officer Robert in the left seat and Captain Dubois, standing behind, where not fully aware of the control inputs that First Officer Bonin in the right seat, acting as flying pilot, was giving, and which were contrary to returning to the intended flight path and at times contrary to their instructions. This is, as the author acknowledges, furthered, if not completely due to the fact, that the sidestick flight controls for both pilots on the Airbus A330 are not interconnected as on conventional aircraft and airliners of other major manufacturers (including Boeing). The author states that there are “those that believe [the sidestick] design to be a contributing factor” to the accident.
At this point I would expect a deeper analysis of the effects of not being able to accurately see or feel the control inputs made by the other pilot. As the author states, recovery of the aircraft, which was rapidly approaching the limits of its flight envelope, became progressively more difficult as the seconds passed while an aggressive pitch up attitude was commanded with the stick held full back most of the time.
Many other points are revisited several times and examined in great detail: For example, it is repeated four times in different places that the yaw damper presumably performed very well and possibly kept the aircraft from entering a spin. However, Bill Palmer’s analysis of the significance of pilot awareness regarding inputs on the other sidestick to one simple and provocative yes-or-no-question that has been posed in the public discussion: Could this accident have happened in a Boeing? His answer: It already has, and he cites three accidents involving a Boeing 727 (1974) and two 757s (both 1996) with unreliable airspeed indications.
One could argue that all of his examples involve older generation Boeing Jets, but that is beside the point. In my opinion, the whole Could-this-have-happened-in-a-Boeing-discussion is beside the point. I would like a different question to be asked: Would it be easier for the monitoring pilot to recognize gross handling errors by the flying pilot if both sidesticks were interconnected?
I believe the answer can only be a clear yes. I am not biased against Airbus aircraft or a sidestick instead of a yoke at all. But being a flight instructor and having 14 years of experience on the Boeing 777, I still profit from the ability to see and feel the control inputs given, either by the autopilot or by my colleague in the other seat, and by comparing those inputs with their results.
I do not assume the author to necessarily agree with me on the issue, but I firmly believe that the analysis should not be cut short by citing unreliable airspeed accidents that happened in Boeings.
May be a possible addition for a second edition? I would welcome this very much and add another star to my rating of this book, which paints a vivid and detailed picture of this tragic accident.
Bill Palmer manages to convey complex concepts with ease, and makes the topic approachable for the layman and expert. I devoured this book within one session - often aviation safety and air accident books cover no more than the subject matter of the Wikipedia entry, but Palmer's book is worth reading without a question. In concert with David Beaty, Palmer tops the list of authors in this genre.
This book really identifies all potential and real weak points of the working level in the airline industry. Machines will always fail and in case of failure the involved humans who should control this machine mustn't been steered by any machine during a critical situation. These kind of issues, which led to a catastrophe in this case, have to be included in the mandatory refresher trainings of all pilots.