On 1 June 2009, Air France Flight 447 crashed into the ocean on its way back from Rio de Janeiro. 216 passengers and 12 crew died in this accident. However, careful scrutiny of the information that caused the crash has surfaced blaming the computers systems.
Of course, the pilots flying the plane were fully trained pilots, but on such a routine flight and an on-board computer that seems to be lying to you it’s understandable that perhaps mistakes can happen. Unfortunately on 1 June this was the case.
…the manufacturers, built the plane and system to accommodate pilot comfort and clearer pilot decision…
The main problem discovered by investigators was feedback. Simply put airbus, the manufacturers, built the plane and system to accommodate pilot comfort and clearer pilot decisions. So in the case of flight 447, some of the plane’s ducts froze up, jogging the plane out of autopilot. The response to this was the pilot who grabbed the stick and gained a bit of altitude to compensate. The main problem here is the feedback. The plane was designed on “fly by wire” technology meaning if you adjusted the stick to 5 degrees you can take your hand away and leave it. The only way that the other pilots or crew would know this had happened was to actually see the pilot make the adjustment. The feedback doesn’t come through in the controls.
Later on the computer sent feedback saying they were climbing too high and so the co-pilot (unknown of the change of altitude) put the nose of the plane down to correct it. The computer scrambled and sent the warning of a stall to happen and when the pilots pulled up out of the nose dive the plane stalled. The sad thing is the pilots did the right thing, but because of the computer problems they did it at the wrong time.
… Blame can be given to both computer and pilots …
The on-board computer measures the plane’s angle of attack (the angle of air coming at the plane), but this isn’t shared with the pilots. If it had been shared, the pilots would have known what was going on. Blame can be given to both computer and pilots, but if you’re flying a giant piece of metal through the sky and aren’t warned at all about current air currents it’s a little hard to deal with faulty equipment. Pilots are now being trained to stop this from ever happening again, but why train them and not just fix the equipment?