Near Fatal Flight With 192 Passengers

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Pilots of an Air France flight had one of those “open the pod bay doors” moments when their flight controls “went nuts.” The Boeing 777 carrying 192 passengers was flying only 1,000 feet off the ground at the time, on final landing approach. Everyone is okay.

Nobody flying the plane

For a full 14 seconds, as Air France flight AF011 from New York was on final approach to land in Paris, nobody was flying the aircraft. The Boeing 777 “went nuts” on April 5 when the pilot and control pilot unintentionallypulled their controls in opposite directions at the same time.

It’s supposed to be a safety feature but the passengers didn’t know how unsafe it was or how close they came to death until they read about it in the news.

A mere thousand feet above the ground while flying in to Charles de Gaulle airport, the pilots suddenly “ran into trouble and had to abort the landing.” It took investigators a while to figure out exactly what happened.

They concluded that “the issue was caused by the two pilots pulling their joysticks in opposite directions at the same time without realizing.” They call that a “serious incident” which really means there could have been fatalities.

After managing to regain control of the aircraft and veer left, they looped around the field before flying in to a flawless landing on the second try.

The French aviation authorities note the plane took off routinely from JFK in New York and “operated normally until coming into land” just before eight in the morning.

Co-pilot started it

As the plane was flying in gracefully on final approach, the co-pilot was in command. It appears he “accidentally tilted his controls to the left, causing the plane to turn.

The plane did as instructed until the co-pilot suddenly realized he was steering left and “expressed astonishment.” Apparently one of those WTF moments.

Over the following seconds, the report relates, “the turn became more-pronounced as the co-pilot pulled the control further to the left, which appears to have caused a moment of panic in the cockpit.” The pilots agreed “to abort the landing” and go flying around again. While the obviously correct decision, what happened next is scary. That’s the moment “both pilots grabbed their controls and made opposing movements.” They thought they broke the plane but it was supposed to do what happened next. While the co-pilot made “several, pronounced, nose-up” movements as he fought desperately for control, the pilot “held the controls slightly nose-down.” That’s what “caused the control sticks to ‘desynchronize‘ for around 14 seconds.

They normally stay locked together and move the same way at the same time. While out of sync, nobody had control, not even the autopilot. In the newer Boeing fleet, “there is an override mechanism which is activated when the two are pulled in different directions at the same time with a sufficient amount of force – which is designed to be used if one of the sticks gets jammed.

For a full 30 seconds more, the two pilots intermittently made opposing inputs on the controls but the plane accelerated and began climbing back into the air. “At one point the pilot was in sole control, before the co-pilot took back over.

During the confusion, “the communication button and autopilot disconnect button were also pushed in error.” That set alarms off in the cockpit. That’s about when the pilot radioed in to tell the tower they were flying around again to give it another try because there “had been a problem with the control.

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