AF447 report pledge must be honoured says Xenophon
The independent South Australian senator, Nick Xenophon, has called on the government to honor its promise to review the finding of the inquiry into the Air France AF447 disaster in relation to the Australian Senate inquiry into pilot training and airline safety.
When the Senate committee charged with that inquiry reported in June last year its recommendations included a review by CASA, Australia’s air safety regulator, and the ATSB, the country’s safety authority, of the then as yet to be finished inquiry by the French safety authority, the BEA, which reported last Thursday.
That recommendation was supported by the government, as well as the members of the committee that conducted the inquiry.
Senator Xenophon said the French report highlighted ‘weaknesses’ in the handling of the Air France A330-200 by the two co-pilots left in control of the jet while the captain took a rest break, which subsequently crashed into the mid Atlantic on a flight from Rio to Paris which killed at 228 people on board.
(The senator’s comment is an understatement, considering the events described and analysed in acute detail in the final report. )
“The Air France 447 tragedy shows how serious safety systems in aviation are. It would be an even bigger tragedy if we didn’t learn from the findings in the French report,” Senator Xenophon said.
A fair summary of the relevance of the French report to Australia is that inexperience, lack of appropriate training, and, after careful reading and re-reading, the risk of irrational responses to a crisis compounded by functional hysteria and helplessness on the flight deck has lethal potential in modern airliners.
The pilots on AF447 knew enough to fly an airliner in cruise using an autopilot system in much the same way that almost all jet airliner flights are flown using contemporary designs.
But they did not know enough to handle the unexpected. How pilot training needs to change to remedy some of the issues that helped destroy AF447 is now very much an area of acute concern to aircraft makers and safety authorities abroad.
There were events described in the report which could be considered unique to, as well as seriously negative for Air France, including its legal responsibility for the dysfunctional human relations factors in the piloting of AF447. But there are universal issues of concern as to the reasons for none of the pilots being able to understand the nature of the control crisis that overtook the jet, and thus unable to perform the appropriate recovery procedures to regain control of the jet, in the very short period of time they had left.