More puzzlement as to how an Air France A330-200 could have been belly flopped into the mid-Atlantic in 2009 should add pressure on the French air safety investigator, the BEA, to release the full recording of the conversations in the cockpit of the doomed jet.

What was said in cockpit, and what it reveals about the relationship between the three pilots present during the fatal plunge that killed all 228 people on board the flight between Rio and Paris is an increasingly obvious missing element in resolving the mystery.

Why did the captain, summonsed to the flight deck from a rest break, stand behind the seats of the two first officers at the controls and, if the final BEA report is to be relied upon, say and do almost nothing throughout the crash sequence?

Why did the captain designate the less experienced first officer, who is rumored to have been despised by his more experienced colleague, to be the pilot flying without formally informing the other pilot and without conducting a proper hand over briefing?

What would the captain have seen from where he stood, and if he ever sat down, from where he sat. According to A330 pilots I’ve spoken to the captain could not have (or should not have) failed to observe the position of the pilot flying’s side stick controller, and acted earlier to correct his holding it in the full back stop position for almost the entirety of the crash sequence, as found in the final report.

There is something fundamentally suspicious about the critical issue of cockpit or flight safety culture in this accident, and if the voice recording that will cast light on how the pilots reacted and what they actually said isn’t available, this disaster and the safety lessons it can teach will not be respectively understood or heard.

It is doubtful that trying to understand what happened to the machine without understanding what happened between the men will provide the necessary answers.

And never forget, the responsibility for the quality and standard of piloting on AF447 rests entirely on the management of Air France.


A UK report reveals that part of the suppressed recording indicts Air France over pilot fatigue with the captain complaining that he only had one hour of sleep the night before.

The management and avoidance of fatigue is the responsibility of the operator.

The fact that the BEA failed to release even this part of the report smells badly of an attempt to protect the airline.

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