The Airbus A330 has one of the most sophisticated automated piloting systems in the airline industry, but the 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447 has some experts saying that the pilots weren’t adequately trained to handle the plane in an emergency situation, and that the plane’s stall alarm system may have added to the crew’s confusion and contributed to the disaster.
“No one was trained for high-altitude stall recovery in the cockpit,” said Bill Voss, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation. “It’s not part of the normal training curriculum…this is something that really has to be reformed globally. This is a really big deal. [...] We are moving towards automated operations where the pilot isn’t even permitted to fly,” Voss said. “That means the first time in your career you will ever feel what an aircraft feels like at 35,000 feet is when it’s handed to you broken [if something goes wrong and the automated system disengages].”
According to the black box tapes, First Officer Cedric Bonin, a 32-year-old pilot who had fewer than 5,000 flight hours under his belt, was at the controls but had never been in this situation before at high-altitude. Bonin made the fatal mistake of pulling the plane’s nose up, which caused it to go into a deep stall.
“It seems that the pilots did not understand the situation and they were not aware that they had stalled,” said Jean-Paul Troadec, the director of BEA, the French authority conducting the investigation into the Flight 447 crash.
At the heart of the heated debate over so-called “automation addiction,” which is when pilots are overly dependent on computers to fly their planes, is the question of whether pilots are actually learning how to properly fly large commercial aircraft.
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