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& Bullets

Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.


With reviews of books that cover these topics


Always interesting to see how TV documentary producers approach a technical issue, about which one knows a tiny bit. In my opinion the Channel 5 producers made a reasonable fist of it in the programme screened last week. Perhaps an over-reliance on talking head David Learmount, ex-editor of Flight International, who appears to be something of a marmite figure amongst the aviation community. The programme avoided talking about the crucial concept of angle of attack, but then Joe Public would have taken a while to grasp that point.


At the end of the programme I am sure most pilots would have felt saddened by the apparent lack of hand-flying skills of the AF crew. Glass cockpit, in a storm, with erroneous air speed indications, is not a comfortable place to be. But in my view the Airbus automatics combined with the lack of the crew’s situational awareness – and their unbelievable delay in calling the captain from his bunk -  lined up the holes in the cheese.


In the old days, say the BA pilots who came through Hamble, trainee commercial pilots would have a reasonable amount of aerobatics and unusual attitudes training. Obviously all ex-military pilots have tons of aerobatic experience. Nowadays fresh faced trainee first officers stare at glass cockpits at Jerez or Oxford. Once on the line, if the handling pilot their actual stick time may be single digit minutes per flight. Again in the old days most large European airlines used to have their own fleet of light aircraft for the recreational use of their staff, where stick time is 100%. As far as I know Lufthansa is the only one to retain such a facility. So only Lufthansa pilots can become inverted, under control, in their own airline’s assets.


Final thought, there was obviously a lot of buck passing between Airbus and AF in the immediate aftermath of this accident. Now the BEA accident report is out, the lawyers will be building up their hours and fees before going to court on behalf of the victims’ families. But the whole episode reflects badly on AF’s standards of training, and its culture. It sadly all has echoes of the AF Concorde disaster, where the maintenance culture was lamentable, and the propensity to shift blame high.


I don’t think I will fly on the French flag carrier ever again if I have a choice.


Air France 447 - the Ch 5 prog

AF A330 a

photo:  Air France..

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