The Air France 447 tragedy and the myth of the un-stallable airplane

Ron Rapp of the the House of Rapp blog has noted an extensive article in Popular Mechanics about Air France 447’s flight recorder transcripts that shed some light on what really happened in the cockpit as the aircraft plunged into the Atlantic Ocean near Brazil (also check out our post from last June: Air France 447 and pilot error: More questions than answers). Apparently, there was chaos and confusion in the cockpit and the Popular Mechanics article does a great job of showing this by reprinting various excerpts from the transcripts and then analyzing them.

Meanwhile, Ron noted similarities between the Air France 447 crash and the Colgan Air 3407 crash where the aircraft had stalled and the captain did not understand what was going on as he physically held the aircraft into a deadly deep stall all the way to impact. He also pointed out that these mistakes happened because:

…they did not believe the airplane could be stalled at all.

That’s on par with believing in the tooth fairy…

Ah, the myth of the un-stallable airplane! Is this what Airbus, airlines, and the FAA are allowing instructors to teach pilots?

Ron then went into some detail about stalls, aerodynamics and the fact that a stall can happen at any speed (along with computer and equipment failures) if the conditions are right – such as the thunderstorm Air France 447 flew right into. Moreover, Ron pointed out that in his experience, stalls are poorly understood by a majority of pilots – all the more reason to read both the Popular Mechanics article about the Air France 447 tragedy along with Ron’s further analysis of it.

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