Date: 03 Feb 97 03:16:33 From: Andrew Weir <100637.616@CompuServe.COM> Followups: 1
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Bernard Ziegler has only "sort-of" been charged by Mr Guichard, the investigating magistrate not only on Mont Sainte Odile crash of the A320 in Jan 92, but also of the Habscheim A320 accident in the same region. Ziegler has been "mis en examen", which means "put under investigation". In countries operating the Napoleonic code of justice material witnesses are often arrested or charged in this manner, and it carries significantly less import than the same words when applied to a common law system, like those of the US and UK. (Alitalia officials, for example, were convicted of murder in Italy over the ATR42 crash there in 1987, but never had to serve time, and were later cleared.) Ziegler's charge is more like a sub poena: the judge will interrogate him on the question of the ergonomics of the A320 cockpit displays. If the worst came to the worst, Ziegler, as the relevant official of Airbus, could eventually be charged with a form of manslaughter if the judge determines that failings in the cockpit ergonomics were the cause of the crash. This, however, seems fairly unlikely, even if the judge does decide to damn the cockpit ergonomics. It is generally accepted that the crew entered a 3,300 foot per minute rate of descent instead of a 3.3 degree flight path angle by failing to turn the panel knob from HDG/VS mode to TRK/FPA mode, but this explanation was worked out by deduction, and not from wreckage or flight data evidence. In the absence of direct proof this is what they did it would be hard to pin blame judicially on cockpit design. The judge in question also believes a major factor in the accident was Air Inter's failure to install GPWS on any of its planes at the time (it has now). He is also considering the inaccurate vector the tower controller gave the flight. One big open question that remains is whether he will fully investigate charges that coating materials used to prevent interference with the avionics affected VOR reception on this flight. BTW, it was, the rumour mill had it, his TV performance that led to his dismissal as head engineering honcho at Airbus. Not "not smiling" but making a hash of the company's position in a German documentary about Airbus safety.