Re: Habsheim accident (was: Re: Airbus Safer?)

Date:         09 Sep 98 04:12:22 
From:         spagiola@my-dejanews.com
Organization: Deja News - The Leader in Internet Discussion
References:   1
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Pete Mellor <pm@csr.city.ac.uk> wrote:
> Michel Asseline, the pilot, has written "Le Pilote Est-il Coupable",
> his own account of the events. He points out several factors other
> than technical ones which led up to the crash, and to the resulting
> deaths.
> ...
> Air France took the decision to provide a fly-past at the
> request of the air show organisers. They did so in order to
> take advantage of a great opportunity for publicity, but it
> was also a commercial transaction. The air show paid a hefty
> fee to Air France, who further increased their profits by
> filling the 'plane with day-trippers. None of this was due
> to any decision by Asseline.
> The schedule was tight, and this was the reason why no proper
> briefing on the airfield was given to the crew. In fact, there
> was no briefing. An AF operative simply left a black-and-white
> photocopy of a coloured original map along with brief written
> instructions. There was no time to visit the airfield on foot
> first and reconnoitre.

I don't know French law on this topic, but under US Federal Aviation
Regulations, it is the pilot's responsibility to ensure that he/she has all
the necessary information for a safe flight.

Sec. 91.3 (a) "The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible
for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft." Sec.
91.103 "Each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become
familiar with all available information concerning that flight."

In this case, Asseline manifestly failed to do so (a poor photocopy would not
qualify as "all available information"). Neither time pressure nor anything
else would qualify as excuses in front of an NTSB investigator -- the pilot
has ultimate responsibility. Besides, if time and publicity pressure had
really been so high that Asseline would have been in trouble with his bosses
if he failed to perform the flight, he still could have flown a more
conservative flight profile (eg done the planned flight at a higher altitude,
or made a circuit of the fields before committing to a low-level pass).

> The flight was planned: first pass at 100 feet, flaps and gear
> down, nose-up attitude, low speed (deliberately to demonstrate
> the ability of the FCS to maintain safe flight close to stall)...
> The first pass took place at 30 feet because the baro-altimeter
> was giving a reading 70 feet out.

We've by now become accustomed to the "long thin chain" theory, in which
aviation accidents are due to a chain of events, often of low probability,
and would have been prevented if only one element of this chain was broken.
Here, though, it seems we have the opposite: if you believe Asseline,
everything was conspiring for this accident to happen: not only is there poor
info, but then the altimeter doesn't work, and then the flight control system
does screwy things, and then the engines don't respond. Methinks he doth
protest too much. Coming from an impartial outside observer, I might buy
this. Coming from a party with a lot to gain from a particular interpretation
of events, it strains credibility.

Stefano Pagiola
--
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