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

Date:         10 Sep 98 03:04:16 
Organization: Deja News - The Leader in Internet Discussion
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Pete Mellor <> wrote:
> Stefano Pagiola <> wrote on Wed Sep  2 10:10:58 1998:-
> > Throw in factors such as the in-grained animosity of many pilots
> > against computers which they perceive as taking their jobs away, ...
> Until Habsheim, Asseline was gung-ho in favour of the A320, and
> had made himself extremely unpopular with the flight engineers'
> union for totally backing the use of two-man crews.

That remark was not aimed at Asseline; it simply pointed out one of the many
reasons it's been so difficult to have a reasoned debate on this issue.

> > The decision to
> > put the plane there was the pilot's and so the responsibility for the
> > accident must rest primarily with him.
> He followed the flight plan he was handed by Air France...
> The decision to fly with a 'plane load of day-trippers was likewise
> a decision by the management of Air France. Of course (I hear everyone
> say) if the captain thought he was being asked to endanger passengers'
> lives, he had the right (not to mention the duty) to refuse to undertake
> the flight as ordered.

I've seen nothing in the record to indicate that he had any misgivings,
before the fact, about what he was asked to do. He might well have had
confidence in the airplane's ability to safely fly the requested profile. He
ought to have known better than to try such a maneuver with no preparation.
Heck, we're taught to do two 'clearing turns' (successive 90 degree turns in
each direction to ensure that there's no conflicting traffic) before doing
things as tame as steep turns.

> This might not have improved his career prospects with AF.

Had he been a rookie pilot, perhaps. But he was CHIEF PILOT. I find it hard
to imagine there would have been grave repercussions had the CHIEF PILOT
decided to fly a more conservative flight profile.

> However, the main reason he did not refuse was
> that he did not think it was dangerous. He had been trained (and had
> trained dozens of other AF pilots in turn) that the safety protections
> provided by the FCS could be relied upon absolutely in order to get
> out of any conceivable trouble that the 'plane could get into.

I think this last point is crucial, and probably the single most important
cause of the accident. Call it the Titanic syndrome, if you will: "Hey, this
airplane can't be crashed, so I can do things with it, like running at high
speed through icefields or at low speeds just barely off the ground, that
sane pilots wouldn't do." One can even make an interesting parallel between
the White Star Line's Bruce Ismay urging the Titanic's Capt. Smith to beat
the speed record to New York and Air France's decisions to fly a loaded plane
before a crowd of onlookers at Habsheim.

None of which absolves the pilot in command from responsibility, though it
helps explain things.

Stefano Pagiola
All opinions are my own.
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