A ‘serious incident’ involving a Boeing 777-300 jet which went ‘nuts’ and veered off-course during an attempted landing may have been caused by the two Air France pilots pulling the controls in opposite directions, a preliminary report by air crash investigators has suggested.
Air France flight AF11 from New York JFK to Paris Charles de Gaulle on April 4 was placed under investigation by experts at the Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses or BEA after the 17-year-old aircraft seemingly stopped reacting to the commands of the pilots during the final approach for landing.
It now seems, however, that pilot error may be the root cause of the erratic landing rather than any issue with the actual aircraft.
During the first landing approach, the aircraft veered to the left and started to fly in such an alarming way that one of the pilots could be heard shouting “Stop! Stop! Stop it!” in an audio recording with air traffic control.
“The airplane is pretty much going nuts,” one of the pilots told an air traffic controller as they regained control and discontinued the approach before safely landing the aircraft on the second attempt.
Attention immediately fell on the Boeing 777’s flight control systems but the BEA says initial analysis shows no “inconsistencies” between “movements of the controls and the movements of the aeroplane”.
The BEA says it will now try to replicate the actions of the two pilots on the flight controls to see if this will reproduce the behaviour of the aircraft. After abandoning the landing attempt, the Captain held the control column in a slightly nose down position, while the co-pilot made “more pronounced” nose-up inputs.
The control columns were “desynchronized” for 14-seconds during this period.
“At this stage, the analysis of the parameters does not show inconsistencies, in particular between the movements of the controls and the movements of the aeroplane,” the BEA said in a press release.
A spokesperson for Air France says the two pilots “mastered the situation and landed the aircraft normally after a second approach.”
“Air France understands and regrets the discomfort felt by customers,” a statement from the airline continued.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.