Letter to the Wichita Eagle

‘Air France Plane Stalled Before Plunge’ (The Eagle, May 28, 2011) reads like a lot of malarkey.  I flew that route, Brazil to Africa in an ATC C-54.  We penetrated that perpetual front — that lives in mid-Atlantic.  It didn’t rain; it poured sheets of water on us in that storm, enough to effect the performance of a jet engine.  I read the black-box entirely different.

To correct a couple of misconceptions:  It is inconceivable that Air France wouldn’t have at least two experienced pilots on those flights.  It is common practice for pilots, in severe turbulence, to come off the auto-pilot.  It is inconceivable for Airbus to not build the flight instruments as an independent system from the rest.  And mostly, air speed indicators, which measures the outside air as compared to the impact speed of the place, become erratic and give false readings in severe turbulence for seconds.  That could also sound false stall warnings.

Using the Wall Street Journal’s print out of the black box readings, or May 28th, that airplane flew into a grand-daddy of a thunderstorm with violent up and down shear winds.  The kind that occur over the plains here that build to 50,000 to 60,000 feet, and have brought down at least one B-47.

Air France’s flight climbed from 35,000 to 38,000 feet, either caused by an updraft or the pilots climbed to get out of severe turbulence.  If a plane stalls, and correction is not made quickly, it goes into a spin.  Nothing indicated that happened.  That place flew into a shear down draft, which would account for the black box’s stall reading, pushed the nose down, and the plane went into a dive.  Even though the airspeeds were not excessive, it takes time and altitude to get those large jets out of a dive.  Air France’s flight ran out of altitude.  And that is always deadly.

What the news reads like is a big fight between politicians, bureaucrats, Airbus and Air France’s insurance companies trying to cover their rear ends with the absence of all reason!

Toby Elster

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