Understanding Air France 447

Bill Palmer

Book Companion Page

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"a thriller, a horror novel, and a technical manual, all wrapped into one"


"For the non-pilot reader this book is an easy-to-understand window into the aviation mishap. For pilots, especially those who fly Airbus aircraft, it is required reading"

Airways Magazine, Feb 2014

Understanding Air France 447 is an engaging coverage of Air France 447, an Airbus A330 that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean north of Brazil on the morning of June 1, 2009, killing all 228 persons on board.

Capt. Sully Sullenberger says of this accident: "This Air France accident is going to be a seminal accident that will be studied for years, and we need to ask ourselves as an industry tough questions about the way we're designing airplanes, the way we're displaying information to the pilots in the cockpit. And about whether or not making airplanes more complicated, more technologically advanced makes it more difficult for pilots to very quickly intervene and very effectively act when things go awry."

This book will give you the insight to ask and understand those questions. It opens to understanding the actions of the crew, how they failed to understand and control the problem, as well as the many contributing aspects of weather, human factors, and airplane system operation and design that the crew could not recover from.

A human factors specialist writes:"I am planning to use your book as baseline for the next HF classes at Alitalia,…the annual Recurrent Training. "

How each contributed is covered in detail along with what has been done, and needs to be done in the future to prevent this from happening again. Written primarily for pilots, but with enough background information so that anyone with an interest in aviation can fully grasp it. 

The author is an A330 captain and long time instructor who was the main author of his airline's A330 systems manual and numerous other training materials.

This book isn't just about what happened on the way down. That's the sensational stuff for the 5 minute read in a magazine (it's not left out, though). The real story is how it came to be that they couldn't keep the airplane under control for one minute, how the alternate flight control law prevented the airplane's natural positive stability from pitching the nose down, how one pilot knew the other was screwing up and took no action to stop it.

You'll also learn why Mach buffet and Mach tuck are not the threat they were in the 727 days, how stall speed changes with Mach number (which actually worked to the AF447 crew's advantage for a while), and why stall recovery at FL350 is a whole different world than at 5,000 feet. You've heard that the crew did not react to the stall warning. But, you'll see that they reacted exactly how they were taught to - it just didn't do any good.

There are important lessons to be learned from this accident for everyone that flies. This book will help you learn them. See why reviewers say over and over that it's a "must read."

If you are you interested on additional reading on Airbus flight control laws, please consider these additional titles by Bill Palmer