Airbus crash: focus turns to electronic systems

Investigators of the loss of an Air France Airbus A330-200 in the sea near Brazil on 1 June have cited incorrect speed readings and electronic failures as...

Investigators of the loss of an Air France Airbus A330-200 in the sea near Brazil on 1 June have cited incorrect speed readings and electronic failures as they move closer to understanding the crash, according to The Times today.

Earlier this week, Computer Weekly highlighted two fatal air accidents more than decade ago in which conflicting speed readings from onboard systems and blocked Pitot-static system sensors confused pilots in the final minutes of flight.

Investigators of the loss of the Air France Airbus, Flight 447, have suggested there might have been a problem with the aircraft's Pitot sensors.

The Pitot-static system feeds information on air speed to the onboard computers which control the pilot's displays. Shortly before two Boeing 757 passenger jets crashed into the sea in 1996, the onboard systems were telling pilots they were flying too fast and too slow.

On an Airbus, the final say in extreme circumstances is usually left to the onboard systems, not the pilot. If the systems on Flight 447 received conflicting information on the aircraft's airspeed, it is unclear how they would have reacted or whether they or the pilots would have been left in control.

The loss of Flight 447, which claimed the lives of 228 people on board, may never be fully explained unless a French nuclear submarine is successful in recovering the black boxes, the flight data and cockpit voice recorders.

Paul-Louis Arslanian, chief of the French accident investigation bureau, said that it was too early to pronounce on the events that led the Airbus A330 to crash into the Atlantic, though he added: "I think we may be getting closer to our goal."

Arslanian confirmed that incoherent speed readings were reported first in a series of alerts that the stricken aircraft transmitted automatically to Paris during its final four minutes. The other alerts "appeared to be linked to this loss of validity of speed information". The faulty speed data affected other systems that relied on them, he said.

French authorities have not commented on a report that, after a flood of error messages, display screens went blank and the pilots were unable to control speed, height or direction.

Air France Airbus crash - its last few minutes?

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