I blogged this link the day the story came out, to Facebook and/or Linkedin, but of course that doesn’t preserve it in my database, so I’m repeating it here. What is really scary is not the persistent pilot error: The inexperienced co-pilot may well have been disorientated or even in some kind of “personal mental autopilot” denial as to the true state of the aircraft despite clear and specific audible and verbal warnings. Schoolboy error to pull the stick back under those conditions, let alone a qualified pilot. I would say it must count as a design fault in the A330 (and presumably all the current generation Airbuses) that the crew do not get any direct feel or instrumented feedback of the control surfaces. The experience in the cockpit then counts (counted) for nothing. How is that “averaging” stick behaviour design rationalised ? Do two wrongs somehow make a right !
02:13:40 (Co-Pilot) Climb… climb… climb… climb…
02:13:42 (Captain) No, no, no… Don’t climb… no, no.
02:13:43 (Co-Pilot) Descend, then
(Whilst all the while the other co-pilot has his stick pulled back anyway ?!?)
Fly-by-wire is great until the pilots are unaware the various overrides – that prevent them doing stupid things – have been switched-off.
[T]he crash raises the disturbing possibility that aviation may … be plagued by a subtler menace, one that ironically springs from the never-ending quest to make flying safer. Over the decades, airliners have been built with increasingly automated flight-control functions. These have the potential to remove a great deal of uncertainty and danger from aviation. But they also remove important information from the attention of the flight crew. While the airplane’s avionics track crucial parameters such as location, speed, and heading, the human beings can pay attention to something else. But when trouble suddenly springs up and the computer decides that it can no longer cope—on a dark night, perhaps, in turbulence, far from land—the humans might find themselves with a very incomplete notion of what’s going on. They’ll wonder: What instruments are reliable, and which can’t be trusted? What’s the most pressing threat? What’s going on? Unfortunately, the vast majority of pilots will have little experience in finding the answers.
Very, very scary.