The pilots of an Air France flight from New York to Paris who struggled to control the plane before landing were engaged in a kind of tug-of-war – apparently unaware of each other’s inputs on the controls, according to a report.
The Boeing 777 with 177 passengers onboard was cleared to land at Charles de Gaulle Airport on April 5 when an air-traffic controller heard the pilots struggling as an alarm blared in the background.
Dramatic audio captured one of the pilots exclaiming, “Stop! Stop!” and the captain told the tower the jetliner was “all over the place.”
In a preliminary report, France’s air-accident investigation agency said Thursday that the pilots “simultaneously made inputs on the controls” during the incident.
“The captain held the control column in a slightly nose-down position while the co-pilot made several, more pronounced, nose-up inputs,” the report said.
Under normal procedure, one pilot would say, “I have control” while the other would acknowledge the statement by replying, “You have control.” It’s unclear what caused the Air France mishap.
The investigative agency classified the event as a “serious incident,” an industry term meaning it could have resulted in an accident, Reuters reported.
As with other aircraft, the Boeing 777’s control columns move in tandem with each, though only one pilot is usually expected to be actively using them to fly at any given time.
If opposing forces on the two columns pass a certain limit, the link between them is deactivated — or “desynchronized” — to prevent accidents in case one of them is jammed.
After the landing scare, the pilots assessed the situation but did not notice that they had made contradictory inputs nor that the columns had become decoupled, the BEA said.
The French agency said “no anomaly was observed on the aeroplane” but added that it was continuing to analyze data.
The jet landed safely on a second attempt and resumed service just over two weeks later.
“Air France has taken note of the communication from [France probers] concerning the ongoing investigation into the incident of flight AF011,” the airline told the site Simple Flying.
“Air France continues to fully cooperate with the investigation and reminds that the go-around procedure is defined by aircraft manufacturers and Air France as a normal procedure, in the interests of safety,” it said.
“Pilots are trained and regularly practice these procedures, which are applied by all airlines. Air France reminds that the safety of its flights, customers and crews is its outmost priority,” the company added.