Cause of Air France 447 Crash Is Bad News for Us All

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Two years ago, when Air France 447 went down in the ocean while flying from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Paris, France, it was one of the most frightening aviation disasters in history. Because there was no cause. As far as they could tell then, the plane simply fell from the sky. And now, two years (and millions of dollars) later, the black boxes have been recovered from the sea floor and the story is no less frightening.

The cause of the rapid descent: pilot error. And somehow, that just feels even scarier.

Any time we get in a plane, it feels like we put our lives in the hands of the pilots. No matter how sophisticated the machines we design, it's still up to the humans to run them. We put our faith in them. We trust that they will deliver us (and our families) safely from point A to point B, so every time we hear one of them failed, it makes me doubt the others just a little.

Because we all have bad days, right?

As a writer I have days when it all flows and comes easily and I'm on a roll and feeling good. And then I have days when it's awful and nothing good is coming out and I can't think of anything and snap at anyone who talks to me. Most of the time I am somewhere in the middle. But in some professions -- like flying a plane -- you can't have an off day. Every day has to be good because you have lives in your hands.

If that sounds dramatic, it's because it is. This plane crash shows that even the smallest error can be multiplied many times to become devastating. There was a machine error when one of the plane's speed indicators failed when the plane was flying normally, but once manual flying kicked in and the co-pilot took over, all hell broke loose. He pulled the plane's nose up, causing it to climb and causing its speed to decrease, which "stalled" it. The pilot (who was briefly outside the cockpit) came back, but not in enough time.

It took 3.5 minutes for the plane to hit the ocean, killing everyone aboard, and about 30 seconds to make that fatal error.

Many of us have probably spent a few moments contemplating what that fall was like. They lost altitude at 10,000 feet a minute, so the plane was tossed around. Were the passengers asleep? Did they know what was happening?

Go too far down that road and you will never want to fly again. One mistake can cost so many lives. It's unimaginable.

Does this make you more or less scared to fly?

 

Image via abdallahh/Flickr

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buffa... buffalove23

I hate flying. But no I'm not more scared to fly because of this. Obviously when the black box didn't show any issues it was a pilot error.

PonyC... PonyChaser

And in other news, approximately 25,000 flights landed safely yesterday in the United States alone.  I'd say it's still a pretty safe way to travel, once you get past TSA...

nonmember avatar Meredith

I am afraid of flying but suck it up for obvious time-saving reasons. Of course many more cars crash occur every day than plane crashes, but if you do happen to be in a plane crash--chances are you'll die. That's not the case with a car crash, at least it's more uncommon that a car crash is fatal. There's just something more inherently scary about being 30,000 feet in the air and no way to protect yourself...

Meredith @ Deals.com

Memph... MemphisSuzi

You are much more likely to die from driving than flying, both scare me.  But you cant live your life scared, so I will keep on flying the friendly skies. 

Paul Watts

Actually, most people survive air plane crashes.

nonmember avatar JakeR

Nice piece with some very astute observations, but you should get a stock photo of the correct plane. The one pictured in the post is an A380 double decker super jumbo, the largest passenger plane in the world. The one that crashed is an A330. 2 engines, not 4 as well as other important distinctions.

Also, as a small aircraft pilot, I can tell you exactly what a stall feels like: it feels like falling. The exact same sensation a skydiver feels, without the comforting knowledge that you have a chute that will eventually open.

nonmember avatar rick

The chances of crashing don't deter me from flying...TSA now they make me never want to fly again...bureaucratic waste of money and oxygen.

Kate Grendell Beyer

Several other articles have mentioned faulty airspeed indicators (CNN & MSNBC).  These pieces of instrumentation have yet to be recovered from the crash site but just after this crash Airbus issued a replacement order for all A320 airspeed indicators.  To jump to the immediate conclusion that this was pilot error before the final investigation report is released is a diservice to both the pilots on that plane and to the readers of Business Insider.

nonmember avatar L

I'm horrified of flying, call me crazy but there's just something about being 30,000 feet in the air knowing that if ANYTHING happens, you have 30,000 feet down to think about it.. Everytime I hear the plane make a noise or the noise stops I'm convinced engine failure has occured or a crucial part of the plane has fallen off. I just love the people who like to give statistics about car crashes to make you "feel better" about flying, yeah, I've been in ALOT of car crashes and guess what? if they occured 30,000 feet in the air I wouldn't be here right now,and if my car runs out of gas I don't fall to my death, if I get a flat I don't skid down a runway into a fireball, if my window breaks I don't get sucked out of the car or have to use an oxygen mask- your statistics don't make me feel better. So does this make me feel better about flying? Uhm yeah.. the co-pilot not being able to fly a plane makes me feel much more confident.. All my flights are brought to you by Xanax.

nonmember avatar Rod Berry

I find this so sad that its being blamed on pilot error. Airbus safety record when they first started on the fly by wire seemed to be a problem and always reported as pilot error. So what was the outcome of that? Suggest you check if you like. I'm Europeon and not a fan of Airbus as I do not and have not experence any quality in coach!! See what I'm saying?

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