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Air France A320 Incredible Crash On 1988

Sat Aug 21, 1999 12:20 pm


RE: Air France A320 Incredible Crash On 1988

Sat Aug 21, 1999 1:40 pm

It was at an air show in France somewhere and it was showing off it's new "glass cockpit". The pilots were in the cockpit butthe computer was flying. After the crash the pilots said, "We tried to disengagae the computer, but it wouldn't let us." Because Airbus made the computer to recognize things that happen, for example if the pilot had to turn the plane upside down to save everyone the computer wouldn't let the pilots do so, but Boeing planes would allow the pilots to do that. So in brief on AIrbus planes the computer has the last word and on Boeing planes the pilot has the final word. That brings up another good question. Do you think the pilot or the computer should have the final call?
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RE: Air France A320 Incredible Crash On 1988

Sat Aug 21, 1999 3:35 pm

This accident happened at a place called Habsheim, at an airshow. Although the crew were instructors, they weren't fully used to the systems; they apparently had the aircraft in the wrong "mode"; I can remember that video quite well, particularly a French onlooker who kept saying "Oh Non" as the aircraft hit the trees and a large plume of smoke emerged seconds later. 3 died. Ironically, the second A320 crash in France happened very nearby; an Air Inter aircraft hit a mountain on approach to Strasbourg, again because the aircraft was in the wrong mode; it shoould have been using FPA (Flight Path Angle) but instead used V/S, with the result that the aircraft descended at 3300 fpm; far too steep.

RE: Air France A320 Incredible Crash On 1988

Sat Aug 21, 1999 4:14 pm

I'm sure many people have opinions on this, because the facts of the case seem somewhat guarded by the French ministry. The plane was to perform a low pass in landing configuration at 100ft and then continue around for another pass in the "clean" configuration.

The aircraft was being piloted by two of Air France's most experienced pilots, although we must remember this was a very new aircraft with a relatively untried type of human-interface.

According to the final report, the French ministry would like us to believe it is entirely the crew's fault. The government's story claims that they let the aircraft decend to 30-35ft. before application of go-around power. I find it incomprehensible that any highly experienced pilot would not realize he needs to add more power until that late. What is more likely to have happened, in my opinion, is that the pilot applied go-around power, but the engines did not begin to spool up until they fell well below their 100-ft. mark. Their is evidence that the early CFM engines had a problem with responiding to application of full power in this situation. This was not the spool-up time issue, instead the engines would remain at idle when the throttles were put full-forward. This problem has since been corrected, but it seems to have been avoided by the French ministry. Since the government of France had billions at stake with the success of this aircraft, it seems to be a conflict of interest for them to be investigating A320 accidents. Having been televised around the world, this did not bode well for the A320, so it seemed convenient to blame it on the pilots.

In my opinion, if the systems had been working properly, there would have been no accident. I think the technology of the A320 is largely misunderstood by the public. It's not like this aircraft (F-GFKC), had perfectly-functioning systems that created a deadly situation that would make any A320 in the same situation crash--there was a design flaw. This was a very different airplane and, since its introduction, some things have been refined in the cockpit design and the software which have made it safer.

I think Airbus is on the right track with the envelope-protection, but they should have more physical-feedback in the cockpit like traditional yokes and auto-throttles that actually move the throttles. The real danger is with the human interface; with the A320-type of design, the crew must be completely vigilant and CRM is of utmost importance. Pilots become systems managers. The key is to not have a flaw in the aircraft as in Mulhouse. Any airplane could have a fatal flaw, FBW or not.
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U Can Find More Info In Air Dsaster Vol3.

Sat Aug 21, 1999 4:54 pm

this crash is totally preventable-the pilots were too careless.
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RE: Air France A320 Incredible Crash On 1988

Sat Aug 21, 1999 8:57 pm

As Kaitak and 24291 pointed, the problem is not a "final word to computer/final word to humans" nor a FBW system problem, but an error on configuration mode: the pilots wanted to make a touch-and-go but forget to turn-off the system when they wanted to climb. In other words, for the computer, they wanted to land, and not make a low-pass followed by a reclimb.


TP343, São Paulo, Brazil.
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RE: Air France A320 Incredible Crash On 1988

Sat Aug 21, 1999 9:44 pm

Crashed while performing a low approach at the Hamshiem Air Show in France. When the Captain selected TOGA thrust (max engine power usually used on flooded runways, and hot and high airfields), the aircraft failed to respond, and by the time manual thrust could be initiated, the aircraft had already impacted trees (source:
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It Was Pilot Error

Sat Aug 21, 1999 11:15 pm

Come on, please get facts straight. All this "IMO" stuff is crap if you can't back it up with facts. The engines responded fine, you can hear them clearly on the video with the spectator going, "oh non, oh non, oh non." The plane descended to 35 feet, 120 knots. They would have needed a rocket to get out of the hole. The flight envelope protection worked perfectly and indeed saved most of the lives aboard - at 120 knots if the captain had pulled back with full authority the plane would have instantly stalled and fallen out of the sky. As it was, the energy was conserved as much as possible and apparently the computers kept steering the plane (mixed-mode automation) as it went into the treetops, keeping the wings level as the captain let go of the controls to protect his face. As they went into the trees the spoilers and ailerons were waggling like mad to keep the plane level, otherwise they would have tumbled after striking the first tree trunk with a high death toll. Or so I am told. The approach was rushed, the briefing by the captain incomplete, and the whole operation very blase. They weren't aware of the height of the trees at the end of the runway, and by the time it was obvious there was no time to allow the speed to build up. A complete mess and automation had almost nothing to do with it (unlike Indian Airlines A320 at Bangalore and China Air Lines' A300-600R accidents).
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Pilot Error My Hiney!

Sun Aug 22, 1999 1:40 am

CedarJet do you really beleive that when my right wing hits a tree and I press full left rudder, that the plane will keep flying safe? Come on.

You want the facts, here they are facts about the airbus A320 crash.

1. For one the A320 till today is the airliner with most OEB's published in the shortest period of time.

2. At least two of those were VERY relevant to this crash. There was an OEB published for altitude misreadings on the A320 altimeter. The was also an OEB
(Operational Engineering Bulletin) published on engine spool up problems.

3. Of course Air France did not supply this OEB list to neither pilots, since neither pilot (none for that matter) would be insane enough to low-pass that plane in such condition.

4. After the crash the Black Boxes were confiscated by the French Department of Civil Aviation and were kept from investigators for 10 DAYS !!!!
It was later proven by a recognised forensic lab, that these boxes were heavily tampered with.

There are much, much more disturbing facts about this crash. Way to much to mention. I've always had a special interest for this crash ever since I saw a clip of it with the narrotor saying that they flew lower than the commanded 100 ft, and the controversy that surrounded this crash. I'm a commercial pilot and there was no way AT ALL that that plane was flying at 35 feet high.

I've gathered many websites and publications on this crash, but the following will recap the most important facts.
Now these are FACTS. Any person who tells me that that crash was pilot error I would say the only error those pilots made was to fly that"SC"Airbus deathtrap around.


Xander Koote
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Dash8, You May Be Right

Sun Aug 22, 1999 4:48 am

"Pilot Error My Hiney!" - very cute, Dash8. You may be right, I know the black boxes were confiscated and proved to be tampered with, and there was some other mischief on the part of the authorities when the black boxes that were held up in front of the media at one press conferences were actually really old and hadn't been within a mile of an A320. And I know there were spool-up problems with the engines in the early days. However, even if there were problems like these, I still think pilot error is the primary cause because the fact remains that the plane was at 30 feet and 120 kts and they were effectively screwed from that point on. The operation of the flight was sloppy and proper procedures weren't really adhered to. Also, I have read that there may have been a problem with the weight, as the crew had operated a demonstration elsewhere that morning with an empty aircraft, and when 120 joy-riders got on for the Habsheim demo, some documentation wasn't updated. I doubt the loadsheet itself actually showed an empty aircraft, that does stretch the bounds of credibility. But it may have had a bearing on the pilot's judgement of how low and slow they could safely fly. As for the suggestion that the automated flight controls kept the plane upright as it went into the trees, I have no idea if it's true. Although full opposite rudder as a wing hit small tree-tops actually would be enough, at least initially.

RE: Air France A320 Incredible Crash On 1988

Sun Aug 22, 1999 6:56 am

According to the pilot, he applied power to level off at 100ft; it was only when the engines did not respond that they fell below that altitude as he tried to recycle the engines. On the video, you can hear the engines spool to high power only after the plane starts to plow through the trees, which tells me it was the engine problem.

I will credit this airplane with prohibiting a complete stall, but it looks like the trees may have saved lives by softening the impact--good thing there wasn't a hill there.

As for the other A320 crashes:
* Strasbourg - Crew error; however, I fault the cockpit design. A modified digital display now makes it easier for A320 pilots to distinguish between -3.3° and -3,300fpm.
* Bangalore - Crew error; also, the airline is at fault for poor training
* Warsaw - The pilots could not deploy spoilers or thrust reversers because the computer did not agree that the aircraft was stabilized on the ground
* Abu Dhabi - Loss of directional control on takeoff.
* Bacolod - Upon landing, #1 engine in forward thrust while #2 in full reverse. This for some reason would not allow spoilers to deploy. Crew restored directional control by resuming forward thrust in #2. The only problem then was they couldn't stop in time.


Wed Aug 25, 1999 9:23 am

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RE: It Was Airbus Equipment That Caused It

Wed Aug 25, 1999 9:47 am

In essence the Pilot had no choice but to try and save the plane. The engines were at fault. The French Government messed with the black boxes to make it look like a pilot mishap, even though it was the aircraft that caused this. I suppose that Airbus was riding on the success of the A-320 so it didn't want anything to standing its way, including equipment failure.

Delta Air

Thu Aug 26, 1999 12:56 am

Don't you think the success of the aircraft is obvious now? Don't give any political cause because there would not be so many US carriers ordering it. And by the way the "mode problem" was I think corrected by changing the configuration of the appropriate button. And after the commercial launch of the A320 in 1988, the aircraft literally rewrote the law for narrowbody transport.

RE: GoA340 And EMB-145

Fri Aug 27, 1999 3:41 am

[EMB-145's 08-26-99 above post disappeared for some reason.]

I don't think anyone here is questioning the success of the A320. Obviously, it is popular with many airlines and I know of many passenger who like it as well, so please don't be offended when people suggest that there was something wrong with this particular aircraft that crashed in Mulhouse-Habshiem. Other popular airliners have had their share of defects as well. The rudder problem with 737s is well-publicized and the DC-10 had early problems with an aft cargo door; however, these aircraft have been highly successful.

As for the mode the aircraft's computer was in, I always hear this brought up when discussing this accident. The press made a big issue out of the Alpha-Floor Protection Mode and how it must have obviously failed since the airplane was supposed to be un-crashable. All I have to say is that the popular press doesn't know what it's talking about and when they hear something about a new high-tech aircraft not being in a particular mode, they run with it. In reality, the pilot was correct in disabling it, because had he not, the computers would have sensed the high angle of attack and would have initiated a go-around This would have made it impossible to perform the low pass they intended to do. As I mentioned before, I believe as the pilot added throttles to level off at 100ft., the engines did not respond, causing the accident.

While we're on the subject, there have been accidents caused by the selection of the wrong flight mode, including Air Inter in Strasbourg and Indian Airlines in Bangalore. I've also heard of cases involving actual faults in the flight-path angle mode and the alpha-floor software. A China Airlines A300 crash involved the alpha-floor mode activating during an approach. Airbus has indeed made modifications to both the software and the cockpit to correct these problems.

The real question is who's idea was it to take 130 passenger on a maneuver like that in a brand-new, largely unproven aircraft.
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RE: GoA340 And EMB-145

Mon Aug 30, 1999 12:38 am

Here's an interesting website on this topic. What's odd about this whole thing is that Capt. Asseline was found guilty of two counts of manslaughter and sentenced to six months in jail. When was the last time an American airline pilot was convicted of a criminal offence for making errors in judgement?

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