BEA Forms Human Factors Group for AF447 Investigation

The working group consists of seven experts, including a psychiatrist specializing in risk analysis and three investigators from the French aviation inspection authority who specialize in human factors.

Seven experts have been appointed to a Human Factors working group with the difficult task of figuring out why crew members of Air France Flight 447 took the actions they did before that Airbus 330 airplane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009, after leaving Rio de Janeiro en route to Paris. All 228 people on board the plane were killed.

France's aviation accident investigation agency, the Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses pour la securite de l'aviation civile (BEA), announced the working group's formation on Sept. 7. The announcement said the members are three BEA investigators who specialize in human factors, a psychiatrist specializing in risk analysis, a human factors aviation consultant, a type-rated A330 pilot, and an A330 test pilot. Their objective, it said, is to analyze "all aspects connected to the conduct of the flight," specifically:

  • Crew actions and reactions during the last three phases of the flight described in the third Interim Report, in particular in relation to the stall warning
  • Cockpit ergonomics
  • Man-machine interfaces

BEA said it may consult other experts "from time to time and will consult Airbus and Air France when required." The group will get input from Operations and Airplane Systems groups, will begin its work "very soon," and should complete the work by the end of December 2011, with that work product included in a final report to be published in the first half of 2012, according to the announcement.

BEA's analysis of recorded cockpit data showed the aircraft's air speed indicators were inoperable, apparently because of ice crystals forming in the Pitot tubes, when the plane ran into trouble while flying through a high-altitude thunderstorm. The aircraft stalled, but the co-pilot inexplicably maintained a nose-up attitude as it lost speed and began falling. The crew did not send a mayday call to air traffic controllers or make an emergency announcement to passengers.

BEA has a staff of 120 people who conduct more than 400 investigations in a typical year.

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