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Thread: Air France Crash

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    airdoc is offline Sergeant Major More Posts Than Postman Pat
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    Air France Crash

    So it seems that we have yet another serious accident that is directly related to the door lock protection measure. News releases mention that the second pilot was locked out and tried to make his way back by smashing at the door, but apparently it was locked from the inside. It is speculated that the pilot inside had a medical emergency and was knocked out (suicide is also another possibility, but so far seems remote given the descent rate). This fits in nicely with the fact that the aircraft started a slow descent in a straight line with radio silence - only well functioning aircraft do this, not aircraft with mechanical failure.

    The question arises : is this door locking system actually protecting??

    There are already a number of crashes that would have been avoided if it weren't for it. Out of my mind comes Helios and Malaysia 370 (the provisional report on the latter points to pilot attempted suicide). There are probably others as well.

    I think that this system has to be redesigned from the start. It makes no sense to try to protect people from terrorism while at the same time kill them when pilots get incapacitated or have mental breakdowns.

    EDIT : thread title should be renamed to Germanwings crash. I don't have the option of doing it, can one of the moderators please fix this?
    Last edited by airdoc; 26-03-2015 at 13:56.

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    Scruffy is offline Sergeant Major More Posts Than Postman Pat
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    Hey airdoc,
    Are you sure that was the case with Helios?
    If i remember correctly, one of the flight attendants, later identified as Andreas Prodromou, did make it inside the cockpit, after the pilots were incapacitated.

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    airdoc is offline Sergeant Major More Posts Than Postman Pat
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    Yes, he did make it inside, but only at the end of the flight. The plane was flying on itself for at least an hour. The details of that time were never sorted out. However, had it not been for this security mechanism, the rest of the flight crew should have been easily able to get inside the cockpit once they realised that oxygen was running out and the plane was not descending to a safe breathing altitude.

    I recall another accident that i saw on air crash investigation (don't remember the flight name). The pilot initially switched off the black box recorder circuit so as to not leave direct traces linking him to suicide. When his copilot exited the cockpit for some reason, he locked it and pulled a steep descent into the ground killing everyone. The door locking system makes it all too easy for a suicidal pilot to take everyone down with him.
    Last edited by airdoc; 26-03-2015 at 11:14.

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    Looks like suicide to me; I cant see any other reason why the pilot would actively lock the door so it couldnt be opened from the outside, even with the correct code (not standard procedure, normally the other pilot can open the cabin door with a code), and then initiate a decent and crash in to a mountain.

    Could a different door locking mechanism have prevented it? Possibly, maybe. I read in the US its required that if one pilot wants to leave the cabin, someone else must replace him so that there are always 2 people in the cockpit. I dont think thats a bad idea, but if a pilot wants to commit suicide (+murder), he will in most cases. see also Egypt Air 990. Also, I think the risk of pilot suicide is currently way smaller than the risk of some nutcase passenger wanting to bring a plane down, so that door is probably a good thing overall.

    BTW, the relatively slow decent may have been an act of "mercy" by the pilot. Because of it, passengers may not have had any idea of what was going to happen, unlike when you point the nose straight down and allow the plane to disintegrate mid air.

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    Quote Originally Posted by airdoc View Post
    Yes, he did make it inside, but only at the end of the flight. The plane was flying on itself for at least an hour. The details of that time were never sorted out. However, had it not been for this security mechanism, the rest of the flight crew should have been easily able to get inside the cockpit once they realised that oxygen was running out and the plane was not descending to a safe breathing altitude.
    I dont believe the flight attendant broke in to the cockpit, those doors are way too tough, he probably had the key to open it. THat he didnt do so earlier, is almost certainly because he wasnt conscious or conscious enough to understand what was going on. I dont think a different locking mechanism would have changed anything in that particular case.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skinny View Post
    BTW, the relatively slow decent may have been an act of "mercy" by the pilot. Because of it, passengers may not have had any idea of what was going to happen, unlike when you point the nose straight down and allow the plane to disintegrate mid air.
    I suspect the Captain tapping on the door, progressing to banging and shouting will have had quite the opposite effect. If I was sat on a plane and witnessed that, I would have been terrified.
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    airdoc is offline Sergeant Major More Posts Than Postman Pat
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    What exactly went on during helios will never be known. Maybe the flight attendant didn't make it earlier because he was knocked out, as you pointed out. This guy was training to get his license as a commercial pilot. I could speculate that when he saw the masks falling he knew that oxygen would not last more than 15 minutes and that he became concerned when he didn't see the aircraft descending to a breathing altitude. Maybe he tried to contact the crew after a few of those crucial minutes via intercom, did not get a reply (because they were already unconscious) and went semi-conscious while trying to find a way to break in the cockpit. Even if this is a hypothesis, it is also a viable scenario where the door-locking mechanism would be one of the decisive factors leading to (or not allowing to prevent) an accident.

    "Also, I think the risk of pilot suicide is currently way smaller than the risk of some nutcase passenger wanting to bring a plane down, so that door is probably a good thing overall."

    I think that there are two issues that arise here :

    1. One would have to compare the total number of fatalities that are attributed to the existence of the locking mechanism to the ones that have possibly been prevented by it in order to reach firm conclusions. (it 's not only about suicide, other scenarios are possible)
    If the Germanwings crash is proven to be related to suicide, then that makes it 2 major accidents attributed to it in a year's time (that's more common than terrorist attacks)

    2. Even if this comparison favors the locking mechanism (which i 'm not sure of, and there are argument that can be made for the adoption of other anti-terrorism mechanisms), it leaves us with the question of how does one morally justify the introduction of a measure that promotes safety on some scenarios but undermines it in others. Safety does not come with an agenda.

    i think that this issue will be raised with the aviation authorities.
    Last edited by airdoc; 26-03-2015 at 12:50.

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    Quote from the BBC News :-

    "Passengers could be heard screaming just before the crash, he added."

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    The Helios incident was a bit different. The flight deck were both unconscious. The cabin crew are told to wedge themselves into seats and grab the nearest mask if they drop and hang on to the food carts ready for an emergency descent. They arent told to go to the cockpit unless they are told to at the end of the emergency descent. Because it never descended then that would be why, eventually, the cabin crew went forward and unlocked the door.

    The doors can be unlocked from either side, unless someone on the flight deck actively refuses entry then there is nothing you can do about it from outside the cockpit / flight deck / or as it is called for some strange reason these days the Flight Crew Compartment (which is incidently now occupied by FCM's or flight crew members
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    If it is the case that this guy wiped out 150 people then it is obviously unforgivable. There are now so many pilots sat in the right seat of big airliners who are up to their neck in debt working long hours on zero hour contracts and struggling to repay their loans.

    I have been banging on about this for years to anyone who cares to listen. Aircraft are now crewed often by people who had nothing more than the ability to get themselves into 80,000 to over 100,000 pounds worth of debt rather than the ability to fly an aircraft. Airlines such as Ryanair and other companies are happily relieving these people of thousands more to cover their training. What other industry would you pay your employer 100 an hour to go to work?

    On the point of sticking a cabin crew member on the flight deck to watch over things wouldn't help much and most companies are running on minimum crew anyhow and the likes of Ryanair are talking about wanting just one pilot at the controls!
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    airdoc is offline Sergeant Major More Posts Than Postman Pat
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    double post
    Last edited by airdoc; 26-03-2015 at 16:00.

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    airdoc is offline Sergeant Major More Posts Than Postman Pat
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bone Head View Post
    If it is the case that this guy wiped out 150 people then it is obviously unforgivable. There are now so many pilots sat in the right seat of big airliners who are up to their neck in debt working long hours on zero hour contracts and struggling to repay their loans.

    I have been banging on about this for years to anyone who cares to listen. Aircraft are now crewed often by people who had nothing more than the ability to get themselves into 80,000 to over 100,000 pounds worth of debt rather than the ability to fly an aircraft. Airlines such as Ryanair and other companies are happily relieving these people of thousands more to cover their training. What other industry would you pay your employer 100 an hour to go to work?

    On the point of sticking a cabin crew member on the flight deck to watch over things wouldn't help much and most companies are running on minimum crew anyhow and the likes of Ryanair are talking about wanting just one pilot at the controls!
    It is sad to hear about this going on in the airliner industry Bone.

    The fact is that there seems to be a sort of an outbreak of accidents where pilots deliberately take the plane down. It is likely that the hardships you mentioned drive a percentage of the psychologically vulnerable / susceptible personalities to mental disorders and once this has happened a minute but apparently real number of them contemplate suicide+murder. Speaking as a physician, I would say that whenever we are talking about suicide+mass murder there are probably many things at play :

    1. a serious mental disorder, although not as severe as to completely impair the individual, but nevertheless of adequate intensity to lead to a cognitive distortion regarding the future (usually this is a sense of despair that cannot be escaped by any perceived action)
    2. a tremendous sense of anger towards a group or the society as a whole, perceiving them as responsible in a way for the inescapable misery and driving a sentiment of "righteous payback" (some psychopathic personality traits should also be present)
    3. the determination to take one's life (these are serious attempts) and the ability to formulate and execute a plan.

    The first 2 are unbelievably common. In fact, at any given time you would find that roughly 1% of the population are at such a mental condition. It is the 3rd step where most people stop at (there are indeed many impulsive suicide attempts without serious planning but 9 out of 10 times they fail). For every suicide that one witnesses, there are more than twenty others who thought about it and changed their mind.

    It is my view that the way the door locking is implemented (and the fact that there have been similar acts in the past) makes it very easy for these people to formulate a plan (which is essentially bulletproof) and proceed to the 3rd step. If these guys knew that they would have to fight with the co-pilot/flight attendants in order to take the plane down or that there would be a possibility that they would be stopped and arrested, most of them wouldn't attempt it.

    Now it's awfully simple : wait until the copilot goes to the toilet, lock the door and that's it. Nobody can stop you, nobody can make you change your mind and there is no chance that you 'll end up behind bars for the rest of your life for attempted murder.

    EDIT : btw, it appears that the exact same thing happened with LAM Mozambique Airlines Flight 470 in 2013.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LAM_Moz...nes_Flight_470
    Last edited by airdoc; 26-03-2015 at 17:16.

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    As our chanceloress puts it: "unimaginable". The lack of phantasy really creeps me out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by airdoc View Post
    1. a serious mental disorder, although not as severe as to completely impair the individual, but nevertheless of adequate intensity to lead to a cognitive distortion regarding the future (usually this is a sense of despair that cannot be escaped by any perceived action)
    2. a tremendous sense of anger towards a group or the society as a whole, perceiving them as responsible in a way for the inescapable misery and driving a sentiment of "righteous payback" (some psychopathic personality traits should also be present)
    3. the determination to take one's life (these are serious attempts) and the ability to formulate and execute a plan.

    The first 2 are unbelievably common. In fact, at any given time you would find that roughly 1% of the population are at such a mental condition. It is the 3rd step where most people stop at (there are indeed many impulsive suicide attempts without serious planning but 9 out of 10 times they fail). For every suicide that one witnesses, there are more than twenty others who thought about it and changed their mind.
    I dont think their plan or goal was to murder the passengers. I strongly suspect they start at point 3 and see them as "collateral damage".

    I do think Bonehead makes a fair point; some of my friends fly commercial planes and private jets. afaik, they are relatively well off now, but early in their careers, I know how much some of them struggled financially, and were often pushed to or beyond their limits when it comes to flying times etc. Especially cargo pilots it seems, heard quite a few horror stories about DHL. That was before the rise of low cost carriers, I can easily imagine that not being any better.

    As for a "solution". Dont think there is an easy fix for this problem. Boeing and airbus Im sure will come up with "anti suicide" systems, but in the long run, I can only see the pilot being taken out of the equation. Or at most flying planes remotely if/when there is a need for a human. Hate to say it Bone, but I think we are approaching the point where a human pilot is more of a liability than an asset in the cockpit. We're certainly not there yet, but we will one day. If its any consolidation, the same will go for driving cars.

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    Oh I think you are right Skinny, we did away with radio operators, Navigators then engineers, who needs pilots?

    Im getting tired of the lifestyle anyhow
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    I had a discussion with an American flight examiner once and he said if passengers were allowed to be armed 9/11 wouldn't have happened, I tend to agree. There would have been a few bullet holes in the aircaft and maybe one or two casualties other than the hijackers but that's probably all.
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    Kang is offline Warrant Officer More Posts Than Postman Pat
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bone Head View Post
    I had a discussion with an American flight examiner once and he said if passengers were allowed to be armed 9/11 wouldn't have happened, I tend to agree. There would have been a few bullet holes in the aircaft and maybe one or two casualties other than the hijackers but that's probably all.
    Well, I have trouble agreeing with that. Of course, a gun is a powerful tool in that situation and it might have saved lives on that particular day, but augmenting one possible mental in the cockpit (be it a terrorist hijacker or, as appears in this case, crewmember) with 150 armed passengers, each of whom could flip at any given point as well, seems like a dangerous idea. Single passengers rioting are way too common.

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    Thats the thing, all it takes is one person to bring down an aircraft, and one person with a gun or even a small knife is capable of doing just that. How do you stop someone with a gun on an aircraft? Lets face it people have made plastic guns now so keeping them off the aircraft isnt always possible.

    the Israelis have armed guards apparently on their aircraft and they have stopped terrorists.

    So you have 200 passengers 1 nutter has a gun, you now potentially have 199 dead passengers, you have 200 armed passengers one of whom is the nutter what is the outcome now?

    Food for thought.
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    Novotny is offline Brigadier More Posts Than Postman Pat
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    I think, though this may be a first, that I would agree with the Israelis. We don't really want everyone carrying weapons, do we? Maybe 4 dudes per flight from an anti-terrorism squad, spaced out. As in freely arranged amongst the passengers, not dancing the light fantastic.

    Beyond that, maybe we should wonder why people(s) become so disenfranchised that they want to do this. Or we could just continue insisting that it's simply because they're mad extremists and all our governments/businesses/is there a difference/ are excellent institutions dedicated to furthering human society for the benefit of one and all.
    Last edited by Novotny; 26-03-2015 at 23:16.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bone Head View Post
    I had a discussion with an American flight examiner once and he said if passengers were allowed to be armed 9/11 wouldn't have happened, I tend to agree. There would have been a few bullet holes in the aircaft and maybe one or two casualties other than the hijackers but that's probably all.
    Sounds like the kind of argument an american NRA member would make.

    First of all, about 9/11.. prior to 911, hijackings generally werent suicide/mass murder events. The reason 9/11 could happen, was because the passengers didnt assume they would crash the plane, so they didnt resist. (Except probably on flight 93) 911 hijackers were armed with box cutters, not AK47s. It wouldnt have taken 200 guns aboard to stop them. Just a few passengers understanding what was going on. Oh, and/or a reinforced door. What happened on 911 is not likely to ever happen again, simply because passengers view hijackers quite differently and of course, because of the doors.

    BTW, the idea that more guns would somehow reduce crime is a popular one in conservative US circles; you hear it each time some kid goes on a killing spree. 'if only more people carried guns, it could have been stopped much sooner'. But it defies common sense and statistics. According to wikipedia, in the UK there are 0.04 gun killings per 100K inhabitants per year. In the US its 2.83. That is 70x more.

    If ordinary people are allowed to carry guns onboard planes, i for one, would stop flying.

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