Exclusive: Airbus Memo To Pilots May Shed Light On Mystery of 2009 Air France Crash

Standard procedural bulletin on use of speed sensors may help explain unsolved crash of Rio-to-Paris flight AF447

Airbus 330 (flickr)

A seemingly innocuous memo could revive speculation about the cause of the June 2009 crash of an Air France flight from Rio-to-Paris. Les Echos has learned that on Monday, Airbus sent an operational engineering bulletin (OEB) to all airlines operating A330s and A340-200 and 300 to remind their pilots not to reset the autopilot after a malfunctioning of the pitot speed sensors.

Airbus regularly sends OEB's to its customers to remind them of an existing procedure in the manuals. Yet this bulletin raises questions because the A330's airspeed measurement probes are suspected of triggering the crash of flight AF447 off the coast of Brazil that killed all 228 aboard, and remains officially unsolved.

More importantly, this warning contains a new element, namely that two separate pitot probes could possibly send the same erroneous information to the on-board computer, which could cause dangerous maneuvers in autopilot mode.

So far, it was thought that in case of failure of two of the three probes present on an airplane, caused for example by freezing, the data sent to the flight computer would be sufficiently inconsistent that it decides to disconnect the autopilot and put the craft in the pilots' hands until the sensors are reset to operate normally. Only then will the computer offer to return to autopilot.

At this point, however, the procedure requires a final manual check by the pilots, who must ensure that indications of speed provided by the probes are consistent with other flight parameters before resetting the autopilot. The new Airbus bulletin is focused on this final check.

Studies by the manufacturer have indeed highlighted the possibility that two Pitot probes can issue data that is false, but still coherent enough to be considered valid by the flight computer. If the pilots are not wary and trigger the automatic pilot without further verification, then major problems can occur.

There is no specific evidence at this stage that this precise scenario is behind the crash of the AF447, and the probability is very low and would mean that the crew did not follow procedure. But it is not impossible.

Airbus says Monday's bulletin has no connection with the disaster. The manufacturer, however, considers the risk serious enough to warrant not only a bulletin, but also a change in automatic steering software of the 1,200 A330 and A340 aircraft in service. Perhaps the outcome of the fourth search for black boxes, slated for February, will finally help solve the mystery.

Read the original article in French

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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