Saturday, 9 April 2011


The Lebanese investigators have all but confirmed that the loss of an Ethiopian 737 on departure from Beirut will be classified as LOC-I, or loss of control in flight. The similarities to the Kenyan accident out of Douala a couple of years ago are startling - night time departure with some thunderstorm activity, otherwise quite normal...

The term loss of control to me implies that there was some kind of control difficulty to overcome in the first place but that simply isn't the case with these two accidents. More appropriate names might be absence of control, or failure to control in flight. So how and why does it happen? This most recent crash was preceded by a bank angle warning and prolonged stick shaker activations both of which presumably have recoveries that the pilots will have practiced in the simulator.

To say that this is automation getting the better of us is to oversimplify the problem - proper use of the autopilot would probably have saved the aircraft in both cases. Are pilots being trained to think with the same philosophy as their aircraft does?

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