Miracle? Or pilot error?


Let's put together some bits and pieces regarding Tuesday's aircraft destruction and passenger evacuation drill brought to you courtesy of Air France at the end of a flight from Paris to Toronto.

One, there were severe thunderstorms in the vicinity of Pearson International Airport that had earlier led to the issuance of a "'red alert' ground stop." Hmm, sounds serious to me.

Two, a passenger on the plane says the cabin lights went about a minute before touchdown and there are reports the plane was struck by lightning.

Three, yesterday, on one of the news channels, they replayed the doppler radar images at the time of the incident and you could see all the nice dark red in the area surrounding the airport.

Four, a witness on the ground described how very dark the sky was getting at the time of the crash.

"Cleared to land"? 
How ironic that the International Herald Tribune would on Monday carry a story about the August 2, 1985 crash of a Delta Airlines L—1011 as it approached the Dallas—Ft. Worth airport in a thunderstorm — the result being the deaths of one hundred and thirty—seven people. Now, twenty years later to the day, a pilot, who in all probability used very poor judgment, ends up very nearly killing a bunch more.

Forget all the "miracle" hoopla. The Toronto incident was in all probability just plain bad judgment — "pilot error" in NTSB parlance. You don't land in the middle of a thunderstorm — period! That's why you have fuel reserves and planned alternates for landing.
Hope Air France's insurance is paid up. Those A340 Airbuses aren't cheap.

Dennis Sevakis    8 3 05

[Editor's note: Dennis is too modest to mention it, but he was a jet jockey for the USAF, flying F—4 Phantoms.]