Saturday 21 April 2018

Aer Lingus warned of autopilot failures

Gerry Byrne and Kevin Keane

Long-haul Aer Lingus captains flying Airbus A330 jets across the Atlantic have been warned not to put too much faith in their auto-pilots.

This follows research in the wake of the crash of an Air France jet off the coast of Brazil last year in which three young Irish doctors lost their lives.

Jane Deasy (27), Aisling Butler (26) and Eithne Walls (28) were among 228 people killed when the Air France Airbus they were travelling on crashed in to the atlantic.

Data broadcast from the doomed Airbus jet suggested the air speed indicators or 'probes' were malfunctioning and that the auto-pilot had disconnected.

Airbus auto-pilots are designed to disconnect automatically if the probes -- which tell the flight computer how fast the plane is travelling -- give erroneous or contradictory readings.

The pilots will then resume manual control and "hand-fly" the aircraft until the problem is sorted out, or until they can land safely.

But now the European Air Safety Agency has discovered a potentially unsafe condition where flight computers suggest reconnecting the autopilot if two of the aircraft's three speed sensors give the same reading, even if it is false.

"We are aware of this and the associated amendment has been distributed to flight crew," an Aer Lingus spokeswoman said.

Irish Independent

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