Computer Crash May Have Doomed Air France Flight

Crash raises questions on if today's pilots can cope with computer failure
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2009 4:15 AM CDT
Systems failures are "rare enough that pilots can be unprepared, but likely enough to pose a real threat," said Bill Voss, president of the Flight Safety Foundation.    (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
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(Newser) – Investigators trying to piece together the fate of Air France Flight 447 in the absence of its black boxes are focusing on possible computer failures, the Wall Street Journal reports. The evidence suggests a problem with the sensors quickly snowballed into widespread computer outages, leaving the crew struggling to manage without the automated systems on which modern pilots rely.

The crash is raising questions about how well today's pilots can cope without the computerized systems that completely control jets like the Airbus A330. Airplane computer failures are so rare that most pilots have little or no experience dealing with them in real-world situations, experts note. Investigators believe the crew of Flight 447 may have still been trying to restart the computers even as the plane began to break apart.