French authorities say a much-discussed “loss-of-control” incident reported by an Air France crew last month was a case of the left seat not knowing what the right seat was doing. AF011 was on final for Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris on a flight from JFK when panicked pilots told air traffic control that they’d lost control of the Boeing. A preliminary report from the Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses says both pilots had their hands on the yoke during the sequence and that at times they were pushing and pulling in opposite directions. The pilots went around and sorted it out in time for an uneventful second attempt. Part of the struggle made it to the radio and the exchange was widely distributed.
The first officer was the pilot flying and after switching off the autopilot he made some manual inputs that the aircraft obeyed. After some pitch and bank deviations, it appears the captain grabbed the yoke and each pilot had a different idea of what needed to be done. “The control columns were then desynchronized for 14 seconds due to opposing forces,” the report said. “The captain held the control column in a slightly nose-down position while the co-pilot made several, more pronounced, nose-up inputs. Two brief episodes of wheel desynchronization were also observed.” The pilots apparently fought each other for almost a minute before the captain became the pilot flying and the plane was configured for the go-around. He gave the airplane back to the FO and the landing went ahead as normal. “No failure warning was activated during the occurrence,” the report concluded. “No anomaly was observed on the aeroplane.”
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