Letters: Air safety

The fatal errors on Air France 447
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The Independent Online

The crew of Air France 447, the Airbus A330-200, which crashed in the Atlantic in June 2009 killing all 228 aboard, should not have needed the briefing arising from a previous similar incident, although that would have been desirable (report, 18 July).

Pilots should be able to retain control of an aircraft experiencing malfunctioning data sensors (including pitot tubes) or instrumentation (including flight directors) as long as they know two essential parameters: the aircraft's attitude (nose high or level or low, wings banked left or level or right) and the degree of thrust the engines are delivering.

This combination determines the aircraft's speed and its flight path. A crew first noticing conflicting or erroneous instrument indications should set the attitude to nose level or slightly above the horizon, wings level, and engine thrust approximately to cruise setting, using the auto-pilot if it is trustworthy with the degraded data inputs or manual control inputs if not.

The aircraft will then adopt a straight flight path at a safe speed well clear of the stalling regime, after which one of the crew members can begin troubleshooting the problem.

Attitude information presented to the pilots is available from at least three separate indicators supplied from independent sources, none of which requires pitot tube inputs. Dealing with problems such as instrument malfunction can be practised during recurrent training in the simulator.

But there was another factor in this accident which left many pilots puzzled. The captain of the aircraft chose to take his rest period when the aircraft was approaching an area of known hazardous weather.

Most captains would have first taken action to avoid the weather if possible and second, postponed their rest until it had been safely bypassed.

Had the captain been on the flight deck when the difficulties began, his extra experience might have helped to prevent the fatal outcome.

Julien Evans

Retired Boeing 757 captain, Chesham, Buckinghamshire

Wiggins's win is wonderful, in a dangerous sport

How great is Bradley Wiggins's Tour de France win? Once thought impossible for a British cyclist to win (without the aid of the performance-enhancing products that have blighted all sports), wouldn't it rank alongside Roger Bannister's four-minute mile?

It seems the whole of Britain is celebrating the win. David Cameron said: "It's an immense feat of physical and mental ability and aptitude and I think the whole country wants to say 'Well done, brilliant', the perfect backdrop and start to the Olympics".

In the 20 years it has taken Bradley from a 13-year-old racing at Herne Hill, to the ultimate cycling accolade, more than 30,000 cyclists have been killed or seriously injured on UK roads. And most not because they did anything wrong, but because drivers did: excessive/inappropriate speed; driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs; and in more recent times, distracted by mobile phone, or satnavs.

A survey by MoneySupermarket.com questioned 2,000 motorists on their driving etiquette. That showed 75 per cent of white-van drivers admitted that they "purposefully failed to leave enough room for cyclists"; with Range Rover drivers it was 64 per cent, and Jaguar drivers, 55 per cent.

Pete Longbottom was a top international and medal winner killed in 1998, age 38, by a driver who didn't see him. At just 18, talented Lewis Balyckyi, tipped for the 2012 Olympics, was killed last year by a speeding driver while training on Bradley Wiggins's  home turf. How safe will Bradley be when he returns to the roads of Lancashire?

Isn't Bradley's win an investment that will mean a great many youngsters taking up cycling? What can we do to protect them?  Will the safety of cyclists and the fitting punishment of guilty drivers now become a Prime Ministerial priority?

Allan Ramsay

RoadPeace, Manchester

Games do not belong to Britain

What does Yasmin Alibhai-Brown mean (23 July) when she describes the forthcoming Olympic Games as not feeling "truly, deeply, crazily British"? We are merely the latest nation to host an event that has been "loaned" to the UK by the Olympic Committee, in its belief that we could stage the event according to its requirements, sporting and corporate.

London 2012 is not "ours". This huge dollop of sporting entertainment doesn't belong to us. It belongs to the entire global audience whose principle focus will be on what happens inside sporting arenas, not on the country in which the arenas have been built.

Perhaps if people stopped being quite so parochial they might stop slamming the Games for failing to be something they were never intended to be, the "British Games". 

Simon Block

New Barnet, Hertfordshire

Let's get rid of all corporate logos at this year's Olympics. At the same time, let's get rid of all corporate logos from Bradley Wiggins's cycling jersey and cap, and with that the millions of (corporate) pounds it took for Mr Wiggins and his team of superlative athletes to win the Tour de France (including his £1.5m salary).

Modern sport (including the Olympics) is a form of mass entertainment. As in every other form of entertainment, the best talent costs money. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown can watch the Games wishing they were back on Mount Olympus, or she can try to get her head around the fact that neither decent bread nor a decent circus comes cheap these days. And hasn't for a very long time.

Dan Smith

London N10

If Olympic tickets were free, no tax money had been spent on the Games and London 2012 was totally funded by corporate sponsors, Lord Coe might have a point when he says, "You probably wouldn't be walking in with a Pepsi t-shirt".

But as part of his rampant urge to protect commerce over everything, this Tory peer and former Tory MP has conveniently forgotten that Olympic tickets are expensive, and a hefty proportion of tax has been spent on the Games. Therefore, to "protect" those ticket-holders and taxpayers who have also helped "sponsor" the Games, they should be allowed to wear what they like.

Ben Saunders

Mitcham, Surrey

The G4S shambles was an accident waiting to happen. In business, before signing an important contract, we used to send our staff into the supplier to assess its ability to deliver the contract.

After signing, our staff stayed with the supplier to ensure that the latter delivered the contract. Clearly, this was not done, otherwise the failings of the G4S would have emerged weeks, if not months ago.

It is pointless attacking the hapless Minister (Theresa May), when the attack should be directed at her civil serrvants and security experts.

William Robert Haines

Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Is an individual allowed, under the Freeom of Information Act, to ask who, on behalf of the Government, signed the G4S Olympics security contract?

Derek Fabian

Dumbarton, Dunbartonshire

Why not retire to New Zealand?

What a brilliant solution from Patrick Cosgrove for care-of-the-elderly providers to buy inexpensive empty property in Spain or Greece, employ the local people and save the taxpayer billions (letters, 16 July).

A much better choice would be New Zealand. Britain and New Zealand have a similar landmass but the former has 60 million inhabitants and the latter four million. The weather is better in NZ and for a lot of Brits the lifestyle would be too.

An increasing percentage of the UK's population is retired, with mortgage-free houses and one, if not two, pensions. The building industry in NZ has collapsed and tourism is dwindling to a trickle.

What better then than for New Zealand to welcome retired Brits to settle there? Many here would jump at the chance. They are financially independent, and would purchase a home, thereby stimulating the local housing market, buy goods and services from NZ businesses and, perhaps, even add to the existing pool of experienced skills in their country.

Geoff Naylor

Winchester, Hampshire

Netanyahu speaks for a minority

The horrendous suicide bombing in Bulgaria of a bus carrying Israeli tourists (report, 19 July) was an act of extreme violence, committed presumably as a reprisal against Israeli activity in the West Bank, Gaza and elsewhere.

Notwithstanding what Prime Minister Netanyahu would have you believe, such attacks are directed solely against Israel. They are not anti-Semitic or directed at Jews in general who are not party to Israeli settlement claims on Arab land etc.

This is an important point because Netanyahu claims to speak and act for the Jewish diaspora, the Jewish majority in New York, London, Paris and around the world, when, in fact, he speaks and acts primarily for the Jewish minority who live in Israel.

The state-sponsored assassinations of scientists and other political opponents, and infliction of malicious computer viruses, have nothing to do with Jewish communities who live in peace and harmony around the world. Mr Netanyahu is the leader of the extreme right-wing Likud Party, and these terrorist attacks are against Likud policy in the Middle East. Jewish continuity is threatened both by Israeli violence and the violence of its enemies.

Douglas Reed

London NW11

The appalling events in Bulgaria are to be condemned but why am I not surprised that Netenyahu is so sure Iran is the culprit and even more unsurprised that the Israeli government seemed to know more than the Bulgarian security service in the immediate aftermath.

Whether or not Iran is responsible, demonisation of Iran has a purpose, the next war in the Middle East and the frightening of the Israeli population to keep them in order. War and more war; where will it end?

Peter Downey


Guns and ammo too easy to get

After the latest mass shooting in America (report, 21 July), various parts of the British media have reported that "once again America is asking itself how this could happen". Excuse me? When assault rifles are freely available at your friendly neighbourhood gunstore and 6,000 rounds of ammunition can be easily obtained over the internet, what do Americans expect will happen?

Stanley Knill

London N15

Unfair cop

In your leading article on PC Simon Harwood (20 July), you say that by quitting the Metropolitan Police only to rejoin the civilian staff without missing a day he successfully avoided an impending hearing, and that is an example of the alarming lack of cohesion in the police. I think this is perfect cohesiveness.

Andy Harrington

London NW10

What Madonna?

Three friends of mine went separately to the Madonna concert in Hyde Park. All were disappointed. The sound was bad, the show was short and lacklustre. Many people left early. Yet your reviewer gave it a good review and four stars out of five. Was he actually there?

Julian Sutton

Richmond, Surrey

A penny here ...

After my wife submitted her online self-assessment, she was notified that she owed 20p. Being a prompt payer, she sent off a cheque for the said amount. Then she saw it had been cleared in her bank account. Offshore millionaires and bankers take note.

Geoff Cape

Newcastle upon Tyne

Flock vote

James Maberly (letters, 23 July) could also have quoted from HMS Pinafore, the earlier (1878) and, to my mind, rather pithier couplet, "I always voted at my party's call/And I never thought of thinking for myself at all."

Dr Andrew Ruddle

West Molesey, Surrey

Pack it in

Michael Hart wonders why the Naked Rambler needs such a large rucksack (letters, 23 July). He needs somewhere to keep his lunch-box.

Anthony Bramley-Harker

Watford, Hertfordshire