Friday, June 12, 2009

Did speed sensors cause Air France mystery crash?

The TV pundits are in love with the story. The "speed sensor" is the pitot tube, a simple piece of tubing that sticks out head on into the air stream. The air speed indicator works by measuring the air pressure generated from the pitot tube. Airbus had been replacing the pitot tubes on the A-330's for some reason or other. The replacement program had been running BEFORE the crash.
Worst case, the pitot tube falls off or ices up and the airspeed indication drops to zero. Planes will fly with no airspeed indicator. Leave the engines set to cruise power and keep the plane level and it will keep flying. The zero airspeed will probably confuse the autopilot enough to make it drop off line, but again, the crew can fly the plane by hand.
Dispite pitot tube excitement on the TV news, I very much doubt that the pitot tube caused the crash.

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