French aviation safety investigators have opened a probe after an Air France Boeing 777 airplane approaching Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport was involved in a “serious incident,” according to BEA, the French bureau that investigates air crashes and aviation safety.
In an audio recording of air traffic control that French officials say is of the incident, a pilot says, “the airplane was just kind of out of control.”
The incident happened on Tuesday, April 5, according to a BEA tweet that reported “instability of flight controls on final, go-around, hard controls, flight path oscillations.”
The BEA did not give CNN further details as to what caused the incident or why it qualified as “serious,” adding that it had to wait for the end of the investigation. The tweet said the agency is analyzing flight data from the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, known as the black back boxes.
But it authenticated an audio recording posted online of communication between the flight’s pilot and the control tower.
The recording was edited to isolate the flight’s audio and posted online by the privately run, aviation-focused website AIRLIVE, which tells CNN it had direct access to recordings of Paris Charles de Gaulle’s Air Traffic Control.
Air France response
Air France said on Wednesday that it “understands and regrets the discomfort experienced by customers.” Spokesman Mathieu Guillot said the pilots appropriately responded to the situation by circling and making a second attempt at landing.
“Air France confirms that the crew of flight AF011 on 4 April 2022 from New York JFK to Paris-CDG aborted their landing sequence and performed a go-around during the approach.
“The crew landed the aircraft normally after a second approach. Air France understands and regrets the discomfort experienced by customers,” Air France said.
The go-around is defined by the authorities, aircraft manufacturers and Air France as a normal procedure. The crews are trained and regularly instructed in these procedures, which are used by all airlines to guarantee the safety of flights and passengers, which is Air France’s outmost priority.”
What’s heard in the BEA recording
In the BEA recording, a voice that is apparently a pilot is heard saying “stop, stop” as an alarm sounds in the cockpit.
“I’ll call you back, I’ll call you back,” the male voice is heard telling air traffic controllers, who instruct him to “stop approach … immediately.”
The pilot is then heard reporting to controllers the decision to abandon the landing.
“We went around following a problem with commands. The airplane was just kind of out of control,” the voice is heard saying. “We are ready to resume final approach with radar guidance. Give us time to manage the situation, then guide us with tailwind.”
One passenger’s description
As the plane was approaching the airport, there were “two or three sudden jolts,” passenger Pierre-Loïc Jacquemin told CNN’s French affiliate BFMTV.
“There were people shouting in the cabin” at the time of the incident, he said.
“Afterwards, the plane came back up. We circled for 10 minutes above the airport, and the second attempt was really gentle. We weren’t jostled like the first one,” the passenger added.
Flight came from JFK International
The nearly seven-hour Air France flight 11 from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport was aboard a French-registered Boeing 777 aircraft, according to tracking data from the aviation websites FlightAware and FlightRadar24, which shows the 17-year-old plane landing after the second attempt.
Boeing spokesman Paul Lewis referred questions about the incident to the BEA.
As a US-manufactured aircraft, an official investigation into the incident would involve the participation of the US National Transportation Safety Board.
The board has appointed an official to participate in the French-led investigation, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson told CNN. He said the French BEA has been in touch with the NTSB.
This development does not necessarily mean officials from the NTSB will physically travel to Paris.
The US Federal Aviation Administration also did not have an immediate comment on the incident.
It’s unclear how many people were aboard the flight when the incident occurred.
Top image: A file photo of Paris Charles de Gaulle airport