back to article Air France pilot in white-knuckle near miss

Air France is investigating a pilot who provoked a near miss at 33,000ft after allegedly "showing off" his control of the aircraft to a boy in the cockpit, the Times reports. Shaun Robinson, 40, an IT manager from Lancashire and one of 143 passengers aboard the Manchester-Paris flight on Saturday, recounted: “The pilot made a …


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  1. Tim

    So you can get into the cockpit by being a child?

    That seems to assume that the little bugger doesnt have a box cutter hidden amongst his person..... I can just see it now, a whole bunch of little terrorists asking to see how the pilot makes the plane work!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Joey, do you like..

    ..movies about gladiators?

  3. Planeten Paultje

    Maybe not related?

    It would seem the two incidents just may not have been related. Making two turns (after which the plane should be on course again, and still in its corridor, if the pilot knew where he was) would not get you closer to the plane in front, assuming same direction and speed. The sudden climb is more likely the result of the aircraft proximity warning system advising the pilot to climb, because another plane was detected on a head-on collision course. The other plane would have had the same warning, but be advised to descend. We'll hear what really happened eventually, and two pilots will probably be flying chickens in Africa or something.....

  4. pastamasta


    ... I foresee an imminent Al-Qaeda recruitment drive for dwarfs.

    (Mine's the one with the "Time Bandits" logo on the back.)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This confused and speculative codswallop is what you get if you ask questions of the Self-Loading Cargo.

    Passengers should belt-up at all times.

  6. Ash
    Thumb Down

    It wasn't a child...

    It was a dwarf under-cover agent for the Taliban checking if the security procedures can be overridden by a smile and a hissy-fit.

    Apparently, this is the case.


  7. Anton Ivanov

    That is business as usual

    Just search for Princess Juliana. 'Nuff said...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kid in the cockpit?

    One unanswered question - does this mean Air France still hasn't fitted secure doors to the cockpits, or, are Air France pilots doing a Gallic shrug to basic safety?

    Come on El Reg, get your crack investigators on the job. A Playmobil reconstruction of what could have ensued if Naomi Campbell had got into the cockpit wouldn't go amiss either.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Captain Over..

    Have you ever been in a men's locker room?

    Do you like it when Scraps rubs himself up against your leg?

    Oh dear :-)

  10. Tom

    "So you can get into the cockpit by being a child?"

    You sure can, but only if you don't have a beard.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I remember when...

    ... you could get into the cockpit by asking if you could see it. Pilots get bored on long flights and a short chat with someone they've never met before can be welcome.

    Damn terrorists ruining our chats with the pilot.

  12. Anonymous Coward


    I hope they sack this idiot, although this being France we all know that is never going to happen.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You seem to suggest that this wasn't as dangerous as the low level flyby, when in fact that was perfectly safe, and this obviously had some risk of collision if no action was taken. I still think it's probably far less of a risk than is being made out, but the low level flyby of a few months ago was perfectly safe.

  14. Lloyd


    It could be worse, I noticed MI6 had an IT recruitment advert in the Metro this morning, so I went to their and it doesn't work properly with Firefox so maybe the site should be called

    Alien because non MS products appear to be Alien to the civil service.

  15. Ferry Boat

    Last time I flew a plane

    A turn slowed it down (assuming I wanted to maintain altitude).

  16. Tony


    I remember it well.

    On one late night flight back from the States, I sat in the cockpit on the jump seat for about 1 1/2 hours. I'd been learning to fly on a Cessna (only a couple of hours) and the pilot was quite happy to show me the whole works. For a while I was running through the navigation equipment for them, picking up the coasts of Greenland and Iceland. It was capped off by a good view of the Northern lights.

    Pure magic - a bloody shame we can't do it any more.

  17. Chris Morrison

    Don't sack the pilot

    This is Air France so the pilot's job is safe.

    To sack someone in France takes about a million written warnings. Even if he;s had all his warnings please don't sack him.

    Again this is France, the whole country will just go on strike (again)! I'm flying with Air France next Friday and I've just booked a Hol to France in the summer. Please don't make them strike!

  18. John A Thomson

    Sacre bleu

    The little boy obviously used the Jedi mind trick to get the pilot to do this!

  19. Anonymous Coward

    @ Mycho &Tony

    Ah, yes, those were the days....

    I managed to spend an hour with the pilot on an overnight flight from Sydney to Hong Kong and he persuaded his sister flight coming the other way to flash its headlights as it approached us (a couple of thousand feet below us) - a great spectacle and a good way to stay awake on a long and otherwise dull flight - also much more space up front than in Cattle Class !

    On another overnight flight to South Africa, the pilot pointed his radar down for me to show all the "local" flights flying with their transponders turned off so as to avoid paying the local air traffic control fees of the different countries they over-flew - was very glad that those sorts of planes could not fly at the same altitude as a jumbo cruises !! Wonder if that still happens today?

    Mine's the one with a pipe in one pocket and slippers in the other...

  20. Mr B

    The real facts.

    The bumpy air ride is linked to the 30,000 passengers patchy train ride. A Virgin operated train was in fact parked in this Manchester-Paris air corridor.

    Well know fact of life Network Rail signalling equipment at Milton Keynes interferes with air traffic control at Swanwick & West Drayton.

  21. Michael Hoffmann
    Thumb Up

    @ Mycho and Tony

    Amen to both of you. As PP-ASEL myself chatting with those guys was like getting a free lesson on the finer points of cockpit/crew resource management, ATC communication improvement and use of gear that has made its way even into smaller aircraft, such as flight directors and what not.

    Gone and over.

  22. Nev


    ...this Shaun Robinson, 40, IT manager (and apparently an aviation expert too) must have an axe to grind because some snot-nosed French kid got to go in the cockpit and he didn't.

    I love Air France. They're very free with the booze on long haul, and they don't seem to have BA and US airlines' policy of employing pensioners as cabin crew.

    Mine the one hung up at the front, thanks.

  23. Graham


    Yeah, Air France are great (am flying with them this afternoon) except when things go wrong...

    ... I used to wonder what a "Gallic shrug" was, after 6 months of flying with Air France Cityjet I have a MUCH better idea!

  24. Aodhhan

    Of course he'll be sacked....

    This is Air France. He'll be in trouble for being nice to a passenger. His flying exploits wont be an issue.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Proof reading...

    Glad to see my efforts achieve something every so often.,. ;)

  26. TranceMist
    Thumb Down


    The other passengers are obviously just jealous.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Well done Lloyd

    For being the first rabid anti-ms troll to invade a topic that isn't remotely anything to do with ms and mouth off.

  28. Shades


    Yes, I remember those days too...

    Going on holiday to Corfu, when I was a nipper, me and my cousin were allowed up into the cockpit. As it was a night flight I could see a very, very long line of lights far down below and so asked the pilot where we were "We're just flying down the Italian coast" He said. A fortnight later on the return flight, again at night, I asked if I could go up to the cockpit again, only this time my aunty came with me. The pilot was telling us this, that and the other and I turned to my aunty and said "...and that below us is the coast of Italy". At that point the pilot and co-pilot both turned and looked at me. "How do you know where we are?" The pilot asked with a surprised tone in his voice. "I recognise the lights below" I replied (just by coincidence we were at the other end of the lights flying back up). Needless to say the pilots didn't believe a 12 year old could pinpoint exactly where we were after just walking into the cockpit but confirmed I was right. My aunty still doesn't believe me to this day... 18 years later!

  29. Chris C


    As George Carlin pointed out many years ago, this occurrence and others like it are *NOT* near-misses. They are near-HITs. A collision would be a near-miss. As in "we nearly missed".

  30. Richard Cross
    Thumb Down

    @ Cris C

    Au contraire mon amis...

    It's a near miss as in, "a near miss" not a "far miss".

  31. MD Rackham
    Paris Hilton

    @Chris C

    George Carlin obviously isn't a pilot.

    The US FAA (and presumably other such authorities) use the term "near miss" differently than we would in regular conversation. A "miss" is just what it sounds like: two (or more) planes came relatively close to each other but didn't hit. A "near miss" is such an incident but the planes came much "nearer" to each other. Thus a "near miss" is more worrisome than a "miss".

    It's jargon. Don't try to apply normal conversational rules to it.

    (Paris, because it was Air France, and because all conversations are confusing to her.)

  32. Daniel B.

    Kids in the cockpit

    Nice to see that Air France still lets kids in the cockpit. I have somewhere in my childhood albums a photo of the 767's cockpit while it was boarding @ Dallas. That must've been 1987 or something.

    One of the most fun things a kid can see while on a 4+ hour flight is, well, how the plane actually *works*. Sadly, post-9/11 attitudes have banished these activities.

    Back to the topic, hm... as someone else pointed out, swerving left, then right, would return the plane on course; though it might leave them a little bit to the left. However, me thinks that this near-hit would have been there even if the pilot had not done his stunt?

  33. Sceptical Bastard

    @ cockpit riders

    Yup, I fondly remember those days too. I rarely travel by air nowadays but back in the 70s, 80s and 90s my children were usually welcomed to the cockpit (one at a time) and on several flights I spent ten minutes or so chatting to the crew.

    With the current restrictions on access in the wake of the attacks on the WTC, I find it hard to believe that a kid was invited up front on a commercial Air France flight.

    As to the allegations, the article seems to be based on (possibly ill-informed) passengers gobbing off. On two occasions, I've been on flights when proximity detection has necessitated a climb-and-bank manouvre and it was disconcerting rather than terrifying. Unlike landing at Liverpool Speke (before the ridiculous 'John Lennon' moniker) in an Aer Lingus Fokker F27 during a howling gale and torrential rain - that *was* bloody scary!

  34. K
    IT Angle

    IT Angle?

    what, that there was an IT manager on board? or that the new Air France cockpit doors can be opened with a RFID tag?

  35. CTG

    Navigation 101

    Jeez, I hope I never have to rely on any of the previous posters to do navigation for me. One left turn followed by one right turn will *not* leave you on the same _course_. It will probably leave you on the same *heading*, assuming both turns were of the same magnitude, but displaced some distance to the left of the original course. To get back to the original course, the pilot would have had to do the following:

    1. Turn left by x degrees

    2. After n minutes, turn right by 2x degrees

    3. After n minutes, turn left by x degrees.

    Anything other than that exact sequence of events* would have left the plane on a different course, so it's extremely unlikely the near-collision "would have happened anyway" - it is far more likely that by deviating from his original course, the pilot put his aircraft in the way of another plane that was sticking to its route.

    At least this dickhead remembered to disengage the autopilot first, unlike that Russian guy who let his son turn the control column while the autopilot was on, which silently disengaged the ailerons from autopilot, causing the plane (an A320 IIRC) to plough into the ground.

    * Of course, I'm not allowing for wind shear etc, but that's the point - course and heading are two completely different things - you can't just say that one left turn plus one right turn cancel each other out.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    @MD Rackham

    >"George Carlin obviously isn't a pilot."

    No, you're right, he isn't a pilot.

    He's a comedian.

    Did you miss that what you were replying to was a joke?

  37. Damian Jauregui

    left and a right

    Yup, a left and a right is back on course to me. Probably the climb was just to a loss in altitude after doing the turns.

    Personally, I think the [cough] IT guy [/cough] DOES have an axe to grind. Probably the kind of guy who also thinks that his VB.Net skills are actually worth something too...

  38. Mark Aggleton


    Typical MS bashing. Did you try Safari? Works for me on that site (and I'm running it on Windows, not Mac-boi

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    Who needs terrorist...

    ..when your friendly Air France pilot can oblige?

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >Navigation 101

    You're assuming that the intended course was a straight line.

  41. Mr Larrington

    Cockpit Visits

    As a small Mr Larrington I visited the cockpit of a BOAC VC10 during a flight to Hong Kong. In the days before terrorism and in-flight films, there was bugger-all else to do...

  42. John Freas

    @ K

    The IT angle is that the call to "Climb, Climb" came not from ATC as the pilot indicated (ATC doesn't shout Climb, Climb, they use the term "Immediate" preceding the instruction which is understood to imply shouting and expletives.) The call that was heard came from the Traffic Alert & Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) which is a bit of computerized kit that looks at the transponder signals of all the aircraft nearby and predicts their flight paths in three dimensions. If any of those paths will converge within a certain distance of your airplane you will receive a Traffic Alert (TA), first "Traffic!, Traffic!" which alerts the crew to look at the screen which depicts the traffic around the airplane, and then if nothing changes it will switch to "resolution" mode where it decides in concert with its counterpart in the other airplane, whether it is better to climb or descend to avoid the collision and announces that decision to the crew via a Resolution Advisory (RA) while its counterpart in the other airplane does the opposite. In this case the box apparently yelled "Climb!, Climb!". The RA includes a graphical depiction on the vertical speed indicator of the required vertical speed needed to safely avoid a collision.

    The thing about TCAS is that it works within a framework of expectations and predictions. If you're chugging along straight, level and on-course, and another aircraft is converging such that it will pass safely behind you in a couple of minutes the box remains shtum so as not to annoy the driver. However, if said driver unexpectedly yanks the machine into a turn toward the other traffic, the convergence angles change and if the other target is suddenly predicted to enter the safe bubble that the TCAS intends to preserve, it will set off the alarm. By making a large maneuver in busy airspace you can go from no alert directly to a RA in an instant. ATC would never have instructed such a maneuver because they know the big picture, but apparently our driver didn't bother to check for other traffic before his little demonstration.

    C'est la vie.

    As to cockpit riders, the choice to secure the cockpit is as far as I know determined by the country that sets the rules for the airline. If France doesn't require a secure cockpit then Air France can let anyone they want pop in for a visit. The USA (and I imagine the UK) requires that any aircraft flying into or out of the country be secured the same as domestic carriers are, but if a French flight between two countries with no such requirements chooses to operate differently that's still legal. Of course the more likely event in this situation is that the driver simply ignored the rule since after all, the First Officer had long ago grown bored of his "regardez ceci" stunts and he needed a fresh audience.

  43. Jamie Kephalas
    Paris Hilton

    @ Mycho

    I remember flying to Cyprus about 10 years ago and the pilot allowed me to change the course using the auto-pilot about 3 times...

    Paris because she knows all about the cockpit.

  44. Planeten Paultje

    > Navigation 101

    "course and heading are two completely different things"

    Good point (and no worries, I'm not a pilot ;-). He might still have been in his corridor though, but

    > John Freas

    "if said driver unexpectedly yanks the machine into a turn toward the other traffic, the convergence angles change and if the other target is suddenly predicted to enter the safe bubble that the TCAS intends to preserve, it will set off the alarm."

    Very plausable, I vote for this explanation of events.

  45. David Hicklin Bronze badge

    Re : I remember when...

    Not only could you go and ask to see the cockpit, I actually invited to pull the jump seat down and join the crew whilst they landed the plane.

    Amazing experience. that was back in '91

  46. Ed Carter

    He's your husband? I thought you were...

    A "near-miss" is either a woman separated from her husband awaiting divorce or a HIT. Pls continue

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