Transportation Safety Board of Canada has
confirmed Air France Flight 358 landed about
halfway along the 2.7-kilometre runway at
Pearson -- much farther than usual -- on wet
pavement and had no chance of stopping in
An Air France accident four years ago -- involving an
Airbus 340, a rainstorm, wind shear and a "missed" runway --
has raised new questions about the airline's similar, fiery
crash-landing in Toronto this month.
The May, 2001, mishap, which resulted in no injuries,
involved the same model of plane as overran a runway at
Pearson airport and occurred in equivalent weather
A French workplace safety agency blamed the accident in
French Guiana on the pilots' over-reliance on automated
systems, and recommended that landing protocols be changed.
It is unclear whether Air France ever implemented the
As it conducts its investigation of the Toronto incident,
the Transportation Safety Board of Canada will undoubtedly
look at the earlier event and the report on it, said John
Cottreau, a spokesman for the board.
"They will be looking at all incidents of difficulty with
this aircraft," he said yesterday.
But one outside expert questioned the French safety
report's advice, and Air France spoke out against the
release of information that it suggested could interfere
with the board's investigation.
"The commission should be left to work without any
outside intervention," said a release from the airline.
Landing in a thunderstorm on Aug. 2, Air France Flight
358 sped off the end of its runway at Pearson, careening
into a ravine and bursting into flames. All 309 passengers
and crew escaped.
The safety board has confirmed the plane landed about
halfway along the 2.7-kilometre runway -- much farther than
usual -- on wet pavement and had no chance of stopping in
Experts have speculated the plane likely encountered some
kind of wind shear -- a sudden change in wind speed or
direction -- that caused it to lift up off its glide path
and land well past the comfort zone.
A U.S. expert who has seen Doppler radar imagery said it
appears a microburst -- a sudden downdraft of air -- hit
near the runway at about the time Flight 358 landed.
In the 2001 incident, an A340 was landing in Cayenne,
French Guiana, during a tropical storm, when it suddenly
lost altitude and bumped onto the ground 30 metres short of
the runway. It sped over the barrier at the runway
threshold, damaging the undercarriage.
A small fire started in the brakes, but there were no
The pilots had entrusted the plane's power levels to the
auto thrust system, which is supposed to automatically set
the speed according to the jet's weight and other variables.
When the plane encountered wind gusts first in one
direction, then suddenly in the opposite direction, just
before landing, the auto thrust system responded by
maintaining the pre-planned speed, according to a report
from the Comite d'hygiene, de securite et des conditions du
The accident occurred because the auto thrust had reduced
the speed too much in the final approach, making it unable
to compensate for the wind conditions, said the CHSCT, which
investigates workplace accidents.
"The co-pilot in charge of landing was in a state of
over-confidence in this automation," said the agency's
report. It quoted him as saying later he was not sure if he
could fly without the auto thrust on.
The CHSCT said both it and the Airbus manufacturer
believe the auto thrust system is not capable of maintaining
adequate power levels in all bad weather situations.
The report recommended that such information be passed on
to Air France crews. But the report noted that in a 2002
version of the A340 protocol, Air France still recommended
that auto thrust be used to manage speed when wind shear is