Pilots nearly lost control of their Boeing 777 during an Air France flight from New York to Paris in what French aviation investigators on Wednesday labeled a “serious incident.”
“Arrrgh — yes — stop, stop” one of the pilots was heard saying on Air France Flight 011, which departed Kennedy Airport on Monday night and was about to land at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris on Tuesday morning when the near-disaster struck.
The jet aborted its landing and embarked on a “go around,” in which pilots circle back to an airport for another landing attempt.
The pilot talking to air controllers via radio sounded panicked and was breathing heavily.
“We went around following an issue with commands. The plane did something,” he reported.
France’s Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses — which investigates civil aviation incidents — said in a tweet that the plane underwent “instability of flight controls” and “flight path oscillations” as it was about to land.
The agency says as part of its investigation, it has obtained black box cockpit voice recordings and flight data information.
A passenger told the French TV news channel BFM that the incident began as the plane descended through clouds.
“There were two or three sudden jolts, which surprised everyone a bit,” Pierre-Loïc Jacquemin said.
Jacquemin said he was among a group of passengers who yelled in panic as the plane moved around.
“Afterwards, the plane came back up,” Jacquemin said. “We circled 10 minutes above the airport, and the second attempt was really gentle. We weren’t jostled like for the first.”
A business class passenger told Le Parisien, a Paris newspaper, that the plane had just emerged from “a lot of fog” when the pilots aborted the landing.
“We were almost on the runway when the plane came up extremely quickly,” said the 75-year-old woman, identified in the newspaper by her first name, Michèle.
Passengers didn’t panic, Michèle said.
Despite the incident, the flight arrived on time.
Air France said in a statement that the go-around was a “normal procedure,” and that the flight crew “landed normally after a second approach.” “Air France understands and regrets the discomfort felt by customers,” the statement said.