France probes ‘serious incident’ over landing of New York flight

Air France pilots temporarily lost control of their plane on Tuesday at Charles de Gaulle airport but managed to avoid disaster. The country's aviation safety watchdog is launching an investigation.

Air France pilots partially lost control of a plane arriving from New York. The country's aviation safety watchdog has launched an investigation.
Air France pilots partially lost control of a plane arriving from New York. The country's aviation safety watchdog has launched an investigation. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

France’s aviation safety watchdog on Wednesday said it was launching an investigation into an incident at the main Paris airport that saw pilots partially lose control of an Air France plane seeking to land after arriving from New York.

The Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) has classified the problem over the landing of the Boeing 777 at Charles de Gaulle airport Tuesday morning as a “serious incident”, a term that means it believes there was a serious risk of accident.

In the end, flight AF011 landed safely and none of the passengers or crew were harmed.

On its Twitter account, the BEA said that the flight was hit by “instability to the flight controls” on the final approach, forcing the pilots to perform a “go around” after an initial aborted landing.

“The BEA has opened a safety investigation,” it said.

The classification of the incident as “serious” is due in particular to the fact that it took place “in the approach phase, where there is the most risk,” a source close to the BEA, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

Air France confirmed in a statement to AFP that the crew “interrupted their landing sequence and carried out a go-around during the approach to Charles de Gaulle”.

“The crew landed the aircraft normally after a second approach,” it added.

Extracts of the exchanges between the cockpit and the control tower posted on the internet underlined the seriousness of the incident.

“Stop, stop,” said one of the pilots to his colleague, in a stressed voice.

“I’ll call you back,” he then told the control tower which had contacted him.

“We performed a go-around, there was a flight control problem, the plane was doing all sorts of things,” the pilot told the tower once the situation was back under control.

The BEA said the black boxes containing the flight data and the cockpit conversations had been recovered and are “currently being analysed”.

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What to know when visiting France’s lavender fields this summer

Known affectionately as 'blue gold,' France’s lavender fields are a popular tourist attraction every year. Here is what you need to know about visiting them:

What to know when visiting France's lavender fields this summer

Lavender is the “soul of Provence,” the French region where the fields can be found. Like wine, lavender was brought to France around 2,000 years ago by the Romans. The flower is the emblem of ‘Haute Provence’ regional identity, though the fields stretch from just outside of Nice almost all the way up to Valence, and they are not fully exclusive to France.

Even the washerwomen, those whose job it was to clean clothes and linen, were referred to as les lavandières in France. 

The flowers, which can be found mainly in two species in Provence, have several uses – as oils for cooking and bathing, as a perfume for soaps, and even as an antiseptic for healing wounds and scars.

The lavender essential oil that comes from Provence is even an AOP (L’Appellation d’origine protégée) in France. 

When is the best time to see the fields?

Typically, the lavender flowers from around mid-June to early-to-mid August. However, depending on the weather, especially if there is a drought or hotter temperatures, the lavender might flower sooner than normal, which is likely the case for this year.

This is unfortunately also a side effect of climate change, which might be pushing up the lavender flowering season.

Where should I go?

The Valensole plateau is perhaps the most famous place to go for lavender fields. Speckled with several small Provencal towns, the area is beautiful, with a mountainous backdrop in the distance. If you go here, you might also be able to see the sunflower fields too.

Sault is perhaps a bit less known, partially because due to its altitude, the lavender typically flowers a bit later.

It is still a great place to go see the fields, and every year the town hosts a Lavender Festival in August. Walking (or cycling) between the villages (Aurel, Saint-Trinit and Saint-Christol) is very manageable.

This is not too far from the Sénanque Abbey, a medieval 12th century abbey which is surrounded by lavender fields. You might notice some small stone houses called bories in the fields, which were historically used for field workers.

Luberon Valley is another location that comes highly recommended. In the area, there is a regional national park, home to rosé wines, castles (chateaux) and charming villages, like Gordes, a stunning hilltop village.

Here you can also find the Musée de la Lavande, if you are looking to learn more about harvesting, producing and distilling lavender, its industry, and some interesting regional history.

How to get there?

You can take a TGV train to Aix-en-Provence or Avignon, or rent a car. With a car, you can also enjoy the several scenic routes that allow you to see the fields from the roads.

What else is there to do while in the region?

The area is also known for its rosé wine, so you could take the opportunity to go visit some vineyards or spend some time wine-tasting. 

In the summer months, the south of France can get quite warm. If you are looking to go swimming or enjoy the water, the Gorges du Verdon are not too far away. Though a bit of a tourist hotspot, the canyon is a beautiful and a wonderful place for paddling along in a canoe.

If you’re a fan of hiking, you can always go for a (light) hike along the Ochre Trail near Roussillon. Here, there are two marked paths that will take you through sunset-colored red and yellow cliffs in an old quarry.

Words of Wisdom

Unless you have been given express permission, do not pick the lavender, as this is the farmer’s livelihood. You can always buy a bouquet from nearby souvenir shops for your photo shoots! 

Also, stick to the paths that exist to avoid trampling any crops, and of course do not litter in the fields.