After a 2 year search, the flight data recorder and voice recorder from 2009’s Air France flight 447 have been found. There are several flight 447 conspiracy theories about the crash, though most people seem to agree that it had something to do with the massive storm in the flight’s path. But after nearly 2 years, maybe we’ll find out more about the final moments of Air France Flight 447 and why it crashed into the ocean.
On Tuesday, the French newspaper Le Monde broke a story that a French submarine had detected sounds from the Air France Flight 447 black boxes (abclocal.go.com). Here’s the original story:
PARIS, June 23, 2009
Air France Black Boxes Reportedly Detected
French Newspaper Says Navy Has Picked Up “Very Weak” Signal From Data Recorders At Bottom Of Atlantic
(CBS) A newspaper reported Tuesday that French naval vessels had detected a “very weak” signal from flight data recorders, or black boxes, of downed Air France flight 447, which plunged into the Atlantic on June 1. Le Monde said on its Web site a mini submarine was being sent to try and retrieve the vital aircraft components at a depth of some 5,000 yards, but the recovery was being hampered by strong currents. The Airbus A330 crashed into the ocean in the midst of a flight from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Paris, killing all 228 passengers and crew aboard. Ten of 50 bodies recovered from the flight have been identified as Brazilians, medical examiners said Monday. Investigators cite broken limbs sustained by the victims whose bodies were recovered in drawing their preliminary conclusion that the aircraft broke up in the air before plunging into the southern Atlantic. Recovery of the black boxes has been the central focus of the search effort, as information contained in the recorders should be able to shed further light on what downed the passenger jet.
Later on in the day, a France Transport Ministry official denied that the ping detected was that of a black box from Air France Flight 447 (more at Reuters).
The original reports from Le Monde were that a mini research submarine, the Nautile, was sent down to search for the 2 Flight 447 black boxes based on the report of a very weak signal from the flight recorders. Supposedly, French ships had detected this very weak signal during a search near the presumed crash location in the deepest depths of the Atlantic Ocean.
Investigators are still looking for debris and bodies from the doomed Air France flight. Knowing that the flight’s data recorder and voice recorder (aka the black boxes) will transmit a signal for about 30 days after an accident, search and rescue teams are down to about 8 days left. Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1st, so that gives them just over a week to find the Flight 447 black boxes.
French ships, which include a nuclear submarine with advanced acoustic sonar equipment, have been searching an area with a 50 mile radius, and they are sending United States Navy underwater listening devices to depths of nearly 20,000 feet. This particular area of the Atlantic Ocean is not very search friendly. It’s a very remote area of the Atlantic, and the terrain in this particular region is very mountainous. To makes matters even worse the black boxes have a signal that will only travel about 1.25 miles. The black boxes contain locator beacons, known as pingers, and those pingers will send an electronic impulse every second for at least 30 days. Given all the circumstances involved with this crash, locating the electronic tapping sound and finding these black boxes would be nothing short of a miracle.
If those black boxes are never found, we may never know the actual cause of the crash of Air France Flight 447. I definitely wish the search team the best of luck. God speed to you all.
For more on the search for the Flight 447 black boxes and the Flight 447 tragedy:
Hopes of finding jet’s flight recorders fade fast (link)
Officials: No black box signals from Flight 447 (link)
Yesterday, I posted a few of the theories of the crash of Air France Flight AF 447. While everything seems to be pointing to a weather factors, the truth is that we still don’t know. We may never know. Here are some interesting news articles with more on Flight 447:
While AF 447 conspiracy theories abound, it is much more reasonable that violent turbulence and lightning caused multiple system failures on Air France Flight 447. I mean, seriously. It had to be weather related factors that caused the crash. The nypost.com article describing the final 14 minutes gives me the chills. Those people must have been terrified. Good bless them and their families.
One more thing: Why doesn’t the American military send out a nuclear sub to help find the black box. Nuclear subs are equipped with the most sensitive, sophisticated detection systems. It’s like radar on a fighter plane, but in acoustic form. They use these detection systems to locate/track the sound signatures of other submarines. Why can’t they use these systems to find a black box? In all likelihood, the black box from Flight 447 has been crushed and destroyed by water pressure. I read somewhere that water pressure in depths of 15,000-20,000 feet is close to 16,000 lbs per square inch. That would crush pretty much anything. But I’m going to keep a positive outlook. I really hope they find the black box.
Much has happened in the past 24 hours. Yesterday, news came out that the Brazilian Air Force had located debris that was likely from Air France Flight AF 447. The military planes spotted an airplane seat, a fuel slick and a pieces of white debris scattered over a 3 mile range in the mid-Atlantic Ocean. The debris was first spotted early Tuesday morning, and it was 35 miles apart. Defense Minister Nelson Jobim confirmed that the debris was that of Flight 447.
Efforts are being made to quickly locate and recover the flight’s black box, which will have further data regarding the plane’s final moments. The black box will continue to emit signals for days, and it will be an incredible challenge to locate it, as the depth of the Atlantic Ocean can extend down to 22,000+ feet. It’s the perverbial needle in a haystack, but in this scenario, robotic divers are looking for the black box in pitch black water. And there is a ton of ocean surface area to cover. I certainly wish them luck. They will need it.
Now, on to the theories as to why Air France Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. While the exact cause of the crash of AF 447 may never be known, here are a few of the theories I have seen so far:
Lightning Strike in a Severe Storm
Flight 447 was flying in the intertropical convergence zone, an area of the Atlantic Ocean where the northeast trade winds meet the southeast trade winds. The convergence of these two wind patterns is known to cause severe storms and extreme weather. The plane was flying at 35,000 feet, and the storms were topping out at 50,000 feet. There was likely no way to avoid the storm. No way to go over or around it. Apparently, pilots often face severe weather, and they typically have to pick their way through the storm. In a case where electrical malfunctions may have caused systems to go out, it could be that the pilots did not have any reliable data as they made their way through the storm. For example, if the pilots had lost use of their weather radar, finding a safe way through a severe storm could have been extremely difficult and ultimately tragic.
Examining many forums and news site, there are tons of interviews with experienced airline pilots, who claim that lightning was most likely not the primary cause for the crash of Flight 447. It appears that lightning could have played a role, but lightning is likely not the primary culprit in this scenario.
Turbulence: It is possible that Flight AF447 hit severe turbulence in the storm. Updrafts and downdrafts of 100mph were likely present in these storms, and those could prove extremely dangerous in the context of an extreme storm like the one they were flying in. Furthermore, the plane may have encountered several instances of turbulence, and it is even a possibility that some of that turbulence caused minor damage to the interior of the plane.
Other possible weather-related theories are icing, hail and precipitation. If you are interested on more detailed information regarding the weather’s impact on Flight 447, I recommend checking out this site here. Tim’s assessment is excellent.
Okay. Now that the weather-related scenarios are out of the way, new information came out today that the an Argentina-to-Paris Air France flight was delayed on May 27, 2009 due to a bomb threat (here):
The airport safety delayed an Air France flight this evening before departring for Paris immediately after the company received a bomb threat over the phone at the airport of Ezeiza.
The Federal Police, along the Firemen’s direction and the Airport’s Safety proceeded to inspect the plane, that arrived this morning from the French city and, after a brief stop, it was preparing to return.
The routine procedure lasted approximately one hour and a half and, as sources of the airport reported all the passengers are ok and they were not evacuated.
Currently there is no evidence to suggest that Flight AF 447 was the target of a bomb, but it is a strange coincidence that another Air France flight was delayed out of South America due to a bomb threat only a few days before Flight AF 447’s tragic crash.
Any time a plane crashes, there is a conspiracy theory. I found one conspiracy theory related to Flight 447. As we all know, there were 228 people on board the flight. Early reports say that the passengers represented 32 nationalities. It is thought that one of the passengers was Pedro Luiz de Orleans e Braganca. He was actually Prince Pedro Luiz de Orleans e Braganca, heir to the former Brazilian family that has been out of power since 1889. According to Wikipedia:
He was born 12 January 1983 in Rio de Janeiro and was the son of the Brazilian Prince Antonio and his Belgian wife, née Princess Christine de Ligne. The House of Ligne is one of the oldest and most prominent Wallonian noble families still extant in Belgium. Christine is a niece of former Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg. Through her, Pedro Luís held a remote place in the line of succession to the throne of Luxembourg.
As his father’s eldest brothers, Luís and Bertrand, are bachelors, it was expected, after his own father, that Pedro would in due time become the head of the Imperial House of Brazil and heir to the defunct Brazilian crown.
In addition to Brazil’s emperors, he was a descendant of Louis Philippe I, King of the French in the male line, and of King John VI of Portugal. He was also related to John Maurice, Prince of Nassau-Siegen, renowned Dutch governor of the Brazilian northeast during the colonial period.
Apparently, Prince Pedro Luis was in line to become the Emporer, though it should be reiterated that his family has been out of power since 1889. It is highly unlikely that this conspiracy theory holds any water, but I thought it would be worth noting due to the Brazilian royalty possibly on board the plane.
I’ll be updating this blog with any new information related to Flight 447, so check back daily.
If you know me, you probably know how plane flights freak me out in a bad way. I was not always afraid of flying, but after some odd events involving planes, I now have a mild phobia. I say ‘mild’ because I can still manage to ride on a plane. It’s people like John Madden have a true phobia of planes and flying.
I don’t fly very often. Maybe 3-4 times per year. And today I found myself at the airport for a business trip, when all of the sudden a breaking news story appears on the TV at the airport. Air France Flight AF 447 has vanished over the Atlantic Ocean. My nuckles went white, and my heart rate jumped. I was horrified and terrified for those people. Though the search continues, no one is really sure what happened. Air France said the plane was likely struck by lighting (here). Apparently, planes are often struck by lightning, but it is very unusual for a plane to be brought down by a storm. However improbable, it looks like this plane was brought down by a storm. And imagining a plane falling out of the sky and crashing into water is terrifying to me. I can only pray that those people did not suffer.
After doing some research on the event, here are some of the facts that we do know:
The flight took off from Rio de Janeiro at 7:30pm local time.
The last verbal communication with air traffic control was at at 10:33pm local time.
At that time of the last verbal messagem the flight was at 35,000 feet and traveling at 520 miles per hour.
The last communication from Flight AF 447 came at 11:14pm by a series of automatic messages indicating it had suffered an electrical-system malfunction.
Flight AF 447 was scheduled to arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport at 11:10am local time.
The Air France Airbus A330-200 was carrying 216 passengers and 12 crew members.
The Airbus A330 sent out several automated signals that its electrical systems had malfuntioned.
There was no word from the pilots that the plane was in trouble or in a crisis. No may day message at all.
The plane had flown for 4 hours before it hit storms and turbulence.
15 minutes after hitting the storm, the first automated signals were sent regarding the electrical systems malfunctioning.
The automated messages were sent to Air France’s maintenance system, but they were not checked for hours – not until Flight 447 failed to radio in on time with air traffic controllers.
The plane’s black box recorded may never be found, as it is presumably at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Air France said the plane, which was powered with General Electric engines, went into service in April 2005.
The plane last underwent maintenance in a hangar in April this year.
Brazilian officials said the plane disappeared over the Atlantic somewhere between a point 186 miles northeast of their coastal city Natal and the Cape Verde islands off Africa. The area is known as the “horse latitudes,” where the tropics of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres mix, sometimes creating violent and unpredictable thunderstorms that can rise to 55,000 feet, higher than commercial jetliners can go.
Even though most of the facts support the theory that the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, many experts are wondering how a plane that is built to withstand storms with a very experienced pilot, who has clocked over 11,000 flying hours, could be taken down by a storm. Air France chief executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon said, “A completely unexpected situation occurred on board the aircraft. Lightning alone is not enough to explain the loss of this plane, and turbulence alone is not enough. It is always a combination of factors.” That statement completely freaks me out.
What happened up there? This was a modern plane, built to withstand heavy storms and violent turbulence. The flight crew was very experienced. There was no distress signal. Lightning strikes planes about once a year, but the electricity typically travels along the plane’s exterior. Passengers are not affected by this occurrence. One AP report claimed that cabin pressure was lost. Maybe an electrical problem shut off the air compressors on the plane. The theories continue, but something happened up there. And if the black box is sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, we may never know what caused this horrific tragedy.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those lost in this tragic event.