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Crash investigators optimistic

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Crash investigators optimistic
French aviation investigators said Tuesday they are optimistic about finding the black boxes of Air France Flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic last June en route from Rio to Paris, when a third phase of the search begins in February.


December 22, 2009
By Emma Vandore | The Associated Press

Dec. 22, 2009, France – French aviation investigators said Tuesday they are optimistic about finding the black boxes of Air France Flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic last June en route from Rio to Paris, when a third phase of the search begins in February.

An international team of experts has narrowed down the search area for the black boxes from the flight that killed all 228 people aboard, including one Canadian, to 2,500 square kilometres, a fifth the size of previous efforts to recover, said Jean-Paul Troadec, chief of the French Accident Investigation Agency.

The lifespan of the so-called "pingers" attached to the black boxes is only about a month, but officials say submarines and boats equipped with sonar gear can find the wreckage from the Aibrus 330 even without such signals.

The smaller search area should make it easier to locate the debris and the flight recorders.

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"The scientists I have spoken to think that we have a good chance of finding the remains,'' he said at a news conference outside Paris.

Lead investigator Alain Bouillard said he expects to be able to read the data stored in the black boxes, despite the amount of time they have likely rested on the sea floor.

The plane's black boxes are believed to be nearly 7,000 metres under water. Without them, Troadec said investigators won't be able to make a definitive report of what happened.

The second and most recent search for the black boxes ended in August.

Automatic messages sent by the plane's computers just before it crashed show it was receiving false air speed readings from sensors known as Pitot tubes. Experts have said running into a violent storm at either too slow or too fast a speed at high altitudes could be
dangerous.

Both the European Aviation Safety Agency and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration ordered airlines flying Airbus jets like the one that crashed to replace their French-made Thales Pitot tubes.

The French Accident Investigation Agency said last week that the sensors are not certified to fly at temperatures below minus 40 degrees Celsius and above 12,000 metres, and recommended new international safety standards.

Investigators have insisted that the crash was likely caused by a series of failures and not just the Pitot tubes.

The new February search is estimated to cost 10 million euros, and will be jointly financed by Airbus and Air France, Troadec said. The U.S. Navy and the National Transportation Safety Board will help, along with accident experts from Britain, Germany, Russia and
Brazil and private companies.

Bouillard said that death for the 228 victims probably came about five minutes after Flight 447 ran into trouble.

He said a reading of the automatic messages emitted by the plane suggests that the plane hit the water around 5 minutes after the problem was alerted. The plane fell 11,000 metres in that time, 2,000 metres a minute, meaning it is unlikely anyone survived the impact, he said.

The BEA has said it is examining an emergency distress call from another Air France flight that ran into trouble on the same route November 29 to help explain why the June flight went down.

French newspaper Le Figaro reported earlier this month that pilots on Air France Flight 445 made a distress call when the plane was just 10 nautical miles from the area where the ill-fated jet went down months earlier.

Troadec said that the data from the flight recorders of Flight 445 has been lost. One of them was automatically recorded over when the plane flew to a new destination and the second was not properly formatted.

The BEA will study what happened by interviewing the crew and passengers, he said.