Air France #AF447: Finding answers will be difficult

The search for the debris is widening. As per Brazil’s Defence Minister Nelson Jobim the debris discovered so far is spread over 230 kilometres (140 miles) located about 640 kilometres (400 miles) north-east of the Fernando de Noronha islands. This wide debris field suggests a mid-air break-up.

A deep water submersible considered key to finding the Digital Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder (black boxes) is delayed till next week. The black boxes will emit a locator signal for 30 days and time will run out fast thanks to the ocean floor which drops as low as 22,950 feet (7,000 meters), underwater mountains and canyons, all coupled with a vast area to search will make locating these recorders a massive undertaking.

Keeping this in mind investigators are already relying heavily on the automated messages received from the A330-203 F-GZCP performing Air France flight AF447 in the hopes of reconstructing at least some parts of events.

While hopes of finding survivors are all but extinguished, more speculations abound. Speculation only harms while facts help.

What we know for a fact is the A330 flew into very severe cumulonimbus (CB) clouds. Weather data shows wind up-drafts in excess of 160 kilometres per hours (100 mph) in the clouds. In my earlier article I have referenced two more articles that detail both the aviation and the weather perspective.

The sequence of events best reported by the Associated Press.

The plane’s last automated messages detail a series of failures that end with its systems shutting down, suggesting the plane broke apart in the sky, according to an aviation industry official with knowledge of the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the crash.

The pilot sent a manual signal at 11 p.m. local time Sunday saying he was flying through an area of black, electrically charged cumulonimbus clouds that come with violent winds and lightning.

Ten minutes later, a cascade of problems began: Automatic messages indicate the autopilot had disengaged, a key computer system switched to alternative power, and controls needed to keep the plane stable had been damaged. An alarm sounded indicating the deterioration of flight systems.

Three minutes after that, more automatic messages reported the failure of systems to monitor air speed, altitude and direction. Control of the main flight computer and wing spoilers failed as well.

The last automatic message, at 11:14 p.m., signaled loss of cabin pressure and complete electrical failure — catastrophic events in a plane that was likely already plunging toward the ocean.

Captain Dave, an Airbus pilot, and author of Flight Level 390 has written his views which are well worth a read.

For sure, the last few minutes were not pleasant for both the passengers and the crew who would have fought valiantly till the last moment to perform their prime duty — bring all on board back to earth safely.

Blue skies and tail winds!!!!

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

Check Also

In new strategy Etihad invests in Darwin Airlines, re-brands it Etihad Regional

by Devesh Agarwal Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, today announced …