Air France Airbus A330 flight AF447 Rio de Janeiro to Paris missing; 228 feared lost – Update 3

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An Air France Airbus A330-200, registration F-GZCP performing flight AF447 which departed May 31, 2009, from Rio de Janeiro Galeão – Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport, Brazil (IATA: GIG ICAO: SBGL) to Paris Charles de Gaulle, France (IATA: CDG ICAO: LFPG) with 216 passengers and 12 crew, is missing and overdue at Paris for more than two hours. The airplane had departed Brazil’s radar coverage normally.

Sources are indicating the system data has been purged and this is an indication that the worst is feared to have happened.

A crisis and intervention centre has been set up at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Brazil has launched a search and rescue operation off their coast along the last known radar positions near the Island of Fernando de Noronha where the airplane had failed to establish required radio communication.

Source: AVHerald. Image courtesy Google Earth.

F-GZCP is just over four years old. An Airbus A330-203 MSN660 she had her first flight on February 25, 2005 and was delivered to Air France on April 18.

The flight path from Rio to Paris is very isolated and almost the entire flight is done over the Atlantic ocean. Should the worst happen, there is very little chance of finding the aircraft and along with it the reasons. One can only hope and pray that the plane shows up with all on-board safe.

Update 1 (12:30Z)

Brazil has launched a search and rescue operation off their coast along the last known radar positions near the Island of Fernando de Noronha after which the airplane had failed to establish required radio communication.

There have been no reports of an unscheduled landing anywhere on Atlantic Islands or airports surrounding the Atlantic. French Authorities report, that the airplane would have run out of fuel by now.

According to Forca Aerea Brasileira (FAB) the last radio contact with the crew was about 3 hours into the flight at around 01:33Z. The crew reported flying through “severe turbulence”.

Air France reported, that they had received an automatic message (ACARS) from the airplane reporting an electrical short circuit and the failure of multiple systems at 02:14Z. Air Traffic Control as well as Military Stations along the Atlantic coast of South America, Africa, Portugal, Spain and France have been alerted and attempted to contact the airplane without success. Attempts to locate the airplane using civil and military radars from both west and east coasts (including France) of the Atlantic also proved unsuccessful. The airplane had accumulated 18,870 flights hours. The captain had 11,700 flight hours, one of the first officers had 6,600, the other 3,000 flight hours.

Air France has set up hotlines for family members at 0800 800 812 within France and +33 1 57 02 10 55 from abroad.

Brasilian government sources report, that the airplane also disappeared from military radars which are primary radars that do not depend on transponder signals.

NASA satellite imagery shows extremely large cells of very intense storms in the vicinity.

Update 2 (15:30Z)

Air France has released a statement

Air France expresses its deepest sympathy to the relatives and friends of the passengers and crew who were on board AF flight 447 on 31 May 2009, which disappeared somewhere between Rio de Janeiro and Paris-Charles de Gaulle.

Air France is doing its utmost to provide support to relatives and friends: counselling with physicians and psychologists as well as specially trained Air France volunteers has been set up at the airports of Paris-Charles de Gaulle 2 and Rio de Janeiro.

Air France has also established a special toll-free number for the attention of relatives and friends of passengers who may have been on board. They can use this number to obtain information on whether or not a member of their family or friends were on board.

Phone number reserved for relatives and friends

0800 800 812 in France, 0800 881 20 20 in Brazil, and + 33 1 57 02 10 55 for calls from all other countries.

Journalists are specifically requested NOT to call these numbers.

Additional details released by Air France :

  • The Airbus A330-200, registration F-GZCP, left Rio on 31 May at 7:03pm local time (12:03am in Paris).
  • The aircraft hit a zone of stormy weather with strong turbulence at 02:00Z (04:00 in Paris). An automatic message was received from the aircraft at 02:14Z (04:14 in Paris) indicating a failure in the electric circuit a long way from the coast.
  • The Brazilian, African, Spanish and French air traffic control centres all tried to make contact with flight AF 447 but to no avail. The French military air traffic control centre tried to detect the aircraft but did not succeed.
  • 216 passengers were on board: 126 men, 82 women, seven children and one infant.
  • There were 12 flight crew members: Three pilots and nine flight attendants.
  • The flight captain had a record of 11,000 flight hours and had already flown 1,700 hours on Airbus A330/A340s.
  • Of the two first officers, one had flown 3,000 flight hours (800 of which on the Airbus A330/A340) and the other 6,600 (2,600 on the Airbus A330/A340).
  • The aircraft was powered by General Electric CF6-80E engines.
  • The aircraft had totalled 18,870 flight hours and went into service on 18 April 2005.
  • Its last maintenance check in the hangar took place on 16 April 2009.

Update 3 (19:30Z)

Airbus SAS the manufacturer of F-GZCP has released a statement.

This crash marks the first crash of an Airbus A330 series aircraft in commercial service. Four hulls were destroyed/written off in non-commercial operations. It also marks the first fatal accident for Air France since the crash of Concorde AF4590 on July 25, 2000.

As per Flightglobal the sequence of events are :

At 22:33 Brasilia local time, the aircraft F-GZCP made final radio contact with the eastern Brazilian Cindacta-3 Atlantic area control centre at Recife, one of four en route centres that oversee Brazilian airspace.

The aircraft contacted Cindacta-3 at the INTOL waypoint, some 350nm (565km) from Natal, a city on the Brazilian coast. It indicated that it would enter Dakar airspace, Senegal, at the TASIL waypoint – about 663nm (1,228km) from Natal just under 50min later, at 23:20 Brasilia time.

AF447 left Cindacta-3 radar surveillance from the island of Fernando de Noronha, at 22:48. At this time it was cruising at 35,000ft at 453kt, says the defence ministry, with indications that the flight was “normal”.

The aircraft did not contact air traffic control around the time of the expected transit of TASIL.

The ministry says that Air France has informed Cindacta-3 that, about 54nm (100km) from TASIL the flight transmitted a technical message concerning loss of pressurisation and an electrical failure.

AVHerald reports the airplane would have been approximately 360nm northnortheast of the Island of Fernando de Noronha and right in the largest red zone on the infrared weather satellite image by NASA at 02:14Z. As per weather services clouds and severe turbulence reached up to 55000 feet in that area which implies extremely severity.

Air France has released a list of nationalities on-board the ill fated flight. Expectedly the majority are Brazilians and French.

Air France is now able to confirm the nationalities of the passengers who were on board flight AF 447 on 31 May 2009, which disappeared between Rio de Janeiro and Paris-Charles de Gaulle. This list is based on the information provided by the Brazilian Authorities.

  • 2 American
  • 1 Argentinian
  • 1 Austrian
  • 1 Belgian
  • 58 Brazilian
  • 5 British
  • 1 Canadian
  • 9 Chinese
  • 1 Croatian
  • 1 Danish
  • 1 Dutch
  • 1 Estonian
  • 1 Filipino
  • 61 French
  • 1 Gambian
  • 26 German
  • 4 Hungarian
  • 3 Irish
  • 1 Icelandic
  • 9 Italian
  • 5 Lebanese
  • 2 Moroccan
  • 3 Norwegians
  • 2 Polish
  • 1 Romanian
  • 1 Russian
  • 3 Slovakian
  • 1 South African
  • 1 Swedish
  • 6 Swiss
  • 1 Turkish

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.

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