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Air France A330-200 missing

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Air France A330-200 missing

Old 2nd Jun 2009, 03:33
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Search for wreckage

For those doubtful about recovery of wreckage and recorders, note the successful recovery of some wreckage and the CVR from the SAA Flight 295 that went down in over 5 km of water in the Indian Ocean over 20 years ago. For a good summary on the location of the wreckage two months after the crash from a large search area with the technology available then see HelderbergSearch Paper
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 03:54
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There seem to be two translations of what the TAM crew saw - "flashes of light" and "flames on the ocean". The second seems more probable (if it was the AF flight and not just ITCZ lightning) since it was 30 minutes after the last transmission. And that tends to indicate the plane was still intact enough to be holding fuel in liquid form when it reached the surface.

Fuel dissipated in an aerosol at altitude would not burn in pools on the water.

In fact (well, OK, in speculation) it might even mean the plane was somewhat under control all the way down, and just had disastrous luck with a ditching attempt.

I'm more sanguine now about the odds of finding the CVR and FDR, between the TAM sighting, the Senegalese statement, and the French experience at undersea work.

I would not assume that a lightning strike directly destroyed this craft, but can easily see scenarios where it left them blind and/or disabled and easy prey for a subsequent event - TS penetration or control/instrument failures.

Speculation is what humans do - try to solve mysteries on insufficient data. With time the data become firmer and the speculation more narrowly focused - until eventually someone can write a report. Which, absent survivors, is still sometimes only a best guess as to exactly what happened.

Last edited by pattern_is_full; 2nd Jun 2009 at 04:06.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 03:59
  #383 (permalink)  
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we are never going to stop people from speculating in these threads any more than we are going to stop posters from expressing condolences to unknown readers. So we might as well give up trying to stop these expressions.

The professionals among us know enough not to give any credence to a speculation that jumps over several layers of swiss cheese effects to guess at an accident's cause.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 04:24
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This system can be very customized. AF knows much more than they admit. They have been talking to their legal team right from the start. They will spoon-feed us the info when they are told its ok by their lawyers.

It's high time we have in the Airbus cockpit an easy access manual "on" button for the ELT in the back, like some Boeing models I flew had. If it was there...

Was the Captain in the cockpit at the time or he was taking his rest? Who was in his seat - the guy with 800h or the guy with 2600? Not that it matters so much, but in an extremely stressful sit, it will won't it?


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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 04:33
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Similarities to KQ 507

Looks pretty similar to KQ 507. It also went down during turbulence. .....Lightening was sighted as possible reason. wonder what was derived out of the flight recorder of KQ 507. Hopefully AF will do a better Job !!!!!
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 04:39
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How can anyone RELY on any speculation on here?

On the subject of ELTs...
Most airliners these days seem to have top fuselage-mounted VHF/UHF ELT transmitters which activate under high g-forces (dedicated shark fin type antenna outside, battery-operated transmitter inside). These are now compulsory in some regions. I assume satellites have the ability to pick up their UHF signals. However, I seriously doubt their ability to transmit underwater (as claimed here). Radio waves do not propogate very well in water Water is the realm of short-range ultrasonic transmitters mounted on the front of the very heavy "black boxes" (which definitely do not float).

Whilst creating ELT's that detatch and float is not beyond the realms of possibility, the mechanisms allowing them to automatically eject from pressurised aircraft on or prior to impact would probably be more more harmful to human life than beneficial.

On the subject of lightning strikes ...
People claiming that lightning can't bring down modern aircraft are treading on very thin ice. There have been fuel tank fires, total glass instrumentation failure, holes punctured in composite materials, etc, which could quite easily lead to aircraft loss (with far fewer holes than James Reason's model).

On the subject of ACARS transmission ...
The fault reporting system can be programmed to do whatever is desired (including position data, instant fault data, etc). The ACARS system has access to as much data as the flight recorders (if not more).

Anyway, let's hope the moderators have enough patience to get rid of all the chaff... and perhaps correct a few of those embarrassing spelling mistakes that so-called professionals seem to make (e.g. "loosing"(sic)), perhaps making PPRuNe more publication-worthy
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 05:13
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Of all the idiotic drivel I have read in the press about aircraft accidents, this particular paragraph (from the New York Times, no less!) had got to take the cake:

A loss of cabin pressure could suggest a break in the fuselage, but planes are built to withstand buffeting from a storm’s updrafts and downdrafts. It could also be a consequence of an electrical failure, if the plane’s air compressors stop working.

The authors of the above gem truly deserve recognition, here are their names:

Donald G. McNeil Jr. reported from New York, and Christine Negroni from Greenwich, Conn. Reporting was contributed by Sharon Otterman and Micheline Maynard from New York, Caroline Brothers from Paris, Alexei Barrionuevo from Buenos Aires, Brian Knowlton from Washington, and Andrew Downie from São Paulo, Brazil.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 05:16
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Swish - the Airbus fleet at EK has manual ELT switch on the overhead panel just for your info...
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 05:21
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There are various military, civilian, remote or manned underwater vehicles that can undertake recovery from depth.
Of course. We have all seen Titanic. there are small capsules that can be sent down to depths in the Mariana's Trench. But I'm talking about a salvage operation- not just a documentary for Wildlife on One.

As far as I know, there is no apparatus that would be able to salvage an engine for example sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic.
I doubt an engine was the problem and would not need to be salvaged.

The TWA wreckage was salvaged quite well due to its relative proximity to land. But this is different.

My educated guess would be to purely focus on the FDR and salvage that.
I agree. Bits of the Air India terrorist crash were recovered from mid-Atlantic were they not ?


You are completely wrong. No one s***** about with weather just to get home and/or for costs. Whether you are in a C-152 or an airliner.
But we already have evidence of the captain reporting serious turbulence to base. Why, is another matter.


Aviation experts said the risk the plane was brought down by lightning was slim.

"Lightning issues have been considered since the beginning of aviation. They were far more prevalent when aircraft operated at low altitudes. They are less common now since it's easier to avoid thunderstorms," said Bill Voss, president and CEO of Flight Safety Foundation, Alexandria, Va.

He said planes have specific measures built in to help dissipate electricity along the aircraft's skin.

"I cannot recall in recent history any examples of aircraft being brought down by lightning," he told The Associated Press.
Well, he's talking out of his bottom then.


Unless he doesn't consider helicopters as 'aircraft'.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 05:25
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It would have to be a pretty severe event for an aircraft to breakup from turbulence. After spending most of my time flying in the tropics during wet season buildups and storms I have a fairly good idea of what an aircraft can handle. From flying around in these conditions in single engine Cessna 210 type aircraft to operating in the soup with no weather radar fitted flying BE58 and PA31 single pilot I.F.R. Now I fly multi engine turbine aircraft multi crew at fight levels quite often in the middle of it. I think we should give the aircraft more credit for being most capable in these types of conditions.

If its an electric fault, I would assume that would be because the generators were not providing current which makes me wonder in turn if the donks were turning the generators to supply the current. The biggest hazard around severe weather is not in my opinion lightning or turbulence for that matter but severe airframe icing and hail, as attested by recent events in the states and double engine failures in the past.

Whatever the cause, my thoughts are with the family's of not only those involved in the accident, but those of every aviation family with a partner and rug rats at home. We as an industry do not need something like this, especially now. I just hope the victims families get the closure they deserve and this whole affair does not become a media circus as attested by swine flu and the GFC.

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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 05:34
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GPS position reporting system

One question from an electronics engineer. I understand that most problematic element in any security enhancement, or indeed any change in aircraft design, is mostly centered on extensive testing that is required on one hand, and the need for it to be integrated in an already extremely complex system. However, if we add system that is very small, autonomous, and only physically attached to some external part of the aircraft, than the cost and time necessary for its introduction would not be so big.

It would be very easy to add external device with internal GPS that can send aircraft position every 5 minutes or so over its own satellite uplink. It would need only power from the plane, nothing else. No attachment to any other aircraft system. No plane would be lost ever again, anywhere. Rescue effort can begin immediately, even at the first hint of a problem. Some lives would be saved and psychological problems of relatives and possible survivors would be much easier. No survivor can feel that he is lost or abandoned for the moment. It’s that easy. Technical problems are insignificant, cost of the unit also. No significant change to aircraft needed. It is not necessary to calibrate it, control, or maintain. It is simply kind of external, autonomous satellite mobile phone with included GPS attached to whatever part of the plane is most easily adapted for that purpose.

Is it possible to implement something like that?
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 05:45
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Just a general query (never seen this arise before):

Purely hypothetically, one is just quietly driving along in the middle of the night in the middle of ANY major ocean and one sees flames on the ocean.

Is there any protocol? If there is sufficient fuel and weather permitting, does one investgate, i.e. circle or reduce altitude?

Who or what makes protocol for this sort of thing?

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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 05:45
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Aircraft are already fitted with exactly such a device, it's called an ELT. Although it doesn't report it's position constantly it is designed to start transmitting in the case of a catastrophe.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 05:50
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Michael, most probably. It might be an oil rig simply venting gas, so you would check your charts. It might be a tanker on fire, so you would check your radar. It might be a meteor or a satellite, so you might note and observe and consider diverting to search.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 05:54
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I think PaleBlueDot is referring to something more like the ADS-B system. I hope it becomes more common or even mandatory for all flights outside radar coverage.

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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 05:56
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To Mike Hammond,

I would suggest -
Report the event to ATC with exact position, any additional references, or observations...incidental additional info...e.g. appears to be a ship ...relative posn...to 'flames' or whatever.

It has been known for a flare to be sighted by an airliner - a pax in one case, referred to crew, reported to ATC, SAR notified, and an eventual 'happy ending'.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 05:59
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This gets to the point of why we still have to use such an old device as HF radio for postioning reports when we all know that we can use our aircraft phone and call OPS or report an emergency for less than 1$/minute. I don´t like flying with no communication, specially in the middle of the any ocean.

Take in mind that HF comm is highly affected by thunderstorms and lighting, probably they tried to call but no answer, shouldn´t be mandatory to have installed a worldwide comm device to communicate on any guard frequency? We are in the electronics era!!!!!
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 05:59
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if there is an electrical failure or problem if i am not mistaken the RAT would deploy. RAT would power some crusial sustems in order for the pilot to have some sort of reference. I am not an airbus expert but just thinking out loud.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 06:01
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What sort of radar management settings are you talking about when you say the cells "are all but invisible on radar"?

At the recommended settings many cells are "all but invisible on radar". For that reason alone most guys don't use the recommended settings and instead set the radar at it's most sensitive settings and work backwards, towards less sensitive settings, from there.
Precisely. Works every time - "manual" calibration at the highest sensitivity then back off to the setting before "auto".

Antenna tilt is crucial to building the whole picture of what's up ahead - of this, more in a moment.

For the general information of the majority here who don't fly or don't fly heavy transports or the route under discussion it is important to understand some basics about radar, specifically the A330's.

To put it more succinctly and clearly, the following is offered to SLFs and other interested individuals who do not desire to second-guess any accident crews' decisions in advance of the facts or posit theories based upon guesswork but who instead seriously wish to learn, and who may wonder what radar techniques are routinely used and what radar can and cannot do. The following is standard equipment in an airline pilot's toolkit and is, or should be, unremarkable in terms of knowledge.

I am referencing ONLY the A330 radar here. The knowledge/statements are for information only and are not definitive. That's what the AOM and your company's MANOPs are for. A lot of this comes from Dave Gwinn's "How Radar Works", as well as just plain experience.

First, it should be understood that reading the radar signal is somewhat of a practised art and, like reading DFDRs and QARS requires some experience before interpreting the signal can be done well.

The proper use of digital, flat-plate radar requires an understanding of the nature of the signal and practical experience to interpret the returns with accuracy in order to plan a route through a line of thunderstorms or how much to avoid a thunderstorm by. The reasons for this will become clear.

Radar only senses (returns signals from) water. Radar does not detect "clouds" per se because some clouds, especially high ones do not contain moisture but only ice crystals which reflect radar signals very poorly.

Radar does not detect snow effectively enough for use/avoidance. I believe radar detects super-cooled liquid water but I cannot reference same in anything I've read.

The techniques for use of radar when pointing the antenna above the freezing level are different than when pointing below the freezing level.

Radar cannot detect CAT, (clear air turbulence - even if there is a 'doppler' mode on the installation - I've never seen that mode work successfully - anyone?). Radar may detect ice crystals but very poorly. Radar is not used to detect other airplanes or birds.

The A330's radar return is presented digitally in 3 colors - green, amber and red. I cannot quote the density of moisture which returns each color. Crews are advised to avoid anything in amber.

Radar returns can seem to exaggerate moisture content close in, (40nm scale and smaller). What can look "serious" on the 20nm scale can reduce or disappear on the 80nm or 160nm scale.

A rule of thumb, (and it is only that), is to avoid strong (red) returns by at least 10nm found below the freezing level and 20nm above.

Signal attenuation:
Thunderstorms being seen on the radar can block thunderstorms behind those returning the radar signal until one is either past, over (not bloody often!) a thunderstorm, or the thunderstorm is dying and gets out of the way of the next ts's in line. Picking one's way in a line of ts's is difficult work in a rapidly changing environment.

Radar antenna tilt:
The A330's radar is IRS-stabilized so regardless of the pitch attitude, the radar is always "level" with the horizon, (in quotes because, to be accurate, there is more than one definition of 'horizon'. But practically speaking, at zero degrees tilt, the radar is pointed to the horizon we normally see regardless of pitch attitude.

The A330's radar beam is about 2.84deg wide, (3deg for all practical purposes - same with the 340 and 320 I believe - check with the AOM). That means that antenna tilt must be used frequently to scan up and down for moisture which indicates ts activity.

The 1-in-60 rule can be used to guage a rough altitude of the signal being returned by moisture, which, depending upon it's shape, (hooked, curled, tightly-banded with amber/red etc), indicates convective activity.

A quick calculation for a very rough altitude at which the radar's beam center is pointing is given by the formula, antenna tilt x distance (on the radar screen or, in the case of the A330, the ND scale) x 100. For example, at 1deg down-tilt, the center of the radar beam at 80nm in front of the aircraft is 8000ft below the "horizon", (practically speaking, "below the aircraft"), and at 160nm ahead, the beam-center is 16,000t below the aircraft.

Because the beam is about 3deg wide, the returns are, effectively, 3 x the distance x 100. At 80nm, a 3deg beam is 24,000ft wide.

By scanning "up", one can just catch the highest altitude at which water (not water vapour) is present, knowing that convective activity can go higher. Practically speaking again, a tilt of 3deg "UP" puts the bottom of the radar beam on the horizon. A zero-tilt means the radar is scanning 1.5deg above the horizon and 1.5deg below. One can easily work out the heights scanned at varying distances ahead of the aircraft from there.

Eighty nautical miles is okay for avoidance but 160nm is preferable as it provides a smaller detour angle and also permits one to see thunderstorms attenuated by the ones in front, much earlier.

By taking frequent "slices" up and down and using this knowledge, one can begin to build a slightly better picture of the convective activity ahead, that contains moisture.

All this said, every airline pilot knows that it is not good strategy to attempt to outclimb (overfly) a thunderstorm. We know that the height of convective activity can exceed the radar returns sometimes by a substantial margin and that when such activity is stopped in it's climb by the tropopause, if the thunderstorm is severe enough the resulting overhangs can contain hail thrown from the center of the building storm, so avoiding the overhangs by a wide margin is done.

We know that strong to very violent turbulence is indicated by curling red returns, (vortexes, essentially), as do hooks and very tight-grades (narrow bands of amber-against-red signals).

Every airline pilot knows that radar is used for weather avoidance, not weather penetration.

A moon-lit night provides excellent viewing of convective activity. Often one can, along with the distant tell-tale lightning, see the actual storms and, using radar, pick one's way between the build-ups. For the info of those that don't fly, it's done every day, thousands of times, with unremarkable success.

These techniques are not definitive. Within a reasonably narrow band defined by the radar installation itself, varying approaches to using and reading radar are used.

My only speculation at this point would be, whatever else the operating AF crew was doing as part of their SOPs for such weather, they were almost certainly looking out the windscreen while using the radar as described. As to the rest, I cannot fathom how, and why, anyone would speculate here or anywhere as to what happened, under the present state of knowledge.

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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 06:03
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replying to Torquewrench's post regarding Carnivore, Mentor and the National Reconnaissance Office, if it's signals, if I am not mistaken, it is the province of the National Security Agency, not the CIA or NRO.

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