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Air France A330-200 missing

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Air France A330-200 missing

Old 2nd Jun 2009, 17:45
  #561 (permalink)  

aka Capt PPRuNe
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Exclamation WARNING!!!

Some of you are not very bright are you? This thread is about the missing AF A330.

We allow some educated theorising about what may have happened and we also allow explanations of associated systems (hardware and natural) that could explain some of the possibilities. However, those of you who haven't figured out yet why your technical discussions on Faraday cages or the differences between X band and C band radar keep disappearing are prime examples of why this thread has to be moderated all the time.

Take your technical debates to the Tech Log forum. You are wasting all your time and effort trying to wave your willies at each other on this thread.

Also, all those outraged types who think that somehow airline pilots who post on anonymous forums have to somehow live up to their imaginations had better get a real life soon. Airline pilots come from all backgrounds and have their own opinions on everything. Whether we agree or not is of no concern to the idiots who come on here and blather on about how badly behaved pilots are when they have no idea whether they are indeed pilots or just spotty faced anoraks whose closest association to a/c flight controls are the keys on their computer and some flight sim software.

I'll reopen this thread but any of those time wasters who haven't figured out yet that this is not a private chat room for them to try and convince the other about how knowledgeable they are about one system or another, had better realise that there are specific forums for their debates and this thread is not it.

If you don't want what you write on here deleted then think before you post it. Is it directly relevant to the topic? Are you guessing or using ill sourced info such as what you have heard from the media? are just trying to let us all know how grieved you are about the tragedy? Think carefully and you won't waste yours and our time!
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 18:11
  #562 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jun 2009
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BOAC Flapsnegative - you appear to have been in the area at the time? Was there any chat on 123 about the ride there? Do you know if the (reported) ?TAM? a/c report of 'fire sighted' was reported on 121, HF or 123?

We were at UN866 at FL370 around the time, the AF was at the UN873, one airway to the east. Neither on 123 or 121 there was talk about the missing airbus, not surprising since the A330 went officially missing only several hours later. We didn't hear a TAM report on floating fire either, but there was some low level ELT-like noise on the 121, but it was so faint and brief that it came over the squelch treshold for just one or two seconds, so it is quite improbable to have originated from an aircraft below.

Also there was a post on blue jets lightning, we didn't notice any discharges from above or below, but the moon was actually quite clear when above the clouds (helpful for reference in manual flight without prim or stby instruments, but not within CB) so that could have prevented sighting of a blue jet.
The top of the clouds we experienced at that time I would estimate at FL400, but in the ITCZ it's nowhere the same, it could easily be much higher nearby.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 18:15
  #563 (permalink)  
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PJ2 Loose_rivets;

Of far greater concern here, I think you'd agree, is the power of convective columns within the thunderstorm cell(s) and the possibility of low to poor radar returns from same. Like most who do/did this work, I've seen it once or twice and been surprised at the violence of "what wasn't supposed to be there according to the radar".
That is indeed the greatest concern. I'm not sure why anyone is even talking about a lightning strike being a cause of this horrible accident in the face of growing evidence via ACARS messages and transposed weather analysis that the aircraft was being subjected to a sustained measure of severe to extreme turbulence just prior to being lost.

The aircraft doesn't have a lightning strike detector and the pilot didn't report a strike! The whole "lightning" theory was put forth as an off-the-cuff extrapolation from a "short" message when it hadn't come to light there was also a susequent 4-minute stream of other messages showing the autopilot disconnect, reversion to abnormal law, other electical failures, and cabin press problems.

IF the aircraft encountered severe-to-extreme turbulence at high altitude (that accounted for the autopilot off and abnormal law), heavy with fuel, and quickly ended up in a jet upset (which would explain the AP/abnormal law) where the only path brought you into more developing weather, the chances for engine flame-out (cabine press problems) would also be high during the whole event and the aerodynamic forces even more extreme including torsional forces no aircraft is designed to withstand.

I think many are on a "Can't see the forest for the trees" snipe hunt there because their interest or hobby lies with electrics. If anyone steps away from the keyboard, however, and pushes their computer from the desk to the floor and proceeds to kicks it around, you'll get those same kind of messages if it could report it. Those electrical faults did not happen outside the much larger problem of that entire aircraft being subjected to severe outside conditions.

I believe (yes, speculate) this tragic event was a result of a severe/extreme turbulence enounter at altitude still heavy with fuel, and subsequent jet upset..ACARS electrical report of failures a result of equipment being hammered ....with a subsequent loss of aerodynamic and engine control.

The "Forest" here is the aerodynamic/aircraft control issue due to severe-to-extreme turbulence because the aircraft was operating at high altitude. It's just not about the Airbus being able to handle the stress of such turbulence directly if it's flying right-side up below is Turbulent Air penetration speed with plenty of margin between stall and overspeed, the hull probably can. But if the aircraft was heavy for FL 350, slowing to a turbulent air penetration speed also brings any aircraft at high altitude closer to the AOA where control can be lost if it's hit with other, sudden outside forces and the flight controls can't respond quickly enough.

The training for recovering from a loss of an aerodynamic loss-of-control event at high altitude in jet, transport aircraft is minimal to none and given the pilots may have to attempt it during continuous, CB-produced turbulence is perhaps impossible. That's why flying into forecast areas of even moderate turbulence at heavy at high altitude where buffet margins are close is to be avoided, and anything severe escaped with haste, the problem being initiating a higher-than-half bank (such as when you're hand-flying which it seem these AF pilots may have had to) turn after you're in it possibly making the difference between staying inside your buffet boundary and going outside it.

Anyway, the electric faults would more likely be a result of something going aerodynamically amiss with this flight related to the weather, not a cause for it going amiss. I don't buy the "lightning strike made bad things happen" scenario a bit. Lightning is a small worry yes, but it's the LAST thing that's worrisome about operating in close/too-close proximity to severe thunderstorms. Some have latched onto it because it happened to be included in the "possibility" first statement given by a PR man at AF, and are experiencing a Primacy of Learning tunnel-vision, IMO.

Aerodynamics, not Electrics, would seem to be the right tree to be barking up. Given moder aircraft design, explaining the loss of an aircraft due to electrical fault-as-beginning-the-failure-cascade scenarios is exceedingly difficult at best.

Explaining electrical faults (as well as other system faults and the pilots inability to communicate) due to severe buffeting and aerodynamic loss of control and engines seems far more likely, and not a "first time in history, one in a million chance" occurance. These things have happened too many times, and it's why aviators learned long before anyone here began their careers avoiding those weather conditions takes priority over all else, and loss of control at high altitude is a can of stress and engine control worms nobody want to ever open.

This aircraft was 3 hrs into a flight fueled for an 11hr trip, and at FL350, over 200 pax. Can any of you experienced Airbus 330-200 guys tell us what the likely weight and the low-end buffet boundaries for for that weight would be? And what max turb air penetration speed is? What was the ISA deviation at FL350 in that area that night?

Last edited by AMF; 2nd Jun 2009 at 18:25.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 18:20
  #564 (permalink)  
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Jurassicjockey wrote:
I find it very frustrating that with the availability of sat. internet access in the back, with the resultant access to excellent real-time wx data including radar, the SLF have better weather information than we do up front at times.
Once the cockpit depends on something, it has to be fairly bullet-proof and the kinds of drop outs that you can get from satellite based internet let alone servers operated by third-parties. Having once worked on avionics, I can say that getting anything new built into a commercial cockpit is a long and painful process.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 18:22
  #565 (permalink)  
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SAR Effort

To Heli Sticktime et al
Re-capping the official info released so far regarding the ongoing SAR effort on the Recife ACC and SOLANT ACC area covered by CINDACTA III, what we have is as follows:

a) At 0230LT/01062009 a C-130H staging through SBRF and an Embraer P-95 maritime patrol acft based at SBSV were enlisted to perform the initial SAR effort;

b) On 1908LT/01062009, the following additional SAR assets were called-up:
- 01 x Sikorsky UH-60L Black Hawk to SBNT;
- 01 x SC-95C (SAR version of the EMB-110P2) to SBNT;
- 01 x CASA C-295M SAR-configured acft to SBNT;
- 01 x Eurocopter AS332M SAR-configured helicopter to SBNT;
- 01 x C-130E to SBNT with SAR rescue teams;
- 01 x C-130H to SBFN, backtracking along AF447s flight path from GCLP to SBFN;
- 01 x Brazilian Navy Frigate (with SAR-configured Sea Lynx helicopter);
- 01 x Brazilian Navy Patrol ship;
- 01 x Brazilian Navy Corvette

c) At 1930LT/01062009 an Embraer R-99B SIGINT/ELINT acft was enlisted to aid in the AF447 SAR effort;

d) At 0029LT/02062009 The Brazilian AF stated that the crew of TAM flight inbound to Brazil spotted "luminous points" on the ocean's surface within the boundaries of the Dakar ACC

e) At 0100LT/02062009 Brazilian AF R-99B 6751's synthetic aperture radar plotted metallic and non-metallic debris floating on the ocean surface roughly 650km NW of SBFN;

f) At 0649LT/02062009 Brazilian AF C-130H 2466 and C-130H 2474 made visual contact with debris plotted by R-99B 6751's SAR. The debris fields were approximately 59km apart and roughly south of AF447's filght path. The debris fields contained an aircraft passenger seat, an orange float ou buoy, a drum or cylinder, several small unidentified white-colored items and oil/jet fuel slicks.

Tail Chase is offline  
Old 2nd Jun 2009, 18:23
  #566 (permalink)  
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There's a lot of speculation to what the messages that were transmitted by the aircraft back to France. A lot of information could be obtained from them as they would be in order of occurance. The ground based software to analyse this is called AIRMAN for Airbus aircraft.

It will give all the cockpit effects(ECAM warnings etc), class 1 and class 2 maintenance messages. Basically if you've ever seen the PFR after a flight thats exactly whats on the AIRMAN system, but in near real time.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 18:30
  #567 (permalink)  
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What would be the effect on a modern airliner such as the A330 if it experienced a high speed stall at high altitude? I seem to recall a 737-800 coming close to experiencing such an event which required flying at slightly reduced altitudes by the airline for a period afterwards whilst it was investigated. Unfounded speculation of course but if the A330 was operating at 41,000 ft with significant load and optimum cruising speed and then encountered unexpected severe turbulence could this cause such a stall and could the damage to the aeroplane be severe enough to cause a break up?
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 18:30
  #568 (permalink)  
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Of far greater concern here, I think you'd agree, is the power of convective columns within the thunderstorm cell(s) and the possibility of low to poor radar returns from same. Like most who do/did this work, I've seen it once or twice and been surprised at the violence of "what wasn't supposed to be there according to the radar"
Given the considerable advances in ground-based weather radar over the past decade, one wonders whether this technology has been somewhat neglected by a/c manufacturers/operators? Also, there must be other technologies out there which could significantly enhance the detection of CBs (LIDAR, optical systems etc). Lightning can be detected at considerable ranges using very straightforward RF detection equipment.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 18:36
  #569 (permalink)  
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Cockpit access to satellite radar

My question is whether pilots have access in the cockpit to IR radar images of the type that are available from NOAA or other govt/commercial providers. From the analysis of the weather at the time of the incident (available within this thread) it seems that the AF pilots could easily have diverted around the cells that they entered, but maybe their weather avoidance radar malfunctioned or did not show them the "big picture". Seems like having the most recent satellite radar onboard would be very helpful for choosing the path of least weather resistance.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 18:47
  #570 (permalink)  
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SAR Effort

The latest info indicated that two merchant vessels were already in the general area where the debris fields were spotted, with a third MV on its way to the site. I understand that two MVs are French, while the third is a Dutch ship.

According to Brazilian Navy spokesperson, the three MVs are tasked solely with retrieving survivors or bodies. Should any of the vessels sight aircraft parts or components, they are instructed to identify and plot their position - but not retrieve. A Brazilian Navy vesselis enroute to the site and is expected to arrive on the morning of June 3rd.

The Brazilian Navy spokesperson relayed information regarding local weather conditions and sea state (1.5 to 2m waves, 30șC water temp and 15 kt wind).Barring other factors, that would seem to indicate that retrieving debris will be somewhat easier than expected.


Has anyone heard if any ships have reached the area where debris were spotted?

There was talk of two Dutch vessels and a French freighter rerouting themselves as they were said not to be too far away.

Dutch ship was said to be "Jo Cedar" and French freighter was said to be "Douce France". Are there any more news on this?
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 18:56
  #571 (permalink)  
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I don't know if I'd say it's taken "so long" to pin point the crash site. The debris has been located. There are other factors such as current and whether the aircraft may have broken up in air or upon hitting the surface to consider.

All things considered, I'd say the remnants of the air craft have been located rather quickly.
to the men and women involved in the recovery.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 19:03
  #572 (permalink)  
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Speeds For Amf


According to the QRH and based on a weight around 210t:

(speeds are approximate)

Green Dot (minimum clean speed): 245 kts

Turbulence penetration speed: 260 kts

Vls w/ 0.3g buffett margin: 235 kts

Speeds are all indicated so no ISA deviation necessary.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 19:15
  #573 (permalink)  
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SAR effort

Hi YHZ Chick
I think that it'd be premature to state that AF447's wreckage has been found inasmuch as what was sighted earlier today was from a C-130H flying, at best, 500ft to 1000ft ASL.

The idea is to retrieve whatever components are found in the two debris fields, find mfg serial numbers and determine whether these match or not what was installed in AF447's airframe. And that will only be possible after such items are collected - which will not happen before tomorrow. If you factor in the time to correctly identify whatever is found and see whether the serial numbers match, and chances are that a positive or negative ID will only be available some time between Thursday or Friday.

Unless, of course, they find a chunk of sheet metal with the register "F-GZCP" painted on it...

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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 19:19
  #574 (permalink)  
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What Happened......Dont ask me???

First of all I really am impressed with the effort of some (only some) of the "professional" guys here who actually went to the length of plotting the exact (or very near) location of that a/c, and provided all sorts of data for that flight .

However, with my experience of nearly 10 years of working on A330s (and lots more) I really am surprised with the amount of half baked knowledge some guys have about the actual a/c and its systems. I am not slagging anyone but it sounds ridiculous to try and sound like aviation experts whilst quoting the media news here.

I will better clarify some things about A330 systems ( from a Techies perspective) in the Tech Log....in the meantime I will let guys here make assumptions and shoot in the dark as to what happened.....mind you we are all speculating and doing the same...but blaming Lightening strikes, or Composites or some kind of 'Short Circuit' tells us who knows what about how it works...carry on guys....you are doing fine .....as mentioned earlier....wasting yours and others time!!!
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 19:31
  #575 (permalink)  
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Not all journos are idiots

Storm threat to modern aircraft

BBC NEWS | Americas | Storm threat to modern aircraft
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 19:34
  #576 (permalink)  
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snaproll3480 Speeds For Am

According to the QRH and based on a weight around 210t:
(speeds are approximate)

Green Dot (minimum clean speed): 245 kts

Turbulence penetration speed: 260 kts

Vls w/ 0.3g buffett margin: 235 kts

Speeds are all indicated so no ISA deviation necessary.
Thank you Snaproll.

So only 15kts IAS between Min Clean speed and Max Turb Air Penetration speed for that weight at appx 210tn, and 25kts between the same and Low Speed Buffet margin.

As we know exceeding the Max Turb speed during severe/extreme will wreak havoc on components at the least, and any aircraft is in danger of structural damage under those conditions. And we all know what can happen if the low-speed buffet margin is suddenly exceeded.

My ISA question is related to the performance/ability of the engines to accelerate an aircraft of that weight out of a turbulence-induced low-speed condition at that altitude.

Another Airbus 330-200 question related to the ACARS messages that the A/P had disengaged and reverted to Abnormal Law. I assume the Airbus has an automatic low-bank (or 1/2 bank) function or it's equivalent when the aircraft is at high altitude under even normal, smooth conditions that protects the aircraft from a wing-loading stall condition where the buffet margin is small.

My question is, on this type of Airbus does this bank protection still exist at high altitude during non-AP operation in Abornmal Law?
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 19:34
  #577 (permalink)  
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You wrote:

"For pilots who dismiss lightning strikes as almost harmless, well, you'd be right. Up to 95% of the time. It is unlikely to happen, but it can and has bought down aircraft, Pan Am 214 is an example."

Pan Am 214 was brought down by a lightning strike in 1963 only 4 years after the Boeing 707 was introduced. Boeing redesigned the fuel vent outlets so it could not happen again. It is not really appropriate to use that accident which happened 46 years ago to substantiate your argument of how dangerous lightning strikes can be.

Last edited by suninmyeyes; 2nd Jun 2009 at 20:47.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 19:39
  #578 (permalink)  
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tailchase post at 1922

Sad logical conjecture
59 km seperation of debris fields possibly suggests aerial breakup into 2 components. , the second component remaining airborne for longer and flying further.but a dense weight fell earlier to the water.at a shorter distance*(engine?)
Or, a lighter draggier component fluttered down at a later time but travelled a shorter distance (part of tail,or blown out airframe part?)
Even if the first part came off and fell vertically the second part travelled at 32 miles or more (controlled descent?)
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 19:42
  #579 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by matblack View Post
What would be the effect on a modern airliner such as the A330 if it experienced a high speed stall at high altitude? ....

.....Unfounded speculation of course but if the A330 was operating at 41,000 ft with significant load and optimum cruising speed and then encountered unexpected severe turbulence could this cause such a stall and could the damage to the aeroplane be severe enough to cause a break up?
Short answer.... No

Heavy aircraft can experience a stall or "Mach Buffet" (stalling of the wing due to supersonic flow) at much lower altitudes than 41,000.

AF447 could have experienced some form low speed stall, Mach Buffet stall, or "Jet Upset" due to turbulence, but a proper recovery would not put the aircraft in an over-stress situation.

It is generally a poor recovery technique that causes the loss of an aircraft in these situations.
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Old 2nd Jun 2009, 19:46
  #580 (permalink)  
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Investigators will want to discover if the Air France Airbus suffered such severe turbulence that it caused catastrophic structural damage - the loss of a rudder, engine mounting, or even a broken wing.
Not sure if that will go down well with the mods here at the moment - since any reference to structural overloading of components seems to warrant deletion. No matter what the source or how qualified one might be.Specifically, in my case - the entire transcript of public hearings held by the NTSB concerning AA587.
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