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Air France A330-200 missing

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Air France A330-200 missing

Old 4th Jun 2009, 02:13
  #801 (permalink)  
 
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Hard data

I imagine they are responding to some political as well as industry pressure but also trying to get all of their ducks in a row for the investigation. Every scrap of Mx, crew training, ops manual, everything. I do not understand a partial non transcript release unless some one said "just give me something to keep them off our backs for a bit". I would find it hard to believe that the data they had did not tell them the bird was down.

I saw a note above about two sources of lightning data. I'll dig into the NASA site tonight to see what data they have.
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 02:17
  #802 (permalink)  
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blueloo I agree with captplaystation: never once going through turbulence have I thought of ACARSing ops to let them know its bumpy. Why would you? It doesnt achieve anything. ... Seems very bizarre.
It doesn't seem bizarre to me at all. Giving met PIREPs of severe weather conditions that could affect other aircraft (turbulence, ice, etc.) should not only be considered a professional obligation, but mandatory in some during some ops, including crossings.

This ACARS message from the AF pilot that reported they were experiencing "hard" turbulence came 10 minutes prior to the auto-ACARS mx messages was one of the first things brought to light on this thread which quickly drifted off into lightning-and-techie talk with great abandon. This info isn't "new", and it's easy to imagine where a bad situation got worse with regards to turbulence and convective activity if their hands got full.

If the aircraft had slowed to Max Turb Air Penetration speed, someone else pointed out that at 35,000 with it's probable loading at that point for an 11 hour flight there existed approximately 15kts between Max Turb speed and clean low-speed cue, and only 25 kts between Max Turb and Low Speed buffet. NOT a good place to be in with anything more than moderate turbulence.

I assume the pilot (if he thought the turbulence severe enough to report it) would also have slowed to Max Turb Air Penetration Speed so things on the aircraft didn't begin to break, which puts it closer to the low speed buffet boundary and at FL350 with heavy weight, unfortunately it becomes more difficult to accelerate out of a gust/shear/convection-induced deteriorating low-speed condition due to relative-reduced engined performace.

Trying to maintain q-corner limits at high altitude while experiencing severe turbulence and updrafts/downdrafts of varying amplitudes can be an impossible situation for the A/P, or the pilot when the A/P disengages due to an exceedence of one of it's pitch/roll/etc parameters. What I gather from the Airbus drivers here, an out-of-parameters A/P disengagment such as would happen if the aircraft were being pitched or rolled past A/P limits will revert the flight controls to Alternate Law, which means hand-flying with no FBW stall protection or limtiting to half/low bank even at FL350. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

The greatest danger of high altitude flying ANY (Airbus, Boeing, whatever) aircraft through severe turbulence isn't that the aircraft will break up and lose control, it's that it will lose aerodynamic control and perhaps be impossible to recover from if it begins breaking on the way down or can't exit the severe conditions. Then the issue of engine-flame out looms large. In jet-upset incidents, engine flameout can come early and without engines electrics and pressurization are also suddenly added to the largest problem of re-gaining and maintaining aerodynamic control.

The fact that there were reports that little or no lightning was detected in the cells the flight track was shown going through or near points to the worse possibility it may have entered an area of developing cells which are where the most severe updraft and airmass convection is taking place, and least detectable moisture for the radar to paint. Aircraft have deviated themselves into a corner this way when snaking their way between cells and into "soft spots" and finding a developing cell instead of avoiding the entire area because it's too dynamic and unpredictable, or not visible due to it's imbedded nature or at night.

Mature and dissipating cells emit the most lightning, and attempting to (or inadvertantly) flying above a developing cell is a non-option, since the updraft turbulence rises to a mile or more above it's visible top.

Last edited by AMF; 4th Jun 2009 at 03:01.
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 02:18
  #803 (permalink)  
 
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Electrical loss?

Good point "Lost in Saigon". "Catching the cabin" in say, a jet upset would indeed cause an unpleasant cabin vertical change down low. (Don't ask how I know.) (catching the cabin that is, not an upset!)

I was an early generation bus cpt (A300/310 some of the first of the long series of electric jets by bus.) The radars in the 90's we had were useless for a time in auto. A declutter mode of some type would see a huge red cell and erase all but the worst part. Several of us penetrated huge cells, so everybody started flying in manual until, a year later, a new "load" showed up, and the problem mysteriously disappeared. I object to the secrecy and stealth of aerospace companies, "finishing" the design in the field by slipping new software loads into the fleet without line pilot and union input. Just denoting a revision is not enough information in my opinion.

It was quite common for us to dispatch with an inop generator or APU. The big concern was that our APU's really weren't that great, so the specter of possibly tripping the yaw damper off was real in some scenarios.

This means that if the yaw damper cannot be regained, that, to avoid losing control in wicked dutch rolls, you had to descend and slow down pronto, or else go into combat with the roll spoilers to keep it right side up (not really a line pilot skill?) Not a nice thought threading a squall line at night after you've just been blinded by a huge flash. Could really put you in peril.

To A330 drivers: I know it's unlikely, but If both gens pop off the line due to a strike, do you have something analogous to our aux green system gen? (off of hydro) Will it cover buses for yaw damper and radar?

Thanks

Crunch

Last edited by Captain-Crunch; 4th Jun 2009 at 03:38. Reason: better verbage
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 02:24
  #804 (permalink)  
 
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It doesn't seem bizarre to me at all. Giving met PIREPs of severe weather conditions that could affect other aircraft (turbulence, ice, etc.) should not only be considered a professional obligation, but mandatory in some during some ops, including crossings
Absolutely - but I would tell Air Traffic Control this. Not operations/my company. My company is (i wouldnt say not going to but very improbable) unlikely to ring up British Airways, KLM, Air France United, etc etc etc to advise them individually of turbulence enroute.



As an aside, my post and capt playstations post are referring to the rumour that Air France Ops were ACARS' a report on turbulence - NOT Air Traffic Control. So far nobody appears to have verified where the msg was addressed to. Telling someone at my company is the last thing on my mind whilst flying an aeroplane through presumably moderate to severe turbulence. Trying to type it wouldnt be much fun either.
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 02:26
  #805 (permalink)  
 
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The speculation on ACARS seems founded on far too unreliable information.
L'Express and Le Figaro (see Les navires brésiliens s'approchent de la zone du vol AF 447 for example) are citing some anonymous source denying that there was any loss of pressurisation message. In other words, concerning these messages, given that different sources are giving opposite statements, we simply know nothing at all. I know that it is a rumor forum, but when the information available lets you with a 50% chance for one thing and 50% for the opposite, there's not much rumor you can build from that (sources citing a depressurization and sources citing no such messages seem equally reliable a priori (maybe all equally absolutely not reliable) given that they come from major newspapers)

I don't see why Air France should publicly release the detailled sequence of ACARS messages, it seems inappropriate to throw this information out now which belongs to a preliminary report from the BEA later (and given how Air France screwed it up by initially speculating about lightnings, it's no wonder that they are a little bit more careful now). I do not see why this should be interpreted as "hiding" something, it seems professional and responsible, doesn't it?
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 02:38
  #806 (permalink)  
 
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Lots of reports about the Radar possibly being unserviceable. I don't know about the Airbus, but on our Boeing aircraft, if the radar is unserviceable, it tells you so (in the form of various messages on your displays .. e.g. Antenna Fail, Weak, etc)... and ACARS registers this, sending a message via VHF or SATCOM to our maintenance centre.

If the Airbus is the same, and the radar failed, I'm sure it would already be public knowledge.
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 02:46
  #807 (permalink)  
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blueloo Quote:
Absolutely - but I would tell Air Traffic Control this. Not operations/my company. My company is (i wouldnt say not going to but very improbable) unlikely to ring up British Airways, KLM, Air France United, etc etc etc to advise them individually of turbulence enroute.
I have no doubt that the crew would be intending to advise ATC since their next reporting point wasn't that far away, and perhaps they found themselves too busy dealing with increasingly averse conditions in an extremely dynamic weather situation. Perhaps AF SOPs require they notify the Company of adverse conditions, especially if there can be sick passengers, damaged food carts if they aren't secure, or whatever.

Whatever the reason, I find the notion that AF is making up fantasy messages ludicrous, and there's nothing "bizarre" about it. In fact, if it helps shed more light for investigators, it was a very pertinant and timely message that may dissapoint the spark-chasers playing Electrical Sherlock Holmes here and conspiracy theororists, but may point the most direct way to the non-complicated truth.

In a case where a reliably-designed aircraft quickly quit flying, perhaps more people should be spend some time becoming versed in high-altitude aerodynamics of jet aircraft and upper level atmospheric conditions where they fly, and less time following and dissecting electrical schematics. If you don't fly up there, for a first lesson go stand and balance on a basketball and you'll get an idea of what an airplane does on a good day, let alone when things get rough. Of the consiracy theories......no comment.

Last edited by AMF; 4th Jun 2009 at 02:59.
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 02:52
  #808 (permalink)  
 
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As to the comment in post #808, perhaps a date joined cutoff?

Those who are questioning the AF crew's ACARS message to flight ops:

HF communication is often degraded within hundreds of miles of an active storm cell let alone being right on top of one. Over the ocean there is no VHF communication, which has the advantage of being less prone to the electrical arc noise that lightning produces. An ACARS communique would be the best way to pass along this information.
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 02:59
  #809 (permalink)  
 
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>> Barbies Boyfriend "Is there anyone on here with intimate knowledge of the A330 structure that could refute this? Is it a particularly 'strong' a/c, like the Bae 146 for example? I suspect not."

Being 'particularly strong' is not comprehensive insurance against structural damage / in-flight break-up in an encounter with exceptionally severe turbulence, or, if mis handled within severe turbulence.

There are two examples of "strong" aeroplanes breking up that spring to mind, both occurring in 1966.

03/05/66 - BOAC Boeing 707-436 broke-up in flight and crashed near Mt Fuji, after a violent encounter with turbulence (mountain lee waves) that imparted structural loading significantly in excess of the design max.

06/08/66 - Braniff BAC 1-11 203AE broke-up in flight and crashed after traversing a strong squall line shortly after departing Kansas city. Subsequent investigation into the accident determined that the a/c would have to have encountered a gust in excess of 140ft/sec. at an upward angle to cause the catastrophic failure of the tailplane that was determined to be the trigger to the break up.

I am sure that you will agree that both the 707 and 1-11 are 'strong' aeroplanes, and having personally accumulated a significant amount of hours on the 1-11 I can attest to it being an exceptionally robust piece of equipment, however, I was fortunate never to have experienced the absolute upper limits of that robustness.
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 03:04
  #810 (permalink)  
 
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AMF: I have no doubt that the crew would be intending to advise ATC since their next reporting point wasn't that far away, and perhaps they found themselves too busy dealing with increasingly averse conditions in an extremely dynamic weather situation. Perhaps AF SOPs require they notify the Company of adverse conditions, especially if there can be sick passengers, damaged food carts if they aren't secure, or whatever.
Think I'd rather get to a smooth weather free spot, have the aircraft under control, before advising ops I have a broken cart or sick passengers, or flying through hard turbulence.

Something about aviate, navigate communicate rings a bell.

Who knows maybe they did get to a relatively clear area - but this is all going off on a tangent - nobody knows where the msgs where sent, and what the wx situation was when they were sent.
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 03:23
  #811 (permalink)  
 
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The final message was "advisory regarding cabin vertical speed". Everyone seems to be making false assumptions of what this means.

Funny my maintenance notes and vacbi make no reference to any such ecam msg.
Cabin vertical speed indications can pulse when the rate is >1800 ft/min or <-1800 ft/min.
An advisory regarding cabin pressure would make more sense.


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Old 4th Jun 2009, 03:25
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HF communication is often degraded within hundreds of miles of an active storm cell let alone being right on top of one.
Do Satcom voice communications suffer similar degradation in these conditions? If there was any sense of urgency, I'm sure I wouldn't be tapping at a keyboard for several minutes
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 03:41
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Do Satcom voice communications suffer similar degradation in these conditions? If there was any sense of urgency, I'm sure I wouldn't be tapping at a keyboard for several minutes
@NSEU:

No not from lightning, but SATCOM is known to unreliable when the aircraft is pitching about from any turbulence encountered. Did this aircraft have SATCOM voice capabilities? My first thought would be no as it is not common.

Typing an 80 character message on the FMS for ACARS transmission takes me and crew about 30-40 seconds.
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 03:42
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Ahh yes, our infallible satellite tracking/transmission/receiving systems.

You do realise how often up/downlinks to/from satellites drop out because of things like storms, don't you. Let's just say they are not as reliable as you would love to think, especially as to get a signal from A-B can mean a few "jumps" from satellite to ground station and back before it reaches it's destination. A good storm in the vicinity of any of these up/downlink stations means no signal, as I'm sure we have all seen with TV signals.

Just because a GPS works in an aircraft when the weather is good does not mean it is possible for the system to be 100% reliable, and that is something anyone who has used such a thing or has any knowledge of sat systems knows.
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 03:45
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I wonder if this tragedy might convince at least some of the many pilots who fly around in the cruise, sometimes at night or in IMC, in 'TERRAIN' mode that it's really not a good idea? (...and those trainers who teach this practice?)

Mods, I appreciate that you have had a gigantic task deleting posts on this thread that don't pertain to this subject, (as you did my earlier post on this subject), and I appreciate that over the sea, the AF crew would definitely not have been using this mode.

However, more than one person has suggested the possibility that the AF aircraft entered an area of severe turbulence where for whatever reason, the radar returns did not show them how serious the weather immediately ahead of them was.

Pilots who fly along in TERRAIN mode, relying on the other pilot's display for weather radar returns, in my opinion at least, are throwing away an important 'last slice of cheese' in Dr James Reason's model.

Every one of the professional pilots posting on this thread is doing so hoping we can come up with some plan to ensure something like this tragedy can be prevented in the future. My comment about the (I think ill-advised) prolonged use of TERRAIN mode is made with that in mind.
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 03:57
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I don't know about your acars, but mine

has a nifty little feature

position

wx...including ice, turb, other...just highlight and enter...

and takes about 10 seconds or less to send a pirep...and if one guy is flying witht the plane on autopilot it doesn't take long for the other guy to send a message...perhaps hoping that OPS would send back some knowledge like: company reports ride 50 miles west good
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 04:44
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Having been out of 'the game' for quite a while, and having only ever operated 'older' types, I am not au-fait with the types of wx radar currently in use. An issue that we used to endure with the old 3cm band and to a lesser degree the 5cm band was that if attenuation due to precip was sufficiently great, it generated a contour hole or suckers gap on the display by effectively supressing the return from any convective cells immediately behind the area of high precip and thus potentially lulling the uninitiated into a false sense of security.

Has modern equipment eliminated or reduced this phenomena?

I ask only simply because with avoidance being the name of the game, there would surely be some mitigating factor why (IF in fact they did) the crew attempted to traverse a CB? The obvious reason could be that they simply couldn't see it? There will be a myriad reasons as to how one could lose wx radar, and I am not at all qualified to speculate re the electrical side of what could possibly go awry, but would appreciate a head's up from those significantly more informed than myself.
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 04:56
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SpaceMonkey wrote:

The speculation on ACARS seems founded on far too unreliable information.
L'Express and Le Figaro (see Les navires brésiliens s'approchent de la zone du vol AF 447 for example) are citing some anonymous source denying that there was any loss of pressurisation message.
That's not quite what the Figaro report says:

Paul-Louis Arslanian, invité du journal télévisé de France 2 ... a aussi affirmé qu'à "(sa) connaissance", aucun message automatique n'indiquait de dépressurisation, contrairement à ce qu'affirmait Le Point mardi.
"-Paul-Louis Arslanian, interviewed on the TV France2 news program ... also stated that to his knowledge, there was no automatic message regarding depressurization, contrary to what was reported in La Point on Tuesday."

Arslanian is the head of BEA, the French air accidents investigation bureau.

AGB
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 05:03
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Air Traffic "Control" in that area? HF! 20mins spacing with same M-number! Anachronism! That's why all smart pilots northbound ask for max FL within Recife (Radar), because they won't get FL-changes from Sal or Dakar within the next 3 hours or so. As AMF correctly posted: Here you are, heavy at maxFL, in the coffin corner, close to low and high speed limits. If you get positive windshears/updrafts, Auto Thrust/Auto Throttle will reduce power. In a strong positive shear that might not be enough. The airplane enters into overspeed. At about 6 knots (?) in the overspeed regime, the Auto Pilot disengages and overspeed protection mode let's the airplane climb to avoid a further possible destructive speed increase. Normally, when airspeed reduces below "barber pole", the auto pilot should be engaged again (FL-CH/Open-Descent), and will smoothly descent again. Airbus pilots should know this ( is this trained by AI and AF?).
If you decide to fly manually- still slightly in overspeed- sidestick inputs (e.g. down) are restricted, until you come out of the overspeed range. Manual flight at that altitude, may it be with a Boeing or Airbus, is never an easy task and not really recommended.
If the pilots decide to give a sidestick-down-input still in overspeed, to descent back or to reduce pitch, the manual inputs are dampened, until the aircraft comes out of overspeed. Coming out of overspeed, the (now not any further restricted) input might be too large, resulting in possible minus-g , and possibly many hurt passengers, as has happened before in incidents. Structural damage might be possible, depending on g-force.
Let's hope they find the Red Box(es).
Be safe.
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Old 4th Jun 2009, 05:07
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AGBagb, indeed I was going to post this, since I missed at first that the source was actually the head of the BEA.
He declared that "to his knowledge" there was no ACARS message about depressurization, but I would trust his knowledge, since he is at the head of the bureau responsible of the investigation, more than Le Point, which is a newspaper.
The point is: different ACARS messages are discussed here, but it seems to me that the only fact really confirmed by the BEA is that there were some ACARS messages. All the rest seems to come from newspapers. Do we really know that there was an ACARS about the autopilot being disconnected, what are the sources for that, beyond some journalist referring to unnamed sources?

Paul-Louis Arslanian also declared that the preliminary report shouldn't be expected before the end of June, and before that I would guess that the content of ACARS message will remaing pure speculation. Paul-Louis Arslanian also said that the current phase of investigation was consisting in sorting out the ACARS messages and working on their chronology - you wouldn't expect an investigation bureau to release details about some data they're still working on.

I also note that it was often reported that he said that "the flight recorders might be never retrieved" and many people use this citation as a way to feed conspiracy theories, but this was taken out of context. He said that there was no way to know for sure whether the flight recorders would ever be recovered, because no attempt has ever been made to find flight recorders at the potential depths found in this area. Quite a different statement.
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