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-   -   Air France A330-200 missing (https://www.pprune.org/rumours-news/375937-air-france-a330-200-missing.html)

Frangible 1st Jun 2009 16:04

Sorry, folks, nobody is sitting on any orange rafts. If there was the remotest possibility of that the airline would be the first to believe it. And they have stated there is no hope.

If the ACARS reports were the result of the beginning of an in-flight break-up sequence due to extremely severe turbulence (which can, btw, destroy any aircraft) all electrical power would have been lost immediately afterwards. One assumes AF speculated about a lightning strike as a way of explaining the sudden loss of the transponder at altitude.

The puzzle is what they were doing flying "into" (AF's word, not media's) a thunderstorm.

As far as searches are concerned, the priority will be the black boxes, although if there was a sudden in-flight break-up, they will show nothing after the power loss. No one will attempt to recover engines or anything else, in fact, that is not relevant to the investigation.

As for the power-off qualities of the A330, donít forget the Air Transat pilot who glided one over 20 minutes to a safe landing on the Azores after fuel exhaustion at FL30 or so.

As a previous poster mentioned, composites do not necessarily behave well in lightning strikes. The Super Puma crash in the North Sea after a tail rotor failure showed unexpected vulnerability to lightning and the presence of much higher discharges from lightning than was provided for in the lightning protection standards. This has much to do with particular composite designs and of course it will have no applicability to this disaster unless it is proved this plane was hit by lightning. If it was, the wreckage will show it.

feedback 1st Jun 2009 16:06

The Americans were lifting Russian submarines from the Atlantic in 1974.
Glomar Explorer
cost in excess of $200 million dollars - 1974 or 1975 dollars, so of the order of a billion now: see www.globalsecurity.org/intell/systems/jennifer.htm

hetfield 1st Jun 2009 16:07

How come an official AF-Representative is clearly talking about lightning strike as most probable cause in these eraly hours afte the accident???


What a muppet.

Strongresolve 1st Jun 2009 16:13

This is fact:

The planes was close to an area of intense CB and TS activity.

Very few people has dared inside a TS, but almost every pilot have seen pictures of what happen to a plane that had ventured inside a Thunder Storm.

The selector of bright/intensity of the WX in the ND of the A330/340 sometimes brings to confusion. How many times an A320/330/340 pilots knows that his radar is ON, but he is unable to see anything in the ND because the WX bright is at the minimum intensity and he didnt notice.
Normaly the big selector must by related to the screen and the small one to the WX presentation. In the Airbus the small selector is related to the ND and the big one to the WX presentation. And normaly the big selector moves the small one, because this selectors are switched in the Airbus, this is not the case in these planes.

aeo 1st Jun 2009 16:16

Outhouse Is Right, Lets Focus On The Electrical And Pressn Faults Stated By Af. Everything Else Is Just Pure Speculation.

There Is A Lot Of Redundancy In These Acft So Hence They Don't Just Break Up Or Fall Out Of The Sky.

If Anyone Knows What 'airman' Did Report (airbus' Auto Fault Reporting System Af Is Referring To) Or If There Were Any Add's Or Mel's That The Aircraft Was Carrying Before Departure Then That Would Be Worth Knowing.

But All The Rest Isn't Really Worth Anything At This Point. I Think We Just Need To Sit Tight For A Little While..

hajk 1st Jun 2009 16:17

Positive lightning?
Airfrance is a western airline with a reasonably good reputation for maintenance (even if their customer service is debatable). The plane type involved is reasonably modern and we would assume that the pilots would be looking to minimise turbulence by trying to avoid the cb cells. As other posters have noted, normally lightning strikes are of discomfort but no major concern.

There is a rarer (<5%) but documented phenomenon known as positive lightning which can come from the top of the 'anvil' to the ground some distance away from the storm. These have between 10-100 times the power of normal strikes and have been implicated in some crashes including Pan Am 214 in 1963 and the in-air breakup of a glider in 1999. Even the most modern planes would have a serious problem with such a strike.

Anyway hoping nothing of the kind happened and that somehow the plane managed to ditch.

Jagohu 1st Jun 2009 16:17

One assumes AF speculated about a lightning strike as a way of explaining the sudden loss of the transponder at altitude.
When will everyone finally understand, that the transponder has no role whatsoever in a non-radar environment?? There're no radars in the middle of the ocean, so it's not interrogated, therefore it's not replying to anyone...
if it was lost while still under radar control, at least there would be an idea where to start the search.

rondun 1st Jun 2009 16:19

I suspect in this day and age they'll have no problem finding the recorders.
The FDR and CVR have beacons which should be capable of sending out a signal for 30 days or so making it easier to pinpoint their location on the sea bed.

Dysag 1st Jun 2009 16:25

"So my question is simple, does the airbus have the capability to survive a weather related loss of control at cruise or would the control movements required to recover the plane lead them selfs to catastrophic failure?"

1) probably you don't want to use rudder in cruise.

2) the amount of movement of the other control surfaces is decided by the computers. The Bus is not so stupid as to decide to break itself.

Lost in Saigon 1st Jun 2009 16:26

Originally Posted by Broomstick Flier (Post 4966113)
Brazilian Air Force just made an announcement with the following facts. Local times(LT) are given based on Brasilia official time (valid for this area)

19:30LT/22:30Z: Departure from GIG

22:33LT/01:33Z: Last contact made on VHF with Cindacta III (Recife Centre) on INTOL position (more or less 310Nm from Natal VOR, on UN873 airway), informing it was estimating TASIL position (around 670Nm from Natal VOR on the same airway) at 23:20LT/02:20Z

22:48LT/01:48Z: Flight left area covered by Recife Centre ATC radar, and it was cruising normally at FL350 with TAS 453KT

23:20LT/02:20Z: No radio contact was made (this time the flight would be already talking to Atlantico Centre on HF) and Dakar Oceanic was informed about this.

Today morning, Air France informed that around 50Nm after TASIL position, the flight informed (my remark: not sure if via SATCOM, ACARS message or both) electrical problems and pressurisation problems as well.


INTOL position is the boundary between Reciffe control and Atlantico control. TASIL position is the boundary between Atlantico control and Dakar control.

AF447 passed INTOL at 01:33 UTC and were estimating over INTOL at 02:20 UTC

No one has said that AF447 had any contact with Atlantico control. This would normally happen as soon as you leave Reciffe control at INTOL.

It appears that the authorities only became concerned when AF447 did not contact Dakar control at TASIL.

Does anyone familiar with this route know if it is normal to transit Atlantico without calling in?

If they were supposed to call Atlantico, but did not, I suspect their problems may have started much earlier that anyone thinks at this point.


concordino 1st Jun 2009 16:27


not in disagreement but a mere correction.

therefore it's not replying to anyone...
If the Xponder is on it will communicate with other TCAS equipped Aircrafts in the vicinity of the ill-fated airplane.

Jagohu 1st Jun 2009 16:32

True, I was referring to the term "transponder loss at altitude" only, from the ATC point of view.
Thanks for the addition though.

wileydog3 1st Jun 2009 16:40

Average depth of the Atlantic is said to be around 11,800ft. The Mid Atlantic Ridge is in the area and it is more than 20,000ft deep,

Recovering the CVR and FDR is going to be an incredible and technologically daunting task.

CDN_ATC 1st Jun 2009 16:40

Not sure about Atlantico/Dakar, but NY Oceanic and Gander Oceanic AF uses CPDLC to make position reports, there world normally be an HF frequency assigment as well I'm assuming?

I'm also assuming that since the Air force has not said there was a position report via CPDLC then it did not occur.

chucko 1st Jun 2009 16:42

You may recall that they were able to find and retrieve the forward cargo door from the United 811 accident from the bottom of the Pacific. Also, the Russians were able to retrieve the black boxes from KAL 007.

OntarioCopper 1st Jun 2009 16:43

"The plane "crossed through a thunderous zone with strong turbulence" at 10 p.m. Sunday and an automatic message was received fourteen minutes later reporting electrical failure and a loss of cabin pressure."

As reported int he Toronto Star.

Over top of CB at 35'000 having to descend for loss of cabin pressure, not a good scenario.

Hotel Mode 1st Jun 2009 16:43

Does anyone familiar with this route know if it is normal to transit Atlantico without calling in?
Its not right, but Atlantico is often very difficult to contact on HF. I'm on my 6th ASR about it. Only N'Djamena and Luanda are worse. So whilst its not ideal, no, its not unusual to have loss of comms.

Airbubba 1st Jun 2009 16:43

Is this the first loss of an ETOPS twin in the ETOPS portion of the flight?

ETOPS has been around for a quarter of a century, I can't think of another instance of this type of mishap.

rwremote 1st Jun 2009 16:47

I remember flying Varig from Europe to Rio in 2001 on a MD11, it was about the same time of year and we had an incident in or around the ITCZ.

I was partly sleeping at the time, but I woke up with a start with people and paraphernalia flying around the cabin and me being held in place by my seat belt. This wasn't just free fall, we went down ! After a period of about 5 seconds (seemed like an eternity), there was one hell of a bang and the aircraft went careering upwards. I remember looking out of the window and seeing the wing nav lights going up past my field of view, the wings must have resembled a "V" shape, then it all steadied out again, and cabin staff and pax patched each other up.
We carried on to Rio though without any divert - so there is some serious wx in the ITCZ this time of year.

My question(s), if anyone can answer it (them).
I'm in the field of Aviation Satellite comms and whilst I know the hardware and RF methods, I'm at a loss to know what data is actually transmitted.
So, if the ACARS message regarding the Electrical Malfunction (and "possible" cabin de-pressurisation) was received, would it not be normal practice to add a few more bytes of data and include the a/c position ?
If the ACARS was automatically generated due to an anomaly in the A/C systems, I would have thought a position report would have been a part of the sent datagram for safety reasons ?
Is there a required standard format for content of ACARS messages, or is it left up to the company in question ?

stadedelafougere 1st Jun 2009 16:48

Just to Bring corrections, it seams that both the CEO of Airfrance (Gourgeon) and the head of communication made statements about this tragic accident, and not a mere muppet.

Of course everyone could speculate about what caused the loss of thies aircraft and the probable loss of its occupants. So far, it seams that a failure message mentioning the electrics was sent via ACARS to the MCC, and maybe, a loss of pressurization (how can those two events be related?) which remains to be confirmed.
The sending of the ACARS message does not necessarily mean that the event affect the safety of the on-going flight. Besides, we have absolutely no idea (only AF, airbus and the BEA know that) what electrical failure was reported (total failure, partial failure??).
For sure, recovery of the black boxes is needed for both the airline (and probably the insurance company) and the manufacturer (with underlying national interests since France is twice as involved by the operating company and by the manufacture). I hope the French government will do whatever it can to find these precious black boxes that will probably reveal how the slces of swiss cheese lined up to lead to this dramatic event.

pattern_is_full 1st Jun 2009 16:52

At this time of year it is easy to encounter thunderstorms that can only be "flown over" by a U-2 or SR-71. I doubt any current airliner can top a 60,000-ft (12 Km) CB. My wife was SLF on a flight Sat. that was "dodging" thunderstorms, not flying over them. And that was over dry land in daylight, not a big swath of solar-heated ocean in the black.

The ITCZ is the birthplace of Atlantic hurricanes. We Yanks tend to be aware of it, since we are at the receiving end of the output. It's a rough place, and this is the beginning of its most active season. It can form a "wall" of storms that would require a 400 NM (or more) diversion to go around.

I'd put money on a weather-induced in-flight breakup. But the exact sequence of events and contributing causes (WX radar failure? Airframe failure caused directly by extreme turbulence? Airframe failure due to overspeed caused by loss of control?...etc.) may never be clear.

Which doesn't rule out something different - that's just the way I'd bet now.

I'm not sanguine about finding the FDR in a random part of the Atlantic that may span 100 square miles of water 2 Km deep. But maybe someone will get lucky...

Quintilian 1st Jun 2009 16:54

Pattern_is_full: Not that it matters, but according to charts the tropopause kicked in at FL510 over the TS-area earlier today, so no CBs over FL510.

barrymung 1st Jun 2009 16:56

In reply to #183, yes, you would have thought that positional data would be transmitted under these sort of circumstances.

However, I'm not sure when the system was developed, maybe it was designed in pre GPS days?

As the system allegedly reported an electrical failure, it's entirely possible the part responsible for providing positional data had failed.

khorton 1st Jun 2009 16:58

Loss of AP is one thing, but what of loss of electrics altogether? I've heard A320 pilots refer to it as "Sparky" because if electrics are lost, it becomes a lawn dart. I'm interested to know, how might the A330 compare in this occurrence?
If all electrics are lost the pilot still has pitch trim for pitch control, and the rudder for lateral-directional control. The pitch trim wheel in the cockpit is connected by cables to the control of the hydraulically powered pitch trim actuator. The rudder system is conventional hydro-mechanical control, with cables going from the cockpit to the rudder actuators.

Airbus did an approach and landing using pitch trim and rudder control only on an A320 during flight testing as a company test, in very good weather conditions (this is mentioned in "Cowboys d'Airbus", Bernard Ziegler). But they are very careful not to claim that it would be practical to count on this being possible in service, in real world conditions.

But, even though pitch trim and rudder do provide very limited control without any electrical power, it could get ugly pretty quickly if you combined this with the turbulence from a CB.

Note: none of the above is intended as speculation about what occurred on this flight. It was simply intended to answer the question posed earlier.

Aerospace101 1st Jun 2009 16:59

Can PAX still use sat phones etc if fitted? during emergency / loss of press etc.

CDN_ATC 1st Jun 2009 16:59

It depends where they went down....

Here is the chart of the area with the known info at this time:


wilyflier 1st Jun 2009 17:00

Doesnt a really big CB punch up through the tropopause? Tops above cruising height anyway

grimmrad 1st Jun 2009 17:00

ACARS messages
Can the ACARS message be triangulated for the approximate location? Other stations receiving it? Also, is there any possibility to include the current location with it (and should it maybe required to send exactly that information every 10 minutes or so to comapny for cases like these...?)

Disclaimer: Not working in avaition industry.

cws 1st Jun 2009 17:01

no ELT
for what its worth, I followed the AF Flight by 5hours from Brasil to Europe unaware of what happend, but did not hear any ELT on the whole flight on 121.5.

jotape 1st Jun 2009 17:02

Wake up and smell le cafe...

If you thought the full story concerning the tech reasons behind BA38 was a little bit managed: "still not too sure about how this whole fuel/pump/ice thing happens but hey let's not ground all the 777s because its way too much money to lose and in any case - thanks to the BA pilot skills - nobody died..." - then you ain't seen nothing yet !

There is a complete convergence of interests at AF and Airbus to make sure once the black box is discovered the full story is totally managed so that we don't even think that maybe the A330 family (and for that matter the A340 family with which it shares so much) should be grounded until the mystery is solved...
Remember its one big statist monopoly all-been-to-the-same-school group of people that run industry in France...

P.S. Not anti-French nor anti-AF nor anti-Airbus - just providing a reality check !

eagle21 1st Jun 2009 17:02



Is the aircraft went down shortly after sending the failure messges to the AF MCC, ( 50NM after TASIL) , then the FDR and CVR shouldn't be deeper than 4000 meters, with some luck not even more than 3000 meters.

B777FD 1st Jun 2009 17:03

FDR & CVR transmitter range.....
It has been mentioned in this thread that the CVR and FDR locator signal has a range of 2 miles. Just ran an online conversion, that's 10560 feet (for statute mile at least). Is it possible the ocean is deeper than this?

Maybe tough to find within 30 days. :(

barrymung 1st Jun 2009 17:05

Assuming that reports are true and there was also cabin depressurisation, it appears as though there was a fairly catastrophic structural failure of some sort.

The A330/A340 differs from a lot of other airliners in that it has a horizontal tail section made from carbon fibre. Other sections of wing etc are also made from CF These sections contains a rather sizeable fuel tank.

When a metal section of aeroplane is hit by lightning, generally the charge is dissipated throughout the whole fuselage and damage is minimised. Carbon fibre, however doesn't dissipate a charge in the same way. Lightning hitting a carbon fibre panel usually results in sparking within that body cavity..

Whilst aircraft manufacturers go to great lengths to minimise the effects of lightning striking carbon fibre panels it's possible that such a strike could thus cause sparking inside the fuel tanks.

On the B787 there is a "fuel tank inerting" system that fills the "air" space of the fuel tanks with nitrogen in order to minimise the risk of ignition.

Does anyone know if the A330/340 is fitted with a similar system?

alexmcfire 1st Jun 2009 17:07

Any tracking record for the ships in the area?

Re-Heat 1st Jun 2009 17:11

To point out some deep inaccuracies about the depth of the Atlantic - read Atlantic Ocean - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (always a good bulwark against BS).

The principal feature of the bathymetry (bottom topography) of the Atlantic Ocean is a submarine mountain range called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It extends from Iceland in the north to approximately 58į South latitude, reaching a maximum width of about 1,600 kilometres (1,000 mi). A great rift valley also extends along the ridge over most of its length. The depth of water over the ridge is less than 2,700 m (8,900 ft) in most places, and several mountain peaks rise above the water and form islands. The South Atlantic Ocean has an additional submarine ridge, the Walvis Ridge.

The Mid-Atlantic Ridge separates the Atlantic Ocean into two large troughs with depths averaging between 3,700 and 5,500 metres (12,000 and 18,000 ft). Transverse ridges running between the continents and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge divide the ocean floor into numerous basins. Some of the larger basins are the Blake, Guiana, North American, Cape Verde, and Canaries basins in the North Atlantic. The largest South Atlantic basins are the Angola, Cape, Argentina, and Brazil basins.

The deep ocean floor is thought to be fairly flat, although numerous seamounts and some guyots exist. Several deeps or trenches are also found on the ocean floor. The Puerto Rico Trench, in the North Atlantic, is the deepest at 8,605 meters (28,232 ft). The Laurentian Abyss is found off the eastern coast of Canada. In the South Atlantic, the South Sandwich Trench reaches a depth of 8,428 metres (27,651 ft). A third major trench, the Romanche Trench, is located near the equator and reaches a depth of about 7,454 metres (24,455 ft). The shelves along the margins of the continents constitute about 11% of the bottom topography. Several deep channels cut across the continental rise.

pax britanica 1st Jun 2009 17:14

Jotape , just to add to your Francophobia the French have one of the largest fleets of submarine cable repair ships in the world and these are the optimim vessels for black box recovery in a situation like this.

Yes France is a pretty 'integrated' country but no more so than the US when it comes to self interest and if we Brits had any interests left to manage after we bankrupted them or sold them to foreign entities we would behave in exactly the same way.
I think you will find coffee smells the same the world over

BigHitDH 1st Jun 2009 17:15

Trainee (non-commercial) pilot question. So, you get hit by lightning during the cruise, have some electical issues (maybe loss of HF coms) and pressureisation problems. Do you descend into CB's?

vapilot2004 1st Jun 2009 17:17

@ Grimmrad:

ACARS triangulation would be possible if receiving stations commonly used directional antennas. Unfortunately, they do not.

Sparelung 1st Jun 2009 17:18


From a physiology point of view, with loss of cabin pressurisation, you don't really have a choice about descent. Supplementary oxygen only lasts for a short while.

22 Degree Halo 1st Jun 2009 17:21

Here is the ship tracker: Ship locations

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