Air France

tfaw

Lifetime Elite
This is very bad and sad news. Hard to understand - this was a fairly new aircraft. With all the technology and weather radar, I wonder why this happended? Wonder if the composite structure of the A330-200 contributed to the causes. We will probably never know. In summary, this was sad, I hope the suffering was very minimal, and our thoughts are with those all impacted.
 

50convert

Super Lifetime Elite
Agreed. I hope they find something soon to help ease the minds of the families. This is horrible.
 

skadanks

New member
This story has really had an emotional impact on me. Only about a month ago I was on an AA767 flight leaving Rio de Janeiro to Miami. While we were near some tropical thunderstorms as I could tell by the bumps and the criss-crossy pattern we were flying going around them, the flight for the most part was fine and turbulence was only moderate at most. But I think, it's all just a matter of luck. It could've been my flight that happened to rather than the Air France plane, it's just random chance and being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

News is reporting that the plane went through severe turbulence. I wonder if that was the cause? It will be one hell of an ordeal to get the blackbox off the Atlantic ocean floor.
 

tek

Lifetime Elite
Air France

I looked at the weather patterns and saw no major disturbances other than a generally large area of isolated embedded thunderstorms with tops to 500 (50K) and extending from the Amazon basin offshore into the Atlantic including Rio. Key word here is embedded which means as you are flying along in weather with no visibilty you cannot see the isolated thunderstorm cells. Embedded phraseology usually got the pilots attention during a weather brief. Also, we were trained that onboard radar is fairly useless at penetrating rain bands which may obscure cells further on. It is tragic and I hope those affected may find solace.
 

skadanks

New member
I looked at the weather patterns and saw no major disturbances other than a generally large area of isolated embedded thunderstorms with tops to 500 (50K) and extending from the Amazon basin offshore into the Atlantic including Rio. Key word here is embedded which means as you are flying along in weather with no visibilty you cannot see the isolated thunderstorm cells. Embedded phraseology usually got the pilots attention during a weather brief. Also, we were trained that onboard radar is fairly useless at penetrating rain bands which may obscure cells further on. It is tragic and I hope those affected may find solace.

Is this the latest weather brief or last night's?
 

tek

Lifetime Elite
Brief

Brief

I heard the news on NPR at around 12:30 P.M. Pacific 6/1/09. Then I checked the turbulence forecast site for potential problems which may have been lingering after the fact. It would be interesting to see radar data, if available, in that part of the world, for the time of last contact and report of turbulence from the crew.
 

skadanks

New member
Just out of curiosity and maybe someone who works in aviation would know this, but why do we depend on radar only for tracking planes? Once they go to far out over sea, than nobody knows their exact location. Now they said the plane's computer sent back an automated message reporting trouble, so why couldn't it just as soon send back the GPS coordinates as well and we wouldn't have to have ships scour hundreds of miles of open sea having no idea where exactly to look?
 

tfaw

Lifetime Elite
Potential known issue - I had forgotten about that until today

Potential known issue - I had forgotten about that until today

Certain of these aircraft had issues with Northrop supplied navigation devices called Air Data Inertial Reference Unit. As I recall, Quantas had two instances of uncommanded flight changes. At least one of those planes was the A330, and in that situation the plane lost control for a bit.

The FAA issued an airworthiness directive. See: http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgAD.nsf/0/3cf0c40419204a2f8625756100508bef/$FILE/2009-04-07.pdf

Wonder if the unit failed bacause of a lighting strike or somehow just simply failed, along with the back-up.

I don't think I will be flying these aircaft that have these particular navigation units until there is some clarity.
 

skadanks

New member
This type of aircraft is completely fly-by-wire. That makes me a bit nervous aboard one of these, because if there is a catastrophic electrical failure, the pilot has no manual means of controlling the plane. Perhaps that is what happened in this instance.
 

pinworm

Lifetime Elite
It would seem that this accident was probably a culmination of events intstead of a single one. Turbulence is very very very unlikely to have brought down a big airliner at cruise.

Lightening is almost never an issue either. For one thing the aircraft is not grounded, and for another it's designed to channel the charge through the skin on the outside.

I suspect that there was a malfunction of some sort, probably electrical. Electrical fault info was broadcast to Air France headquarters by an automated system onboard. Perhaps a fire like on SwissAir 111. While this could have been serious ENOUGH, the problem was exacerbated by difficult flying conditions..severe turbulence, icing, water or ice ingestion and a bad problem was made worse.

It's the not knowing which is upsetting.
 

mjt

New member
tb neg please enlighten us...

tb neg please enlighten us...

i really need to know how in the hell the pilot got into that mess? other flights were ahead of him and obviously took a slightly different route. were they sleeping?
don't pilots know what is ahead of them?? please help me to continue to believe that pilots at least know what kind of weather they're in for and that they can change routes!
this air disaster has been a total paradigm shift for me.
thanks
mjt in rome who always flies on a boeing
 

sgambaccini

Lifetime Elite
i can only say that for what I read, from other pilots, you should always stay away from these kind of thunderstorms. That route is flown always at night, pilots have to keep monitoring ahead, often flashing their lights on and off or checking the radar. What baffles me is why don't they have more accurate reports of trouble areas before they take off? I'm assuming that with all the sophisticated satellite views and live weather action available, one could say "stay away from that area" ? it's weird. Anyway, I can only say that whenever I fly Air France to Europe, at night, we hit turbulence, captain comes on PA ("fasten your seat belt") and flashes headlights to look ahead. When I fly on Delta instead, they tell you what to expect, they tell you what other planes are reporting ahead, and if possible even how long the turbulence will last. I always thought that was a big difference. And yes, flying a Boeing too.
 

tb_neg

Administrator
Staff member
I'm no expert, but it's hard to believe it was just turbulence, or just one thing. These kind of things require multiple things to go wrong; we won't be sure until more information is released. That being said, Airbus craft have been involved in some weird incidents that don't sit well with me.

Like this:
http://www.atsb.gov.au/publications/investigation_reports/2008/AAIR/aair200806143.aspx
and
http://www.planeandpilotmag.com/pil...it-blackout.html?tmpl=component&print=1&page=

However, I do believe that the advanced systems in Airbus craft may also be responsible for some miracle saves, such as the famous Hudson River landing, as the software is very advanced and can be of great help to the pilot.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Airways_1549

Overall though, flying is very very very safe. Lack of exercise kills a LOT more people than flying does.

And as an aside, the site ( www.turbulenceforecast.com ) did 6x the usual traffic on Monday, and about 4x the usual traffic Tuesday, both setting new site records.
 

tek

Lifetime Elite
18 wheeler trucks are tracked using sat/gps systems and have been for years.

Our air traffic system is antiquated, obsolete, expensive to maintain, and managed by a dysfunctional government agency. I know. I worked in the FAA as an air traffic controller for 18 years until Oct. 2005.

In the case of AF447 my theory is the crew flew the aircraft into a thunderstorm cell unknowingly because of the inadequacy of airborne weather radar.

Better tracking systems would help search and rescue efforts but few pilots have flown into cells and lived to tell about it. No aircraft can survive structurally vertical wind shears in excess of 200 kts. embedded with hail that may be 2 inches or more in diameter. Lightning would blind the crew and the engines would probably flameout.

My wife flew in a B737-800 from DCA to SEA yesterday. They were held up at the gate because of weather and I was talking to her about the thunderstorm activity approaching DCA wondering what info the pilots had in the cockpit and generally getting somewhat anxious. She got home late and said it was a smooth flight.
 

mareducate

Super Lifetime Elite
A stupid question?

A stupid question?

Would someone please tell me why they flew into an area where embedded thunderstorms were located? Didn't the radar tell them that? Or is this standard procedure when traveling across the equator and we can just expect severe turbulence in spring on that route?
 

LLL

New member
That always do

That always do

They can't fly around every storm. The pilots want to go home to their families like everyone else. They log too much cockpit time as it is between delays at major airports, and long trips.
 

tek

Lifetime Elite
Pilots do not fly into thunderstorms knowingly. They are to be given a wide berth-30 miles distant is the figure if memory serves. Self-survival would keep a pilot and his crew out of a thunderstorm. There are several factors at work on this particular flight. First, overland flights have the advantage of a network of land based weather radar systems. Here in the US the NWS updated their radar system through the 90's. It is called Nexrad and has helped tremendously with real time data to identify severe weather. That data can be relayed to pilots in the cockpit used in conjunction with on-board weather radar. That used to be my job. Over the ocean we have no radar data. The pilot has on-board radar only and it is not as effective. The radar waves are easily attenuated or weakened by ice crystals and the radar will not be able to penetrate to see what is beyond. (Remember you are traveling 8 miles per minute) The earth is covered mostly with water. 2/3 's to 3/4's of the planet is ocean as you know. The flight was conducted in the tropics where the atmosphere is thick, moist and unstable. Thunderstorms can easily top 50,000 ft in the tropical parts of the world (including the south US in the summertime). There are many types of thunderstorms. They can occur as individual or isolated cells easily seen and avoided. They can occur in lines as is common in and along cold fronts easily topped in the higher lattitudes but normally routed around or between gaps in individual cells or gaps in the line if possible. They can become super cells that grow so large they feed themselves through the energy created by the mass. All these types can also occur embedded in weather or clouds either produced by the storms themselves or by other weather phenom. such as low pressure circulations. Pilots avoid the cell of the storm which is the area of massive updrafts and downdrafts creating vertical shears. Common to have hail and supercooled water droplets suspended or rising or falling, sometimes driven downward at great velocity. Usually appears on the radar enhanced by color and is the area with the most reflectivity from the radar waves that are bounced off them. It is common to fly in weather and at night. Thousand of flights are conducted safely every day over every part of the globe. Planes are built to thrive in extreme conditions. Temperatures aloft are minus 45 degrees F. and at the surface may be near 100 plus. They operate at the upper limit of our atmosphere and at the bottom of it. We have all flown in turbulence, clouds, icing and near thunderstorms while sipping cocktails. Pilots are trained professionals and I would not hesitate for a moment to go aboard a modern airliner and fly anywhere on the planet. Sometimes things go wrong. It is tragic and makes the news. I could go on and on and I realize that eighteens years of weather observation and pilot weather briefing has given me a store of knowledge that is somewhat unique. Maybe ignorance is bliss. I like to know what is happening around me.
 
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