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Robots Dive Deep To Solve Airliner Crash Mystery

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the pre-trial-discovery-for-serious dept.

Robotics 156

coondoggie writes "A small squadron of undersea robots has begun to conduct a 4-month, 3,900 square mile search of Atlantic Ocean bottom looking for the deep-sea wreck site of and black boxes from Air France Flight 447 which crashed off the coast of Brazil nearly two years ago. The Air France plane was flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, when for exact reasons that remain a mystery, it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009, taking with it 228 souls."

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Hole crap! That was two years ago???? (0)

Slutticus (1237534) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684638)

Am I moving at 0.90c or does that seem like it just happened yesterday?

Re:Hole crap! That was two years ago???? (1)

d1verse (141918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684658)

Am I moving at 0.90c or does that seem like it just happened yesterday?

Totally, I felt like it was last summer!

Re:Hole crap! That was two years ago???? (1)

barv (1382797) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685138)

I would think at least 0.9999 C at least.

Re:Hole crap! That was two years ago???? (1)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684660)

Charles Widmore can do that by going to the island and turning the wheel.

WHAT THE FUCK IS ALL THIS ABOUT NOW ?? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35684694)

Charles Widmoore? Airliner crash yesterday? Two years ago? Is this the California computer guy? I thought his wreckage was found. And that was in the moutains. I am so confuuzed and dased !! It's all the wine they give us priests so we're too drunk to moleste the little girls. Ha! Ha! That's a joke. Of course it's the little boys !

Re:WHAT THE FUCK IS ALL THIS ABOUT NOW ?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35684784)

"Charles Widmoore? Airliner crash yesterday? Two years ago? Is this the California computer guy? I thought his wreckage was found. And that was in the moutains. I am so confuuzed and dased !! It's all the wine they give us priests so we're too drunk to moleste the little girls. Ha! Ha! That's a joke. Of course it's the little boys !"

It's easy to believe you've been drinking, the rest of your spew sounds like nothing more or less than the product of
an intoxicated brain.

Re:WHAT THE FUCK IS ALL THIS ABOUT NOW ?? (0)

pookemon (909195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685122)

As you stagger home, don't get LOST.

Re:Hole crap! That was two years ago???? (1)

hipp5 (1635263) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684850)

Am I moving at 0.90c or does that seem like it just happened yesterday?

That was the first thing I thought too. To be fair, it was 22 months ago, and not a full two years, but still... where does the time go?

Re:Hole crap! That was two years ago???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35685370)

langoliers

Re:Hole crap! That was two years ago???? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35685178)

Well at 0.90c, two years would seem like 138 days..... if you feel like it happened just yesterday, you'd need to be going approximately 0.9999991c (and no, that's not a random number of 9's there).

Re:Hole crap! That was two years ago???? (1)

Slutticus (1237534) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685234)

I KNEW someone was going to calculate this and shove it in my face. That, folks, is why i love slashdot :D Thanks for doing what I was too lazy to do...... 0.9999991c is pretty fast. What Warp Factor is that?

Re:Hole crap! That was two years ago???? (1)

Audguy (736134) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685252)

I KNEW someone was going to calculate this and shove it in my face. That, folks, is why i love slashdot :D Thanks for doing what I was too lazy to do...... 0.9999991c is pretty fast. What Warp Factor is that?

less than warp 1

Re:Hole crap! That was two years ago???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35685396)

Yes, but I think the actual answer is warp factor 0.33333

Re:Hole crap! That was two years ago???? (1)

lul_wat (1623489) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685826)

Please surrender your geek card on the way out.

Re:Hole crap! That was two years ago???? (2)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685706)

Maybe it seems more recent because there has been only one other fatal commercial airliner crash in the "rich world"(Western Europe, the US, and Japan) since then, and even then only 7 people died. In fact, I'm pretty sure(though I don't have any data on it, tried finding it and couldn't), the US is now at a record number of days in a row without a commercial airliner crash. The last fatal commercial airliner crash in the US was in early 2009(Colgan air). There hasn't been one in Japan since 1994*(a freight plane did crash at Narita in 2009). Now granted there are a lot less "commuter" flights in Japan due to the countries small size and excellent high speed rail service, but that is still pretty impressive.

Souls? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35684666)

Carcasses.. Cadavers.. ugly bags of water... friends... family... strangers.. Not souls, unless you're some religious freak

Re:Souls? (-1, Offtopic)

requeth (632121) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684692)

I was just logging in to challenge that all 228 people a) believed in souls and b) that (if souls exist) all 228 people had one.

How about... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35684708)

228 bungholes?

Re:Souls? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684768)

We're talking about a flight from France to Brazil. Part (a) is not that improbable.

Re:Souls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35684794)

I beg to differ. France is very catholic unless my child year at a french catholic school were just spreading lies... oh wait, they were...

Re:Souls? (1)

ooloogi (313154) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684920)

Soul is just old language, not necessarily with religious connotations. A soul is just a living person, and is even used in the bible in that fashion.

Re:Souls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35684728)

I prefer the term 'meatbag.'

Re:Souls? (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685278)

Oh, hi HK-47.

Re:Souls? (4, Interesting)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684738)

I'm not religious but I think the concept of the soul at the very basic level is valid. It's the program running in your head that is you. That's about where it ends though - I don't believe in any way that the program keeps running once the hardware fails, outside of the bits of your program that have rubbed off on the other people that you interacted with along the way.

Re:Souls? (1)

Slutticus (1237534) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684746)

Pretty typical for aviation and maritime communication of how many (live) people are on the vessel. Not sure how it originated though...

Re:Souls? (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684760)

Early maritime was extremely superstitious.. Not that the landlubbers weren't/aren't

Re:Souls? (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684764)

114 pair of shoes?

Re:Souls? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685072)

Since there was 228 people, that's 228 pairs, or 456 shoes. Unless you mean everyone only had one shoe.

Re:Souls? (1)

YandyTheGnome (2013488) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685146)

Woosh! 228 soles, 114 pairs of shoes...

Re:Souls? (1)

Nocuous (1567933) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684954)

My first thought was "OMG! They proved the existence of souls? Talk about burying the lead!"

Re:Souls? (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684982)

I wonder if you'll be so glib when one of your loved ones dies.

Re:Souls? (1)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685224)

I wonder if you'll be so glib when one of your loved ones dies.

The answer is "yes, I was." In my case, humor was a coping mechanism.

And no, there is no way to know how any one person will react to a loss. As far as I'm concerned, humor is a lot more healthy than people who drink alcohol until they die, endlessly weep in a darkened bedroom, or start sleeping with strangers (all things I've seen grieving people do.)

Re:Souls? (2)

Nethead (1563) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685364)

Tell me more about this sleeping with strangers part. Grieving just might be something I want to get in to, at least on weekends.

Black comedy aside, this reminds me of Pat Tillman's brother Richard at his funeral after Sen. John McCain said that a loving God will reunite the family in the end: "Just make no mistake, he would want me to say this, he's not with God, he's fucking dead, he's not religious, so thanks for your thoughts but he's fucking dead." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwsy8FEL0ls [youtube.com]

American heros can be godless, not just commies.

Anyway, "Taking with it 228 souls." I thought that, according to folklore, souls were the one thing that actually escaped.

Re:Souls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35684996)

that's ugly bag of MOSTLY water to you buddy.

Re:Souls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35685068)

It should have been "228 lives".

not enough jobs? or just too darn many people? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35684674)

sure there's spots in defense/offense, & the deception disciplines. for the rest of us, positions in our ongoing holycostal, god approved, depopulation, is an option? the right to remain silent remains well enjoyed by us.

Reasons unknown?? (4, Informative)

Ark42 (522144) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684712)

Isn't this the flight that flew right into a huge huge storm that was obscured on their radar by a smaller storm which was safe enough to fly through. As soon as the larger storm was in view, it was too late to change course and fly around it. I heard the most likely case is extreme icing of the sensors that monitor airflow, causing autopilot to disengage as the plane no longer knew its own speed. Without any way to know the current speed, the plane lost altitude and crashed, due to a small window of safe speeds that don't result in altitude loss.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (4, Interesting)

bradgoodman (964302) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684754)

I heard of this same sort of thing happening once to a plane. What happened was that the plane was just painted. During the painted process, they put masking tape over the Pitots (holes/ports used to measure air pressure). They forgot to take the tape off, and when they were in flight, the airspeed, altitude, and stall warnings all went crazy from the erronious pressure readings on the clogged/covered pitot tubes. Result was bizarre instrumentation - overspeed and stall warnings at the same time, etc. They wound up crashing from confusion. Perhaps icing in the pitot tubes were causing a similar thing here.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35684796)

It was not even during painting, it was after a standard cleaning of the aircraft. I guess you are thinking about this accident. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeroper [wikipedia.org] Ã_Flight_603

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35685172)

WTF is wrong with people? Is there some sort of selection bias that people uncreative enough to survive a trudge through 4 years of undergraduate studies are two retarded to design failsafe systems?

If you're building a nuclear reactor and loss of cooling will cause a meltdown: you need to go stare at a lava lamp for a while.

If you're building an airplane which has a narrow VS1 to VNO then perhaps you should have redundant airspeed sensor fail-safes? Is it really so damned hard to put a strain gauge on the leading edge of the wing? I mess around with rc plane auto pilots and if their plan ab & c is a pilot tube they fucked up.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airspeed_indicator
good visual: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQI3AWpTWhM

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

bhalter80 (916317) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685414)

Actually most GA aircraft have a secondary static system which while less accurate because the input is in the cockpit instead of outside the plane is fully functional. For pressurized aircraft there are redundant ports on the outside of the craft. The difficulty is in determining the instrumentation failure and responding to it correctly. The private pilot training material is very specific about the kinds of issues that arrive from clogged pitot static ports.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35685462)

WTF is wrong with people? Is there some sort of selection bias that people uncreative enough to survive a trudge through 4 years of undergraduate studies are two retarded to design failsafe systems?

If you're building a nuclear reactor and loss of cooling will cause a meltdown: you need to go stare at a lava lamp for a while.

If you're building an airplane which has a narrow VS1 to VNO then perhaps you should have redundant airspeed sensor fail-safes? Is it really so damned hard to put a strain gauge on the leading edge of the wing? I mess around with rc plane auto pilots and if their plan ab & c is a pilot tube they fucked up.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airspeed_indicator
good visual: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQI3AWpTWhM

Yeah...

And when the strain gauge jet crashes because of a bug in the strain gauge / pitot tube sensor fusion algorithm you'll probably call the designers idiots for trying to fix something that has worked flawlessly for decades.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685602)

They DO have multiple pitot tubes as their form of redundancy.

Besides a strain gage won't be able to tell you how fast you are flying, as the force of the air will change with altitude and pressure. Now you need to know the pressure you are operating at, which is provided by a static tube....which can clog up the same as the pitot tube that you previously were relying upon. So you still have a common mode of failure.

GPS type systems are probably way too slow and inaccurate to give the necessary readings.

So, any other good ideas for trying to get your airspeed?

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685816)

GPS is not too slow for anything here, nor too inaccurate. GPS is combined with inertial reference to provide a realtime 6 DOF position/orientation in space. The problem is you need airspeed, not ground track speed! GPS only gives you the latter.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35686150)

You aren't trying to measure your velocity, you are trying to prevent your wings from breaking off.

Strain gauge is a direct read-out vs. an indirect air speed measurement which goes by manufacturer spec and assumes the wing spars haven't fatigued. That's quite an assumption seeing as Aluminum has a tendency to form stress cracks under dynamic loads, freak exposure to mercury aside. Obviously, Boeing or whoever is going to be conservative in their VNE with a safety factor appropriate to the life or death application.

I re-iterate, a direct readout on the strain gauge will tell you a lot, as would a pressure gauge on any of the control surface hydraulics.

GPS system is too slow to use for some things, but it's certainly adequate for altitude. Which would suddenly allow for strain gauges to measure velocity in addition to stress on the airframe.

Other good ideas? If the issue is ice formation then venting exhaust from the turbofan over the airspeed sensor/pilot tube would go a long way to addressing it. Heaven forbid you circulate waste heat from some other source on the plane. You could even resort to nichrome wire, a voltage regulator, or a power resistor.

Speaking of the turbofan, the tachometer should tell you quite a bit, but assuming it doesn't, there are thousands of ways to measure airspeed, and a frost sensitive piezo-transducer on the end of a soda straw seems to be a continued and repeat cause of plane crashes YET NOBODY FIXES IT.

Pick one:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_measurement

This is some serious low hanging fruit we are dealing with here.

Rather than addressing the problem they blame the user and create elaborate pilot training exercises and procedures.

I'm not being a hindsight is 20/20 bitch. I've heard of several planes getting fucked by these pilot tubes and nobody is fixing the root cause of the problem.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (4, Informative)

jamesrt (684945) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685104)

I heard of this same sort of thing happening once to a plane. What happened was that the plane was just painted.

The plane crash being referred to is this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XL_Airways_Germany_Flight_888T [wikipedia.org]

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

tg123 (1409503) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685732)

I heard of this same sort of thing happening once to a plane. What happened was that the plane was just painted. During the painted process, they put masking tape over the Pitots (holes/ports used to measure air pressure). They forgot to take the tape off, and when they were in flight, the airspeed, altitude, and stall warnings all went crazy from the erronious pressure readings on the clogged/covered pitot tubes. Result was bizarre instrumentation - overspeed and stall warnings at the same time, etc. They wound up crashing from confusion. Perhaps icing in the pitot tubes were causing a similar thing here.

The plane crash being referred to is this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XL_Airways_Germany_Flight_888T [wikipedia.org]

Ummm I think it might be this one http://ehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeroperú_Flight_603 [wikipedia.org] But the plane was being cleaned , not painted and also it was a Boeing plane not an Airbus.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

jamesrt (684945) | more than 3 years ago | (#35686070)

I heard of this same sort of thing happening once to a plane. What happened was that the plane was just painted.

The plane crash being referred to is this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XL_Airways_Germany_Flight_888T [wikipedia.org]

Ummm I think it might be this one http://ehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeroperú_Flight_603 [wikipedia.org] But the plane was being cleaned , not painted and also it was a Boeing plane not an Airbus.

Maybe; however, the one I referenced was an Air NewZealand owned plane, and it was in the news at lot over here in NZ when it happened.... Point is that I agree with the original poster about flight instrumentation information loss causing control issues.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (2)

Slutticus (1237534) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684762)

Not necessarily. Even without accurate airspeed readings, the pilots should have still been able to maintain safe airspeed by setting the engines to a specific power output and trimming to a specific angle of attack. Probably pilot error (i.e. being distracted with alarms and not remembering to adjust throttle and angle....) but without that box it's hard to really know.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

Slutticus (1237534) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684774)

In fact, this happens more often than you know and is a very typical response to a situation like this. Bottom line: loss of airspeed data should in no way shape or form be a catastrophic event.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684832)

No, but incorrect airspeed data might.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35685034)

You might want to re-read parent.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

Slutticus (1237534) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685166)

Incorrect airspeed is one thing. However we know from the telemetry the plane sent as it was going down that the pitot tubes were giving conflicting information, which I would assume would lead the pilots to disregard all pitot information from that point forward and take the appropriate steps. I'm pretty sure that is SOP for any fly-by-wire aircraft (or any aircraft for that matter...). Any pilots want to chime in?

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684838)

The bottom line doesn't know people. A malfunctioning landing gear light bulb can 'cause' a crash. The word is "situational awareness".. Lose that, and your landing will probably do more than just loosen a few teeth.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35685188)

The problem may have been aggravated by the fly-by-wire system in use. There have been several Airbus Industrie aircraft incidents where the computers assumed the pilots were incompetent and did not allow the pilots to control the aircraft. With matching low speed inputs from the pitot tubes (speed sensors), I wonder if the plane chose to dive on its own to restore flying speed (but instead broke up the plane due to severe overspeed).

Re:Reasons unknown?? (2)

517714 (762276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684940)

Pilot error, yes, but the throttles do not indicate their settings on an Airbus except when manually set. The handles can say 90%, but if they will be at the last setting that the autopilot used when it disengaged. This is a counterintuitive design that does not properly consider human interface. Standard procedure for loss of airspeed indicators is to set the control surfaces, angle of attack and throttle to values that will keep the aircraft flying safely. One theory is that the crew made the mistake of reading, rather than setting the throttle.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

GerryHattrick (1037764) | more than 3 years ago | (#35686496)

Good point, keeps coming up in expert forums. What exactly is the claimed advantage of a throttle like this? Sure, you can 'get used to it', but does anyone know?

Re:Reasons unknown?? (4, Interesting)

martyb (196687) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685052)

Not necessarily. Even without accurate airspeed readings, the pilots should have still been able to maintain safe airspeed by setting the engines to a specific power output and trimming to a specific angle of attack. Probably pilot error (i.e. being distracted with alarms and not remembering to adjust throttle and angle....) but without that box it's hard to really know.

Honest Question: Why in this day and age do we still have to chase down a black box? More and more airliners now provide in-flight internet connections. Couldn't they just transmit it as well as record it to the black box? TFA says this search is costing them $12.5 million. That would pay for a lot of upgrades and support for this.

Continuous Transmission? Send all of the recorded data to both the black box and some remote data center, too. If this is too much to transmit continuously, then maybe a subset of the data? I know planes are becoming increasingly complex and automated, so there's probably loads more data that *could* be considered for transmission. Still, something is better than nothing (what we have now.) Pick some subset of the available data and send it periodically.

Burst Transmission? Instead of a continuous stream of data, when the pilot (or plane) detects a "dangerous condition", it starts sending a high-speed burst of accumulated data, and continuously until things look "normal" again. Say the plane takes a sudden 200-foot drop in altitude. Or banks unusually sharply. Or... whatever. Just ignore the values that appear 99.9% of the time, and only trigger outside that normal range. (numbers pulled out of thin air; pick whatever works best.)

At this point, there's nothing much to go on. Imagine if we had the last few minutes' airspeed, altitude, as well as settings for the flaps, rudder, and engine would be an enormous improvement over what we've got now. I suspect the pilots' unions might raise a concern about monitoring and potential for it to be help against them, but I could also imagine some kind of escrow mechanism where the data is sent and stored, but only to be accessed upon certain, predefined circumstances.

Admittedly, this is quite rough. I'd like to think that there is at least some part of this which could be implemented in parallel to the provision of internet access on planes. I'd appreciate it if anyone who knows more about these things could comment on the viability of this and/or the technical limitations/challenges which I'm missing here.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (0)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685160)

Couldn't they just transmit it as well as record it to the black box?

No. For example, if some aspect of an accident knocks out the transmitter or if nobody receives the data at a critical time. Usually, putting it in a black box in the plane works really well since it is hard to lose a plane. Possible, as in this case, but usually you can find the smoking crater where the plane crashed.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35685540)

Nothing you said here precludes the possibility of transmitting this data. Transmitting and recording to black box is an excellent idea. Certainly it will not work every time. But it will work sometimes. That is all it needs to save significant money.

It is really terrible when people shoot down a good idea because it will not work 100% of the time. Expecting such perfection out of a system like this is childish.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35686304)

They can't do it because it might fail in some cases? Fascinating thought process you have there. Too bad the current method also fails in some cases, like this one.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (4, Informative)

Slutticus (1237534) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685214)

Actually, the plane transmitted quite a lot of information to AirBus HQ as it was going down, but that system (ACARS) is quite outdated i think. The last three minutes of the transmissions gave a wealth of data related to alarms and faults that were occurring (i.e. inconsistent airspeed readings, excessive vertical speed, autopilot information, etc...). It would be interesting to see how much voice data could be reliably transmitted in a situation like that.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35686212)

You forget that all electromagnetic radiation cause airplanes to fall out of the sky. That's why it's so important to shut down your Kindle back in row 79.

It's a wonder that airplanes survive in sunlight, at all.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

Mana Mana (16072) | more than 3 years ago | (#35686244)

> Burst Transmission? Instead of a continuous stream of
> data, when the pilot

According to the NOVA (PBS) episode on this subject (which did an excellent job of determining the probable chain of events and solving the mystery though not "exact"ly, if that's a synonym for definitive, for that you need the witness of absent the CVR and FDR) the flight went catastrophic within ~94(?) seconds. Hence your burst implies a window of opportunity. Ultimately this is a matter of resources, or the lack thereof. Record everything? All the time? From anywhere? Tall order. Today. Tomorrow? Not so much is a safe guess.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35684878)

Isn't this the flight that flew right into a huge huge storm that was obscured on their radar by a smaller storm which was safe enough to fly through. As soon as the larger storm was in view, it was too late to change course and fly around it. I heard the most likely case is extreme icing of the sensors that monitor airflow, causing autopilot to disengage as the plane no longer knew its own speed. Without any way to know the current speed, the plane lost altitude and crashed, due to a small window of safe speeds that don't result in altitude loss.

This is the prevailing scenario. However, until we find physical evidence it remains speculation.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35685016)

Don't knock speculation. It's big business, and people get paid big bucks. My money is still on the rudder. The autopilot has a history of being pretty rough on it.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

fotoguzzi (230256) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685618)

Cite for the autopilot / rudder problem? Also, as the rudder has been recovered, is there anything about it to suggest that it had been roughed up by the autopilot?

Re:Reasons unknown?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35685894)

...is there anything about it to suggest that it had been roughed up by the autopilot?

Yeah.. it broke off.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35685204)

Isn't this the flight that flew right into a huge huge storm that was obscured on their radar by a smaller storm which was safe enough to fly through. As soon as the larger storm was in view, it was too late to change course and fly around it. I heard the most likely case is extreme icing of the sensors that monitor airflow, causing autopilot to disengage as the plane no longer knew its own speed. Without any way to know the current speed, the plane lost altitude and crashed, due to a small window of safe speeds that don't result in altitude loss.

You are wrong. The Chemtrail equipment installed on the plane malfunctioned.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

jalefkowit (101585) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685310)

Yes. The PBS show NOVA ran a documentary on the crash last month (you can watch the whole thing online here [pbs.org] ) that came to the conclusion you describe. (Though it should be emphasized that it's all speculation until more evidence is gathered.)

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

Ark42 (522144) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685492)

Nova is probably what I remembered that from, as I don't watch a whole lot else.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685328)

Theories as to what caused the crash are not the same as having the blackbox data and being able to confirm any given theory, or decide that you cannot confirm any theory given the state of the blackbox.

Don't get me wrong. We know enough about aircraft, and the environment factors to make decent educated guesses. But if it flew into a storm it *should* have been able to handle and failed, that's very different than flying into a storm it shouldn't have been able to handle.

Re:Reasons unknown?? (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685808)

Without any way to know the current speed, the plane lost altitude and crashed

As far as I know, on that particular type you can continue level flight safely without airspeed data. There are tables and you pretty much look up the throttle setting given air density, the latter can be approximated from GPS/INS in case your static system is dead, too. You just need to be aware that the Pitots have iced over. If you are unaware, shit goes wrong, and my bet is that it's a human factor at play, just like with China Airlines 006 where the underlying wetware problem was similar: a disconnect between pilot's situational model and real situation.

228 Souls? (1, Funny)

Posting=!Working (197779) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684830)

I knew Kia's were small cars, but I had no idea you could fit so many on a plane.

Re:228 Souls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35685406)

I am tired of these motherfuckin' Kia Souls on this motherfuckin' plane!

I remember (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35684884)

Could've sworn that I heard the plane crashed due to the 100mph winds in the storm it flew into...?

228 Souls? (-1, Redundant)

Satis (769614) | more than 3 years ago | (#35684928)

Doesn't that assume that everyone on board had souls? I'm sure there were at least a few lawyers and/or politicians on board. Or does that number adjust for the soulless?

The nasty story behind this crash (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35685004)

Most of this crash story has not been told yet. It involves France vs. America, Airbus vs. Boeing, spy vs. spy, defense contractor against defense contractor," you killed our people and now we kill your people," "but you stole our contract with sabotage" blah blah blah type stuff.... the real story has yet to be told and probably never will be told.

Souls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35685078)

Can we call them people instead of Souls? While less dramatic, I only care about people as opposed to metaphysical concepts. I know when people say souls, they're really thinking about people, but come on. I don't need drama in my news, I can do the emotional math on 228 people dying myself.

pitot probe failure most likely cause. (3, Informative)

bongey (974911) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685158)

I write flight diagnostic software , special software the tries to determine the root cause after number of BIT/and OR ACARS messages. I was especially interested in this flight. Thank god the air bus aircraft sent the ACARS messages otherwise we would have no idea what happened to it. Nova video is pretty convincing. Especially when in the flight simulator , and they cause a simulated air speed failure. The exact same ACARS messages are produced by the simulator that were produced by flight 447. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/crash-flight-447.html [pbs.org] . NOVA concluded bad weather caused the failure of the air speed sensors (pito tubes). Air speed sensor failure cause the auto pilot to fail, which turned the cockpit into a christmas tree of error and warning lights. Finally, pilot error in which they didn't react quickly enough .The pilots had to react quickly enough and apply just the right amount thrust and pitch to avoid a dramatic stall. The plane final injuries were consistent with dramatic stall, literally falling strait down out of the sky.

Re:pitot probe failure most likely cause. (3, Interesting)

by (1706743) (1706744) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685232)

First thing I did when I opened this thread was Ctrl-F for "nova". I know nothing about the aeronautics, but I too found this to be a very convincing explanation.

What really struck me as odd was that (as I recall from the Nova video) planes are out of communication from land when in the middle of the ocean. With humanity's level of satellite technology (not to mention radio-wave-bouncing-off-of-atmosphere-skillz), this just seems weird.

Re:pitot probe failure most likely cause. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685486)

Especially odd when most trans-oceanic flights offer calls(albeit at $10/minute) through seatback phones. It might well be, though, that the sort of conditions that cause aircraft to crash don't do much for reception...

Re:pitot probe failure most likely cause. (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685282)

What is it about modern airliners that makes them so fragile? Increase power, point nose up. These crashes make modern airliners seem like 1920s aircraft designs, before data was analyzed regarding what was safe and what was not.

Re:pitot probe failure most likely cause. (1)

bongey (974911) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685338)

The had some weird designs in the cockpit that makes it so you can easily not to apply throttle correctly. I guess it is designed so you can't just bump the throttle, and end up like this plane http://www.airliners.net/photo/1293784/L/ [airliners.net] , but it is weird it is newer plane.

Re:pitot probe failure most likely cause. (1)

by (1706743) (1706744) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685356)

My understanding is that at those altitudes, the flight envelope becomes very thin (is that the right terminology?). So too much thrust leads to too much speed leads to structural problems, and too little speed leads to a stall.

If the planes flew at 1920 aircraft altitudes, then there would be a lot of wiggle room...however, fuel economy would suffer a lot.

Re:pitot probe failure most likely cause. (1)

bongey (974911) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685434)

Slow speeds can introduce stalls too, not enough air going over the control surfaces . The lack of air flow over the control surfaces, and lose of lift leads to "mushy" controls. Flaps help but they don't remove the control issue, that is why landing a plane is the hardest part.

Re:pitot probe failure most likely cause. (1)

ShoulderOfOrion (646118) | more than 3 years ago | (#35686330)

Correct. Google 'coffin corner' for a full explanation. The margins at high altitude are quite slim.

Re:pitot probe failure most likely cause. (1)

MadMaverick9 (1470565) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685334)

And if flight 447 would have had an experienced pilot like Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger on board, they probably would have made it.

Re:pitot probe failure most likely cause. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35685506)

I managed to get one of our more experienced pilots to follow the rabbit down the wrong hole in a similar way in the sim yesterday. It was easy, too. I gave the local pitot and static sources a bad pressure, and then faulted the B bus to kill off the good sensor. The pilot assumed that he was getting good data from the remaining sensors and failed to notice bank angle creeping as the AP pitched down to maintain speed in climb mode. What's 3 degrees of pitch when you've got cascading faults? Every few seconds the computer would spit out another fault; as something exceeded a time limit for being out tolerance.

The plus side is that mine has dual-string flight systems, while the bus has triple-string systems, so the two failures I input won't cause the same scenario. However, if they did encounter severe icing and iced up the pitot tubes, the aircraft could have departed controlled flight before any severe faults showed. My pull it out of my ass guess, though, is that they had an electrical fault before the pitot tubes iced, and didn't have a fair chance.

Re:pitot probe failure most likely cause. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35686066)

oops ... pitch creeping up, not bank. "Bus" refers to the Airbus.

Re:pitot probe failure most likely cause. (1)

fatmal (920123) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685536)

When I was learning to fly, the instructor would quite regularly cover the flight instruments, and I'd have to fly circuits without knowing how fast I was going, or how high I was. While it is easy to estimate speed & climb from your attitude (nose above the horizon & lots of throttle usually means you're going up, nose above the horizon and no throttle you're slowing down, and will soon stall and descend (quickly too!)), I would hate to have to do that without outside visual references like the pilots of flight 447. However, I would imagine that a blocked pitot tube would not disable the artificial horizon (and if it does, then why?). The pilots should have been able to keep the aircraft flying using a cruise throttle setting (already set) and the artificial horizon. Having said that, it is easy for me sitting here to say that, without multiple alarms going off in a rapidly deteriorating situation. It could be that flight 447 was a unique set of circumstances, and these guys were test pilots.

Re:pitot probe failure most likely cause. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35686404)

Saw the Nova ep, had one question about it:

They said that when you get no airspeed readings, the standard procedure is to angle the nose up 5 degrees and stick the throttle at 80%, so you maintain altitude. The pilots were too focused on all the error messages from the flight computer to remember their training and execute the procedure.

5 degrees 80 percent is a dead simple algorithm. Why isn't the computer programmed to just do that automatically when its airspeed readings go bad? Let the pilots override, but make that the default action. It knew the pitot readings were bad, it emitted error messages to that effect. Seems like a simple fix they should put in. That, and adding some supervisory level algorithm to condense the error messages down to one "airspeed indicators are f---ed" message.

Richesse or largesse? (1)

gedankenhoren (2001086) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685276)

The search for this black box has been dragging on and on. I remember a few months back when it seemed that the French government was going to give up the search, given that it's cost quite a bit of money already. Other than humanist pride (which is worth more than we might say prima facie), I can't think of a goal that will be reached by furthering this search that's commensurate with the cost.
Were there some (sons or daughters or grand-nieces) of some well-connected people on that flight? (A quick search reveals no name I can place: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_France_Flight_447#Notable_passengers [wikipedia.org] ).

Re:Richesse or largesse? (2)

MadMaverick9 (1470565) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685346)

You really don't know why they're searching again??? Search for "air france 447 lawsuit".

Nova Documentary on Flight 447 (3, Interesting)

catchblue22 (1004569) | more than 3 years ago | (#35685932)

This is an excellent Nova documentary [pbs.org] on the disappearance of Flight 447. It is interesting how investigators were able to give a reasonable hypothesis as to what happened, even without the black boxes. The long and the short of it is that they think super-cooled liquid water from a serious thunderstorm overcame the pitot anti-icing heating systems, freezing over all of the pitots and thus depriving the computer of airspeed data. The computer probably panicked, suddenly switching off the autopilot (they did get data from the computer, as its satellite uplink gave some telemetry). Pilots are capable of flying without airspeed readings, but only if they react quickly. They think that prior to flying into a severe thunderstorm, the computer automatically reduced thrust, in order to slow down in anticipation of turbulence. The problem is that the only pilot feedback that the thrust was reduced would have been a tiny circle on a computer monitor...there is no physical feedback in the throttle levers in Airbus planes. The computer then probably switched off the autopilot, overwhelming the pilots with a sequence of warnings. The thrust likely remained at 70% and the pilots probably didn't realize it. After a minute so the airplane may have lost so much airspeed from the low thrust that it became unflyable, in effect causing the crash.

Give this Nova episode a try...it is very detailed, going into many technical aspects of airplane design.

Re:Nova Documentary on Flight 447 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35686402)

Comments like this must be from people who aren't pilots. Airspeed comes from angle of attack, not thrust. Thrust only determines how far you'll fly at that given angle of attack. Any airplane, even the largest, is always flyable, even with a complete flameout. Witness the Hudson landing, or the Gimli glider incident. Angle of attack dictates whether you're going to stall or not. Even without power, with the nose of the plane below the horizon, say 20 degrees, that plane (no plane) would stall, assuming the elevators were working. Even without power, a stall has only one cause: pilot error. Sure, they may have glided into the ocean, but even that would have been preferable, as a controlled descent would have given them time to work on the other problems. Of course, in a thunderstorm you don't know which end is up, but even with the airspeed indicator out, the attitude indicator would have been working. If that's the case, there's zero excuse for a stall.

As for "all the lights going off" in the cabin, the rules of flying are "aviate, navigate, communicate." Always fly the airplane. Read "Stick and Rudder." It applies equally to a 747 as to a Cessna.

The truth behind the truths! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35686416)

AF447 was downed by human evil, terror bombing or missile strike. Probably the same case as TW800, sparks created in the centre fuel tanks, because a US Navy missile hit it. I hope the french will be able to find the black boxes and uncover the mystery. I think USA may have downed the AF447 to oust the Airbus A-330 plane from the USAF aerial refuel competition to help the ancient B-767 win. America and the zionist entitity are full of very evil and scheming people. I hope the truth will out and all of Europe will cancel F-35 JSF purchases in retaliation and standardize on the Eurofighter (heavy) and Gripen (light) jetfighter combo.

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