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Air France wreckage found (this time they’re sure)

June 7th, 2009 at 08:52pm

And possibly more importantly, French authorities have some very worrying revelations about the maintenance standards on the crashed plane.

To the wreckage first:

Searchers found two passengers’ bodies and a briefcase containing an Air France Flight 447 ticket in the Atlantic Ocean near where the jetliner is believed to have crashed, a Brazil military official said Saturday.
All were killed, the world’s worst commercial air accident since 2001, and Air France’s deadliest plane crash.

The bodies of two male passengers were recovered Saturday morning about 45 miles south of where Air France Flight 447 emitted its last signals — roughly 400 miles northeast of the Fernando de Noronha islands off Brazil’s northern coast.

Brazilian air force spokesman Col. Jorge Amaral said an Air France ticket was found inside a leather briefcase.

“It was confirmed with Air France that the ticket number corresponds to a passenger on the flight,” he said.

Admiral Edison Lawrence said the bodies were being transported to the Fernando de Noronha islands for identification. A backpack with a laptop and a vaccination card also was recovered.

The finds could potentially establish a more precise search area for the crucial black box flight data and voice recorders that could tell investigators why the jet crashed.

The U.S. Navy is sending two high-tech devices to French ships that will help them locate the black boxes, a senior U.S. defense official told The Associated Press on Saturday.

The Towed Pinger Locators, which can detect emergency beacons to a depth of 20,000 feet, are being flown to Brazil on Monday with a U.S. Navy team, said the official, who requested anonymity because the decision, which came in response to a request from France, has not been announced.

We’ve heard about the inconsistent air speed messages which came from the plane in the moments before it crashed. Now we have answers as to what caused those messages.

The French agency investigating the disaster, meanwhile, said airspeed instruments were not replaced as the maker recommended before the plane disappeared in turbulent weather nearly a week ago during a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris with 228 people aboard.
The French accident investigation agency, BEA, found the plane received inconsistent airspeed readings from different instruments as it struggled in a massive thunderstorm.

The investigation is increasingly focused on whether external instruments may have iced over, confusing speed sensors and leading computers to set the plane’s speed too fast or slow — a potentially deadly mistake in severe turbulence.

Airbus recommended that all its airline customers replace instruments that help measure speed and altitude, known as Pitot tubes, on the A330, the model used for Flight 447, said Paul-Louis Arslanian, the head of the agency.

“They hadn’t yet been replaced” on the plane that crashed, said Alain Bouillard, head of the French investigation.

Air France issued a statement Saturday saying it began replacing the monitors on the Airbus A330 model on April 27 after an improved version became available.

The statement stressed the recommendation to change the monitor “allows the operator full freedom to totally, partially or not at all apply it.” When safety is at issue, the aircraft maker puts out a mandatory service bulletin followed up by an airworthiness directive, not a recommendation.

The Air France statement said that icing of the monitors at high altitude has led at times to loss of needed flying information, but only a “small number” of incidents linked to the monitors had been reported.

If they manage to find the black box data recorder, then this could be a very interesting investigation, with important ramifications on future part replacement by airlines following recommendations by manufacturers.


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