May 1, 2011

Found

Black box data unit from AF447

Searchers have found the flight data recorder data unit from Air France flight 447, the trip from Rio de Janeiro to Paris that ended in a mid-Atlantic disaster. From MSNBC:

France's air accident investigation agency BEA said a search by a submarine probing 3,900 meters (12,800 feet) below the ocean's surface located and recovered the unit Sunday morning. The unit is now aboard the Ile de Sein, a ship that's helping conduct the probe, the statement said.

The statement also included photos of the recorder — a red cylinder partially buried in sand on the sea floor. Judging from the photos, the unit appeared to be in good condition.

AFR447 came to its end a couple of hours after departing Rio, June 1, 2009, while passing through an area of severe thunderstorms. There has been speculation that a frozen pitot tube, allowed to freeze by a faulty heating element, sent erroneous airspeed data to the aircraft's autopilot. This may have caused the aircraft's flight management system to mis-handle the aircraft. Resolution of the mystery is impossible without data from the flight data recorder.

This is the fourth undersea search for the aircraft wreckage and data recorders. The searches have cost in excess of $40 million, under-written by the French government. It's worth noting that the French government is a part-owner of the aircraft manufacturer Airbus; AF447 was an Airbus A300 twin-jet. Searchers are still looking for the cockpit voice recorder.

This is an incredible find, essentially a needle in a haystack, 12,800-feet under the sea.

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