Groundbreaking series of recorded interviews on AF447 crash

What happened to Air France flight AF447? The answers aren’t coming easily or quickly, with the latest reports saying the Airbus A330 did not break up in mid-air. But one firm, aviation consultancy Innovation Analysis Group (IAG), has been talking with experts about the tragedy since 5 June.

In less than a month IAG has compiled what must be one of the most comprehensive series of recorded interviews concerning the tragic event – and what could have been done differently – than any other organization.

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IAG’s Addision Schonland has talked to everyone from former NTSB VP Robert Francis to AeroMechanical Services president Richard Hayden, who explains the possibility of moving up to 88 data points off an aircraft and where the data could be sent – even to a CEO’s cell phone!

Hayden believes, and I’m sure many will agree, that the world would benefit from greater data flows off aircraft, especially in a crisis.

I know this is a delicate subject but don’t you think it might be time to start talking seriously about the role connectivity can play? Airbus is already thinking outside the box.

Schonland tells me that, after some internal debate, the decision was taken to make the AF447 information free as a public service, which is why I’m urging you to check out this site

“The idea of creating the AF447 content was driven by the highly unusual circumstances – a relatively new plane, with a great safety record, from a tier one airline and what appears to be an experienced crew and in odd circumstances,” says Addison.

“For instance, AF459 out of Rio came 20 minutes after AF447 and diverted 70NM around the same storm – why? There has been scant news about this. There is little we know about the crash – there appears to be clogged pitots. The pitot problem on the A330/340 is old news, but can we fault AF? There are a host of questions and we have tried to avoid speculation. “

But what has been the most interesting item discovered so far?

Says Schonland:

“The most interesting item we discovered so far is that the missing CVR and FDR problems might have been made less of a problem had the plane been equipped with an ability to send out masses of data via satellite. Apparently such an ability would add significantly to the missing information. Not the least of which is the last location of the plane.

“An FDR stores up to 88 data points – with high bandwidth capacity all these and more could have been “squirted” off the flight not only in an emergency but even on a regular basis, like every 5 minutes. Imagine how much more the investigation team would have to work with? Could this event be a good time for IATA to take the lead in coming up with a solution for the industry on the basis of safety? There are so many redundant system in planes for safety – as we move to ever more sophisticated equipment, perhaps such a data service would be appropriate. Unfortunately we learn from crashes to avoid them in future. A dearth of data is not appropriate in the 21st Century.”

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10 Responses to Groundbreaking series of recorded interviews on AF447 crash

  1. Dave July 2, 2009 at 5:18 pm #

    I agree, if we have the technology to send data off-board, we nee to do that. Relying on finding a black-box in the middle of the Atlantic is foolhardy if the worst should happen. Lockheed Martin has a system that they’re designing for the F-35 that transmits all logistics and aircraft “health” data to Fort Worth- which is great for us, but less so for foreigners-many due to sovereignty issues. Anyways, I suppose if you want one of our stealth planes, there’s a price to pay.

  2. AstridAir July 2, 2009 at 7:03 pm #

    I too agree. The ACARS sent out so many tidbits, why couldn’t the info being recorded on both the CVR & FDR be transmitted to a similar receiver? There’s a set amount of time for each type of recorder, so when that time elapses, the “home” for that information is recorded over just as it is on board. There could be 2 sources essentially so if by some remote chance one is lost or otherwise not available (unlikely) the other is available.

    Any true speculation on the type of costs that may be involved for this to happen?

  3. Mary Kirby July 3, 2009 at 9:41 am #

    Good question. I’ll try to get you a good answer.

  4. Addison July 5, 2009 at 2:23 pm #

    When looking at the cost issue – note that if the user base grows to some 25,000 planes costs drop precipitously.

    Moreover, the system use can be set so that only when certain issues occur, data is dumped. That means 99.99999% of the time no data is flowed to satellites. Only the data from an aircraft in crisis is needed. Imagine how helpful this would be with AF447.

  5. Plug July 8, 2009 at 8:48 pm #

    What you all are forgetting is the privacy concerns of pilots. Airline management has a proven record of abuse – they will not limit the use of the CVR and FDR to safety, but rather use the data for discipline. This idea was brought up in the Colgan NTSB hearings. NTSB members Sumwalt and Rosenker are on the record criticizing any attempt by airline management to use these devices for anything but their stated purpose, accident investigation. It was disappointing to see that Ms. Kirby wrote an entire article on this topic (14/05/09), but choose to only state ALPA’s position on the issue, not that ALPA’s position is supported by the NTSB as well.

    If airline management didn’t have a record of abuse and putting safety on the back burner, perhaps ideas such as these would be more receptive to not only pilots, but the NTSB as well.

  6. Mary Kirby July 9, 2009 at 9:18 am #

    I totally understand your concern. It’s not dissimilar to the one I have about being surrounded by video cameras on the street. I live down the road from Lancaster, PA, which has now become the most city with the most camera surveillance in the USA. Can you believe that? Amish Country no less.

    Somehow, the argument that “if you’re not doing something wrong you shouldn’t worry” doesn’t quite cut it for me. So yes, I understand what you’re saying. With respect to that article, it was one of several I wrote about the Colgan crash and the hearings. I’m sorry you didn’t feel Rosenker’s stance was represented, but in that particular case I felt ALPA made the strongest and most robust argument.

  7. Wandering Aramean July 15, 2009 at 9:23 pm #

    I’m not all that convinced that the economies of scale will really come into play in this sort of scenario. Sure, the 25,000th plane benefits from the fact that the first plane needed a satellite launched to work as a receiver, but the 25,000th plane also needs its own bandwidth and deploying sufficient bandwidth does cost more money.

    Just how many of the 88 data points would you want/need off-plane? And at what frequencies? For the voice, would you transmit all of it? Would you lose valuable data (sound quality) due to compression necessary to make the transfer an efficient process?

    Plus, I still don’t think that there is all that much value in getting the data off the plane. The frequency with which the CVR/FDRs are not recovered is so small. Is it worth the investment? I think not.

  8. Taras July 18, 2009 at 10:20 am #

    Tail of Airbus made out of composite material, means plastic. It is not durable as aluminum, simple crack may cause it to broke off. It happen once before in New York. Air France try to hide it now, they occupy all families of victims with their lawyers (www.airfrance447truth.com), means families will get nothing and no investigation will be made other then Air France one. It’s sad that other people now in great danger of flying those airplanes from Airbus.

  9. William Sherriff September 25, 2009 at 3:43 am #

    CAB Aircraft Accident Report SA-372 File No 1-0006 Released June 4, 1965

    Northwest Airlines, Inc. Boeing 720B, N724US near Miami, FL February 12, 1963

    Page 16 Quote:

    “The ultimate effect of an updraft is an altitude and nose-up attitude lncrease.” (Pitch-up!)

    Increased nose-up attitude increases AOA!

    The Flight Envelope Protection Program sensing a potential approaching stall, abruptly applies a strong forward pitch control input, projecting the unbelted passengers into the ceiling of the aircraft.

    Note:
    This nose attitude transition occurred twice in the Qantas 72 incident!

  10. William Sherriff March 10, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    The above comment on the CAB Accident report SA-372,
    which was not known at the time of the FBW program
    development, rendered the program suspect! The huge
    updrafts in the severe thunderstorms pitched the
    aircraft up into a nose high attitude, increasing the
    AOA, triggering the FBW program to shove the nose down,
    to recover from what it perceived as an impending stall.
    The pilot then pulled the nose of the aircraft back up
    to a level flight attitude, now subject to the further
    demands of the FBW program!