The disappearance of AF 477


This from a Brazilian air force official in the last few hours: “no material from the plane has been recovered”. The debris we were told was the plane, isn’t. Your thoughts on the fact a modern plane on a major airline can take off on a Sunday, and five days later no-one has any idea where it is.

22 Responses to “The disappearance of AF 477”

  1. 1 Steve in Boston
    June 5, 2009 at 13:11

    There is something really fishy going on here. First we hear there was one automated message from the plane, then we hear there were two, then we hear there were a whole flurry of them, and we still don’t know what they all were.

    Next we hear that the plane flew into violent weather, but later we hear that there were other planes in the area flying the same route–and they experienced no problems flying through the weather.

    We hear reports that heavy seas are hampering ships from arriving on the scene, and other reports that the seas are not heavy, and are not even breaking.

    Then we hear reports of two separate debris fields, oil slicks, a 23-foot section of the plane, seats, buoys etc., only to be followed by reports that no signs of the plane can be found.

    Then we hear a nervous French government investigator prognosticating that the black boxes (voice recorder and data recorder) may never be found. What?!?!? A simple Google search shows the technology exists to find them. Black boxes are designed to survive under those conditions, give off a homing signal for 30-days and there are unmanned subs that can easy go six miles deep as shown here:

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,524958,00.html . What???

    Maybe they can pull them up and maybe they can’t, but what government official gets so pessimistic so soon? Wishful thinking perhaps?

    There is either gross governmental incompetence, or gross journalistic incompetence, or a major cover up.

    I suspect the black boxes may “never be found” only if the French find them first.

    • 2 Ace Frahm
      June 7, 2009 at 09:01

      It is not O.K. to abreviate “Air France” as AF, because AF is the common abreviation for “Air Force”, which would seem to indicate an american military aircraft in particular, or any military aircraft from a number of other nations generally.

  2. 3 John in Salem
    June 5, 2009 at 13:43

    Pilots normally fly around storms instead of through them because things can happen. We may never know WHY these pilots made that choice but WHERE they are is no mystery.
    Also – from a height greater than 200 feet hitting water is like hitting concrete. Many commercial jets have gone down over the years and left nothing larger than the palm of your hand. This plane had almost a full load of fuel and might have flown into the water at over 200 mph or fallen from 35,000 feet. Again, no mystery.
    Just because we tell ourselves that flying isn’t dangerous doesn’t make it so.

  3. 4 Ramesh, India
    June 5, 2009 at 13:58

    Suddenly the tone has changed, huh? The disappearence of the plane and yestreday it was the crash of the plane! Are the experts investigating the disappearance/crash are really experts? Anyway, a disapperance theory gives a glimmer of hope to the families of the passengers and crew. I wish it is just a disappearance like a submarine in james bond movies.

  4. 5 Ramesh, India
    June 5, 2009 at 14:44

    Is my last message blocked for being harsh on experts? You publish freely much harsher statements on politicians but not on so called experts????

  5. 6 Bob in Queensland
    June 5, 2009 at 14:50

    I suspect this is much more to do with 24 hour news outlets being desperate for information and willing to air, without checking, every rumour as fact than any evil conspiracy. It’s a big world and a big ocean…and, alas, 99% of an airplane sinks when in the water.

    • 7 Dennis Junior
      June 5, 2009 at 15:58

      Bob in Queensland, as always…The wisdom is correct that you
      are “talking” about….Regarding the 24-hour-talk fest about the
      “missing” plane…

      Side Note: I am sending my heartfelt prayers to the families…

      ~Dennis Junior~

  6. 8 Tom K in Mpls
    June 5, 2009 at 15:41

    I get a twisted chuckle out of the way people react when technology is unable to give simple, clear and immediate answers. I won’t pretend to know if it is a conspiracy, a comm system redundancy failure or ma nature strutting her stuff. But I’m gonna just sit back and watch. As for the press, for various reasons, all of them ( us? )are too ready to twitch. It is definitely not a perfect situation.

    June 5, 2009 at 17:46

    I do not believe anyone any more about this issue. We are back to blaming the press people once again; the usual brinkmanship. The truth is that a jetliner with many humans on board has dissappeared raising very serious issues concerning the safety and credibility of the stake holders. The search teams have been vocal about what might have happened, the French President went on air to reasure his citizens of the disaster, wreckage was spotted in the Pacific — this is not all the press.
    There are several intrigues with regards to this saga. In the first place, it appears as if the plane dissapeared into thin air without any detection by the many tracking devices this industry employs, ranging from diagnostic tracking to the radars and what have you. When does a plane dissappear from the radar and does is give reliable information as to the direction and distance from a given airport? Did all this fail fail or have the clocks rolled back in time during this one single incident?
    In my part I believe there is backroom speak which has not been released to say what is the likely cause. Here in Kenya, we had such a scenario when our airline crashed 5 kilometers from the air terminal. We were taken through information all over the Congo forest for almost a week. Such stories were told and we now believe that it was just a smoke screen which served no purpose in the end.

    • 10 Tom K in Mpls
      June 5, 2009 at 18:20

      The press reported on speculations stated as such. They also reported statements of condolence. My point if you will recheck things is this is all valid and of little or no value to most people. Then some people decide to jump on this with guesses ranging from silly to insightful. It makes good entertainment for sure, but most has little real value.

  8. 11 Thomas Murray
    June 5, 2009 at 21:32

    A couple of days ago I really went off on Airbus and their enthusiasm for their “glass cockpit.” I feel remiss about that and am glad you are giving us a forum for redress.

    The deal is — despite the scant radio-data from the doomed A-330 — the scenario that the experts are beginning to shape is that the aircraft might have flown through two countervailing air-streams. If its cruising speed was 465 knots into a 100 kt headwind, ground speed would have been around 365 kts, a speed acquired only via GPS since ground speed radar is unreliable over a roiling ocean.

    Then if the aircraft plowed into an air-stream at an appreaciable fraction of 100 kts THE OTHER DIRECTION, the relative air-speed could’ve dropped to 265 kts, a speed dangerously close to a full-flap stall speed of 200 knots, and this for a fully loaded, fully fueled aircraft. Especially if the aircraft was overweight to begin with.

    This appears to be the most conservative scenario gleaned by reading between the lines of newspaper dispatches and Internet posts. It is also the explanation with the best plausibility.

    There are two contradictory warnings given to sailors and pilots when they’re first starting out. They are: There’s no such thing as a boat that can outrun a storm. For airmen the opposite holds: There’s no such thing as a plane that CAN’T outrun a storm. Lack of vigilance either way, and the storm’s going to win.

    I just hope they find those flight recorders.

    –Louisville, Kentucky, US.

  9. June 6, 2009 at 04:05

    I realize that the “black boxes” have to be armored to ensure that they survive a disaster but find it curious that they are not designed to be buoyant. Is that beyond the ability of present day technology? Obviously, if floating with a homing signal, they would be much easier to find them than sunken on the ocean floor.

  10. June 6, 2009 at 18:19

    It is a mystery, what is going on? in this day and age of technology we cannot find a whole airplane? on early Monday we were told that the French Governement had requested the US Governement to share the satellite pictures of that time, what happened on that?

    This is impossible that no debris is found? I assume even if the whole plane blew up there should be debris.

    The real confusing thing is that, whether it was hijack or not can also only be found “if the plane pops out somewhere”, all this is actually happening?

    Also the other blogs say that radar systems are obsolete, and yet all of us frequently fly all over, its not that accidents don;t happen, its how can it be a mystery?

    228 people, maybe the loved ones will not come back, but loved ones to hear what happened.

    • 14 Thomas Murray
      June 8, 2009 at 22:51

      In the event that this discussion is not closed:

      The reason it’s so hard to find wreckage is that hitting water at any speed over 50 mph is like hitting concrete. And an ocean will just keep scattering away any debris that isn’t pulverized in the crash.

      When you learn sky-diving, one among hundreds of trinkets of information they impart is this: If your main chute fails, and your emergency chute fails, and you have the choice of gliding over a lake, or dry land, chose to hit the land. There’s a remote possibility that the dirt there will be softer than meeting water at a terminal velocity of some 125 miles an hour. For real.

      The only solace we might take of AF 477’s passengers is that they didn’t feel a thing. There probably wasn’t even enough time for them to feel afraid.

      Gotta find those flight recorders! We should all send good vibes their direction.

      –Landlocked in Louisville, Kentucky, US.

  11. 15 Walter L. Johnson
    June 7, 2009 at 10:26

    I was actually very impressed that the plane without pilot approval sent the Air France maintenance headquarters a notice of what repairs to schedule. That may prove to be the only clue as to why the flight crashed, since researchers now believe the auto pilot failed because of conflicting information about wind speed. Finding the flight data recorders will confirm the theory or find a comparable alternative explanation, other than the plane simply falling apart in a severe storm. Safety specialist may be able to change autopilot programming to deal with conflicting information in the future, saving lives on this plane’ severe weather flight path.

    It is never easy to find a plane that has crashed in the open ocean, but if the plane has gone down in the region at the depth believed. of the plane is deeper than the signal range of the plane’s flight data recorder find me signal which has only about a two mile range in the air. I believe this is why the French have sent a sub to start looking, since a sub can listen for the signal from greater depth..

    It will be interesting, if the flight data recorders are found, how well they were able to survive under 12,000 feet of water, which is a very high pressure environment. Given how large many storms are along the plane’s route, too large to fly around, passengers may want to consider avoiding the particular route.

  12. 16 Arjun
    June 8, 2009 at 08:22

    I don’t know what to think about this accident anymore. However, given the published facts, whether they are true or accurate or not, as a pilot, if you ask me what happened, here is what i think. There was an electrical failure. This could mean that the pitot tubes were not heated, nor were the wings or the engine nacelles. This could mean that the airplane could have been affected by structural icing. The aircraft was flying in the upper portion of the thunderstorms it encountered where only ice crystals exist. This could perfectly explain the structural icing. The pitot tubes could have become iced over affecting airspeed indications, and if the autopilot was flying at that time, it would try to hold an altitude and airspeed based on the ambient air pressure and the difference between ambient air pressure and ram air respectively. This would mean that the autopilot in theory could have over sped or stalled the aircraft. Here, i think an overspeed is more likely. If the aircraft was flying above its Va (structural maneuvering airspeed) and it encountered a significant updraft or downdraft as found inside thunderstorms, it could have experienced structural failure by over stressing the aircraft. If this aircraft experienced a structural failure similar to that of Aloha Airlines flight 243, then it is quite possible that there would be a flurry of error messages, especially one concerning pressurization. The aircraft could have then broken up on the way down or been destroyed on impact. We know the pilots might have taken control once the autopilot was disconnected but not successfully managed to ditch.

    Do any of you have any thoughts on this? I usually don’t guess with stuff like this, but i don’t think we are going to find out what happened to this airplane for some time.


  13. 17 UMOH AMOS (Ondo State, Nigeria)
    June 8, 2009 at 13:58

    What is the technological sense in making Black boxes that sink, instead of Black boxes that float?? I need an explanation on this please

  14. 18 Arjun
    June 9, 2009 at 08:13

    Dear Umoh Amos,

    The so called “black boxes” are bright orange and are mounted/installed into the tail section of the aircraft for safety. The reason for this is because the tail section of an aircraft is usually left intact in most accidents, protecting the boxes from direct impact forces during a crash. The boxes are called the CVR and the FDR, or the Cockpit Voice Recorder and Flight Data Recorder. The CVR records only the LAST 30 minutes of voice communications from/to/within the cockpit and the FDR contains many hours of data obtained from many many parameters of the aircraft like airspeed, power setting, flight control movements, etc. The reason why they do not float is because they were never designed to, to my knowledge anyway. They are meant to survive a crash and protect the data recorders inside, so they are usually quite heavy and made from strengthened metals. Even if they could float, many of them would still be trapped inside the tail section of the aircraft, which would not be of any use to anyone. I hope this answers your question.



  15. 19 Jim Newman
    June 9, 2009 at 12:49

    Hello again
    I’ve just been following the latest theories on French radio about the cause of the crash.
    It seems that the pitot head is now being blamed. After reading the comment from Arjun I almost didn’t write this because he obviously knows a lot about modern instrumentation.
    In spite of that there remains an important question I must ask because of my own experience.
    The pitot head measured the air pressure corresponding to the speed of the aircraft through the air. This was called airspeed.
    The airspeed had to be modified by wind speed and direction to give ground speed. Ground speed and direction given by the compass, and the point of departure, were used to calculate ground position. This was important for an aircraft flying between two points on the earth’s surface. The only way that the failure of any of these calculations or instruments could endanger an aircraft is if it lost it’s way and ran out of fuel or flew into a mountain.
    Now ground position is given by satelite and I believe that the aircraft had enough fuel.
    It seems that something catastrophic happened. How can this possibly be blamed on the failure or icing up of a pitot head.
    Yours from the string and canvass brigade.

  16. June 11, 2009 at 04:05


    Even if everything fails, will the aircraft not glide? and safely touch the sea instead of nose dive?

  17. 21 Thami Sibanda - RSA
    June 18, 2009 at 16:45

    Where are the best Ocean Scientist in th world to solve this ‘mystery’. This is honestly unbelieveable for such a big plane to dissappear. Can someone from USA, Russia, China or German help!! We can not fold our arms at a loss of innoccent human beings. May ther souls rest in peace.

  18. 22 globalcomedy
    June 29, 2009 at 19:49

    Here’s another aspect to this. When mysteries like this happen, people don’t want to face their worst fears about them.

    A plane crash. 9/11. I’m not saying that both were inside jobs. But if it was proven that both were, I don’t think people could deal with it.

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