Friday, June 12, 2009

Air France Flight 447: What's Known, What's Not Known

"Air France crash: What do we know?"
CNN (June 11, 2009)

"In one way we know a huge amount about the loss of Air France flight 447 -- much more than is usual so soon after an accident. But in another, we know nothing at all.

"The simple fact is that the blizzard of airworthiness directives, company memos, weather reports, technical specifications and diverse other documents that have surfaced since last week constitute entirely circumstantial evidence.

"Aviation history is replete with accidents with causes utterly unrelated to what first seemed the obvious explanation...."

This article is a good summary of what's known - and what's not known - about what happened to Air France 447.

And, I think it is a good reminder of the value of suspended judgment. That something bad happened to Flight 447 is obvious. What that bad thing - or things - is - or are - simply isn't known at this time.
"Brazil: 6 more bodies found in jet crash"
The Associated Press (June 12, 2009)

"Six more bodies were recovered from the Atlantic Ocean where an Air France jet crashed, Brazilian officials said Friday, as the race to find the black boxes and gather key evidence from human remains and debris gained urgency...."

The good news is that some pieces of the Airbus - including a large section Flight 447's tail - have been recovered. And, that some bodies have been found.

The bad news is that, given conditions in the area, searchers are running out of time.
"Air France Flight 447: First bodies had minimal clothing, no burns"
Aerospace News, SeattlePI blog (June 12, 2009)

"Beyond an increasing body count, little new information emerged on Friday from official sources regarding the crash of Air France Flight 447.

"(By official sources, I mean the Brazilian military's official bulletins, France's investigations unit BEA, Air France and Airbus.)

"Brazilian military searchers pulled three more bodies out of the ocean on Thursday night, bringing the total body count to 44. The French Navy has also found an undisclosed number of bodies, according to Brazilian military bulletins.

"The plane crashed with 288 on board...."

This blog post is one of the more detailed one-stop sources of information I've found, and includes a timeline (with links) of coverage of the Air France Flight 447 disaster. The links are to Seattle Post-Intelligencer articles, of course: but it's still a convenient place to start.

The blog's author also gives specific numbers - which often helps puts facts in perspective. The first 16 bodies analyzed weren't wearing clothes, and weren't burned. The Buenos Aires Herald article the author cited as a source drew conclusions about what that means that professionals don't seem to have made.

Just the same, it does seem reasonable that, if AF 447 broke up in the air, people might have died before hitting the water, not been burned, and had their clothing torn away by air rushing past the wreckage.

Certain Knowledge of Air France 447's Fate? We May Never Know

I hope that a reasonable explanation of what happened to AF 447 and the 288 people on board can be made: one with a substantial amount of evidence to back it up. That will, perhaps, be some comfort to family and friends who lost people in the disaster: and may help make air travel safer.

Meanwhile, I'll be very skeptical of assertions about what 'obviously' happened.

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