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June 5th, 2009
09:32 AM ET

Expert: Investigators blind without wreckage

Fmr. NTSB Managing Director says investigaors are blind without plane's wreckage.

Fmr. NTSB Managing Director says investigaors are blind without plane's wreckage.

The Brazilian air force is now saying that debris picked up Thursday near where officials believe Air France Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean is not from the plane. Officials are saying it's “sea trash” and not part of the jet that apparently went down with 228 people on board.

Peter Goelz is the former Managing Director of the National Transportation Safety Board. He spoke to John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Friday.

John Roberts: Are you surprised to hear the news that what officials thought was the wreckage of Flight 447 turned out to be just sea trash?

Peter Goelz: Well, I thought the announcement was a little premature. But it's very disappointing because it really sets the investigation back in terms of searching for the flight data recorder and the voice recorder. They don't know where to start.

Roberts: So they’re back to square one again. What about the other pieces of debris they saw floating in the ocean – pieces of metal, bales of wire? Will that give them some idea of where the plane when down?

Goelz: The longer time goes on, the further away from the actual crash site the debris floats. It will be terribly challenging to find where to start the search for the data recorders and the clock is ticking. The batteries on the locator devices attached to the black boxes have a limited life span – just 30 days.

Roberts: In your experience, will they continue to work in the depth of water that this plane might be in by looking at the ocean floor? Depending on if it rolled in a canyon or sitting on top of a sea mount, it could be anywhere from 2,000 feet deep to 14,000 feet deep.

Goelz: The depth of water is challenging but it doesn't eliminate it. We've recovered boxes as deep as 6,000 or 7,000 feet. We recovered debris from as much as 10,000 feet.

Roberts: Looking at the electrical malfunction signals sent out from the aircraft, do you believe there's a chance that so many systems went down that these pilots were flying blind for a time? Flying blind at night is particularly difficult.

Goelz: These messages sent out automatically are very intriguing. First of all, we don't know how many there were. We’ve had different reports on it. But very clearly, the French investigative agency, the BEA, is interested in this. And that announcement that Airbus sent out late yesterday with the approval of the BEA indicates there’s some concern that there was a faulty speed indicator on the aircraft. That could really be disastrous. And it's happened before. The speed is determined in an aircraft by two devices facing forward called the Pitot tubes and then they have static port and that’s how the speed and altitude is determined. If they're malfunctioning, it can give a false read into the cockpit that can be misinterpreted and a disaster can follow.

Roberts: I read one report there might have been ice buildup on the tip of the tubes that helps to measure air speed. There were a couple of recent incidents on that type of aircraft in which there was a mismatch between the computers reading speed indicators and the computer went with the one that was reading the low speed and put the plane into a dive. Air France is saying that this is different equipment on the aircraft than the aircraft that went into a dive. Is it possible that they suffered the same problem and given the fact that the pilots were having all of the conflicting reports that they could have gone into a fatal dive that was so fast that it ripped the aircraft apart?

Goelz: Airbus has said it's a different manufacturer of the unit. I'm sure the BEA will look at that carefully. The real issue is, were these signals correct in how they were received over a period of time? Or were they all blasted out at one time, which would reflect a catastrophic event at altitude?

Roberts: On that point, can we rule out foul play?

Goelz: You cannot rule out foul play without the physical evidence. When we investigated the accident of TWA flight 800 off of the coast of Long Island, we spent a lot of time, the NTSB, examining the wreckage to see if there were any signs of a bomb or even a missile strike. We found no physical evidence. That's the way you can eliminate terrorism. That's the only way.

Roberts: So until you find the wreckage, you're really blind in all of this, right?

Goelz: You really are.

Filed under: Transportation
soundoff (116 Responses)
  1. Tim

    I was wondering if there's the possibility that there was an electrical failure in the storm, resulting in the computers crashing. Since the computers relay all the information between the cockpit and the control surfaces, there is a possibility that the pilots had no control of the aircraft,

    June 5, 2009 at 12:13 pm |
  2. Andy Duffy

    I am shocked at the stupidity of some of the posts and how little thought has been put in to them.

    1. A plane no matter how large can sink to the depth of the ocean which is so big that we may never be able to find it.

    2. A lack of debris can be attributed to the fact that most items on a plane are not designed to float.. what if the plane made a a very steep dive at and exteremely fast speed that it entered the sea like a bullet causing little minimal breakup or parts like the wings and engine.. which don't really float so and small fragments that did surface were are no significant in size to be easily picked up.

    3. Most people seem to be ignooring the initial suggestions that there could have been a huge lighning bolt hitting the plane.. well imagine that happeing and then supper cooled ice also building up on the planes sensors at a similar time, flying through a storm at night..

    4. suggestions that flight data recorders should be made to float on water and have longer lasting batteries etc.. these are utter nonsense.. do you think nobody else has thougt of these ideas. Most people don't know anything about the limitations on the environemnet that plane designers are working in.. temperatures, pressure, impact resistance, maintinance access, signal strength etc.. a plane flying at 40 thousand feet above ground is no joke..

    and the the last post.. it is very possible to make a black box float.. but do you want it to seperate from the plane which is at the bottom of the sea.. then drift away.. if it is merely designed to seperate away.. how can that be possible if it is inside a smashed up pile of metal debris..?

    please use some common sense..

    June 5, 2009 at 12:13 pm |
  3. more2do

    The engineers definitely have more work to do with regards to "fly-by-wire". For me, I plan on keeping my feet flatly planted on the ground...where I can be run over by a bus.

    June 5, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  4. Tania

    I am deeply saddened by the lost of the 228 souls. I have not heard any mention of them searching the islands of St.Peter & St.Paul Rocks which are owned by Brazil and are near the crash site? Although, desolate....perhaps a chance?

    June 5, 2009 at 12:10 pm |
  5. Huff

    Michael who wrote:
    "I don’t understand why someone hasn,t said that if the plane was underway for four hours wouldn’t be well above the weather."

    The storms were estimated to tower up to 50,000 feet. The Airbus A330 has a ceiling range of 41,000. They could have gone around but that would add possibly 100's of miles. Other aircraft had passed through the area and reported strong turbulence but made it just fine so AF447 followed the same route.

    June 5, 2009 at 12:10 pm |
  6. Robb

    For all who are calling for buoyant flight data recorders. That will only work if the recorders are free of the wreckage and able to float to the surface.
    I heard a comedian once say, "why don't we make planes out of the same material as fight data recorders."
    This is a true tragedy, and I can't imagine the agony of the families, especially if a cause is never determined.

    June 5, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  7. Huff

    To those questioning why GPS could not determine speed instead of pitot tubes which may have failed:

    Piton tubes determine airspeed. GPS determines ground speed. The plane was estimated to be flying at 521mph airspeed. If there were 100mph headwinds the GPS would show 421mph ground speed and the pitot tubes would give 521mph airspeed. The airspeed is the only one that really matters in order to fly the plane.

    June 5, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  8. Jane

    Somehow, this all sounds like an attempt to cover up something they don't want us to know. The first article on the debris said it was definitely identified to be from the Airbus. It also said it was a very large debris field. Then, after being so certain, someone else says they were mistaken, and it was a few chunks of floating sea trash.

    What I believe is that the bomb threat was real and was not taken as seriously as it should have been, or that their procedures are defunct, and they don't want us to know that. We would realize that there is a risk boarding any plane, anywhere, and that there is little they can do to stop it.

    Just my opinion, I realize, but I have been seeing many inconsistencies in what is being said about the crash. And they seem to want to maintain a "mystery" concerning the cause of the crash. Heck, we know birds bring down airliners! Why not lightning, or any other massive weather condition? Why were they so sure it wasn't lightning? Is it because they KNEW something? And, then, again, why the notice concerning airspeed indicators? Did they want to throw everyone off track? What did they figure out from the signals sent in the last few minutes? A sudden loss of cabin pressure and no further communication indicates to me it may have been a bomb. What do you think?

    June 5, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  9. Paul

    Bomb couldn't cut flight controls since there are no flight control cables on that aircraft...all fly by wire.

    June 5, 2009 at 12:01 pm |

    Maybe they should make an airplane able to turn into a submarine?! Now that's a brilliant idea! I'm calling my patent lawyer.

    June 5, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  11. Rodney

    First it strikes me as hilarious to read these comments about how it's possible to lose a big plane like that. Everyone always demands instant gratification.

    First of all I understand that we live in a global age where you can find out anything quickly. You can travel wherever you want in a relatively short period of time. You can also get information in the blink of an eye...but this is still a very large planet that is 2/3rds covered in water. Couple that with the fact that this plane could have broken up 20,000 to 30,000 feet in the air in thunderstorms that were 50,000 feet high and had upward drafts of 100 mph or better. There could have been airplane parts scattered for 20,000 square miles or more in very rough seas...and you may never find but a few pieces. The world, especially the ocean, is still a very vast space that's very hard to find things sometimes, and you're talking about a small plane in the grand scheme of things.

    To Ron Feuer, it is my understanding that the pings from the black box can be detected as far as 14,000 feet. I do agree with several here that have asked why we don't have some kind of GPS transmitted data.

    June 5, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  12. Mark in San Diego

    annamaria: " certain can we be that this airplane wasn’t hijacked or a victim to terrorism?"

    I don't think we can rule either of those out without any physical evidence though I would asume some kind of mechanical/system failure or pilot error would be the most likely cause of this.
    lynn: "How about using black boxes that can, uhm, float???"

    I would think that the black boxes would need to be secured to aircraft and that there would be no way to be sure that section of aircraft would be damaged enough to allow them to seperate cleanly from aircraft to allow them to float away. Not an impossible scenerio, but one not easily solved. imo


    John Harrison: " is a proof that some aliens from another planet visited the mother earth and on their way back wanted to take a souvenir from earth. I guess AF447 is some where in the universe."

    I don't see what "proof" it is your refering to.


    Andre: "Maybe it’s time to allow people to have their cell phones turned on during flights. We’d have hundreds of logs of peoples’ last known location."

    Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't that require cell towers to determine thier location. There are no towers at sea so...........

    June 5, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  13. Randy

    I'm a captain for a major airline & I've been reading some of the comments here. I, too, am very concerned about the loss of AF447 but don't have any more info than anyone else. All the theories I've seen, lightning, turbulence, instrument failure, etc. are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of possibilities. Unless the CVR and/or FDR & possibly the wreckage are found, we'll never know.

    Some of the suggestions offered, while possible, would be very difficult (& expensive) to implement. Floating black boxes would be attached to non-floating aircraft structure & would probably go down with the rest of the airplane. Continuous data transmission would involve a large datastream probably to a satellite.

    A lot of the changes proposed could be done, but getting it by the FAA & the a/c manufacturers is another thing. The FAA is very, very, slow to implement major changes & the cost of flying would go up & passed along to the flying public...

    For example, if someone approached the FAA today with a "transmitter" for airplanes to keep birds away from airplanes (Hudson river!!!), it would probably take 5-10 years before it would be installed in any airplane, if at all...

    June 5, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  14. Float

    For everyone that is saying that the Black Box should have been made to float, it is intentionally engineered to sink. If it were floating, there would be no indication of where a plane crashed because it would be hundreds of miles away by now.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:57 am |
  15. John

    The obvious tragedy is that 228 people are unaccounted for. The next tragedy is the bungling search efforts by the French and Brazilians. I realize that searching that area is a daunting task. But this will all play out in a very predictable fashion. First the arguments will start between Brazil and France on who saw what and where. Then the blame game will begin. Then someone with half a brain will realize that both France and Brazil are not qualified in carrying out this kind of effort. After stalling, red tape, and egos are put aside, proper decisions will be made to get a qualified country involved like Norway or the US or maybe even a private salvage company. I can't express enough sympathy for the families involved in this tragedy. Unfortunately they are going to have to add anger to their longing for loved ones since this is going to be a mess.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:57 am |
  16. Greg

    Michael – because they said that area produces towering thunderstorms that can reach much higher than normal heights.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:56 am |
  17. Cindy

    Has anyone checked the passenger's cell phone service(s) to determine their final location? A good tool for finding and tracking people's whereabouts. I read in another article about one gentleman's cell phone that was "ON" (and he was known to leave it "OFF"). Come on investigators!!! Let's sharpen those pencils and "Get Moving!!" Turn every stone and start thinking outside the box–time is ticking and we owe it to these people to find them. We have to find them. NOW!

    June 5, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  18. Paul

    Reports were that the thunder heads were over 50,000 feet commercial aircraft can fly over them.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  19. Greg

    I doubt it would be terrorism since with no evidence as of yet, it could get pinned on the weather or electrical problems, and the terrorists wouldn't get any credit (which is something they desperately need).

    June 5, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  20. Lynn

    This whole story is incredibly strange and definitely doesn't add up....last night CNN was reporting that Brazilian authorities recovered a float and an AIRPLANE SEAT from the debris field...and now they're backtracking and saying it's all just "sea trash?" Are you kidding–an oil slick and an airplane seat?? Sounds a lot like debris from a plane to me.....whether or not it's AF 447, a plane crashed in that area. Could AF 447 have collided with another plane–perhaps one illegally flying (drug smuggling?) along the same route and thus not reported missing? Is this "info" being reported all a deliberate cover-up of some sort? I know nothing about aviation so forgive me if this sounds completely outlandish; it's just a theory. I agree with all who are comparing this to something out of a LOST episode...very freaky.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  21. Kevin

    A floating black box that is attached to an object that sinks. How is it going to float? These boxes are not loose inside the aircraft.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:52 am |
  22. Bill Reed

    Wake up folks. Not much debris floats when it gets water-logged. Forget the old "oil slick" evidence. There isn't that much oil onboard and jet fuel is transparent. Assuming the plane didn't explode into hundred of pieces, there wouldn't be much debris to be found. It's on the ocean floor. Might just be that there was nothing wrong with the plane and the pilots did everything correctly. You can't engineer solutions to everything mother nature throws at you. A confluence of events may be cause and nobody was negligent. Will be interesting to see the personall injury lawyers try to prove a wrongful death cawe here.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:52 am |
  23. Laura

    I feel badly saying this, but I can NOT help but laugh in shock at some of things that people have written here...John Harrison and Jessica especially. It is a terrible tragedy and I am sure that they will get to the bottom of it all, hopefully sooner than later.

    Gene Brass – they are actually making such devices that snap off and float (I saw it recently either on-line or on TV) making retrival much easier.

    My heart goes out to all the passenger/crew families.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  24. michael

    I don't understand why someone hasn,t said that if the plane was underway for four hours wouldn't be well above the weather.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  25. Denny


    The plane didn't "fall off" radar – there's no radar coverage over all the oceans. The only thing that tracks planes over open ocean is their own position reports.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  26. ahzroc

    Violent storm -100 mph updrafts-

    out of general radar observation range

    debris found from 'another aircraft, not AF447"

    Mid -Air Collision?

    Are all weather balloons accounted for?

    All known aircraft?

    June 5, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  27. Jason

    I don't understand how "sea trash" can leave a 20 mile long oil slick?

    June 5, 2009 at 11:46 am |
  28. paul diers

    some of the comments here..are you kidding me? it doesnt matter if they make a "black box" that floats or not..those data recorders are very securely attached to the unless the whole plane floats its not gonna make a difference. secondly...why is this plane flying directly into a violent small plane is even equipped with weather doppler radar, my hearts go out to these victims..but sure sounds to me clearly pilot error.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:45 am |
  29. Paul

    To poster R,
    Actually the black boxes are usually located in the tail of the aircraft since the tail usually remains mostly intact, not deep inside the aircraft.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  30. LostCom

    You can watch satellite tv while enroute from point a to point b
    almost anywhere in flight,so why is it that a simple satellite phone call
    to say where they are is not used to affirm location ,not used.
    To me its a failure of an already perfected system but cost has
    gotten in the way of safety.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:44 am |
  31. dennis

    Lots of theories – anything is possible. Still....the pilot had 11,000 hours of flight experience – and he flew into a thunderstorm ???? If I were flying that plane, maybe, but not a pilot with 11K flight hours experience reading all the advanced radar on that plane?

    They were QUICK to dismiss a bomb – said there is no evidence. Sounds like there is no evidence for anything. Flying along.....ok,ok,ok,ok....boom and a 4 minute dive from 35,000 feet. This ice theory is bogus.

    My guess is bomb in baggage, blows hole in plane, floor collapses cutting flight controls, dive into ocean breaking up along the way.

    We shall see........................

    June 5, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  32. Brian Schend

    The probably problem with GPS to check speeds is that it gives you the ground speed. What matters to planes is air speed. So, if the plane is going east, but the wind is going west at 75 MPH, ground speed will be 300 MPH when air speed is 225 MPH.

    It's travelling the wrong air speed that will destroy a plane, not the ground speed.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:42 am |

    Maybe it will turn into a reef and the little fishes can live there.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  34. Clody

    In my heart I feel that this plane is somewhere and the people on board are alive.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  35. Brian Schend

    "Where is the plane? Planes just don’t disappear."

    No. They sink.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:39 am |

    I think it was the creature on the wing from The Twilight Zone

    June 5, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  37. Nel

    OK conspiracy theorists, try this on for size.

    Mid-air collision in thunderstorm in airspace that was not on land based radar.

    Airbus radar would not have spotted the aircraft if it was stealthy like a B1-B.

    Wreckage at sea could be partially from sea junk or cover up material so pieces of stealth aircraft could be hidden.

    Black boxes will never be found, so I doubt anyone could ever prove or disprove that theory. It's JFK-esque.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  38. wapoti

    I think they hit a small private jet belonging to a drug smuggler or jet-set type. For one this could explain trash from a plane that is not from the Air France jet. I don't quite buy the "Sea Trash" story. Gol Airlines Flight 1907 was taken out in a similar colision. It would also explain the loss of altitude, depresurization and fire-ball of one if not both planes. We'll see....

    June 5, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  39. Steven

    A sophisticated plane should never rely entirely on a simple pitot tube for airspeed measurement. A GPS always provides groundspeed which should be used as a check against potentially errant airspeed data. The head or tail wind will result in a significant deviation, particulary at 35000 feet in the jetstream, however groundspeed is still valuable information that the computers need to consider.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:35 am |
  40. pointingouttheobvious

    If you're going to make the black box float, you'll need to make it buoyant enough to keep the whole plane afloat. Or, maybe, you could have some type of thing that ejects the boxes from the plane so that they aren't dragged to the bottom of the ocean with the plane. I wonder why no one has thought of this before? (please note the sarcasm before responding)

    June 5, 2009 at 11:34 am |
  41. R

    FDR's are burried deep inside the planes, the chances of one breaking free enough to then float would be pretty slim. the plane would have to break up into small enough bits, which they sometimes do, but not always. plus the FDR's can suffer extreme damage in a crash which may disable any kind of floatation device. and sea trash collects in large swaths like that all the time, some of it my be from hundreds of thousands of miles away and it just floated to that location. it also happens to be where weather systems and currents meet up, making all that very possible. wind shear from up and down drafts in violent storms, plus huge hail could rip a plane apart or simply cause a sudden loss of lift that the pilots may have not been able to recover from, or if they did it might have cause the plane to come apart from the stresses involved. jetliners are not jet fighters, and are not designed for aerobatics.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:34 am |
  42. Jim

    I wonder is the South Atlantic Anamoly has been brought up?

    June 5, 2009 at 11:34 am |
  43. daniel morgan

    well all I have to say is so much for flying. The skies are not, and I repeat NOT friendly anymore!!!

    June 5, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  44. Aaron

    Patel – GPS signals do not penetrate underwater.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  45. Jim

    To the poster Jessica:

    So you really know how vast the ocean is? You're talking about an area so large we can't comrprehend it. Couple that with tremendous ocean depths, depths that have mountains and valleys. Compound that with bad weather that hampers the search.

    Do the math

    June 5, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  46. stephanie

    Have all the authorities and experts forgotten that there were 228 LIVING SOULS on that plane. Please – have some compassion for the family members that were left behind. I am sure they realize that there are most likely no survivors, but at least maintain a facade of caring and recovering the remains of the individuals, not just focus on what led to the crash!!!!!!!

    June 5, 2009 at 11:31 am |
  47. Andy

    Black boxes that can float? They are FIXED inside the aircraft.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:30 am |
  48. Matt

    Black boxes that float would be a problem. If the boxes float, they can be carried by currents miles (hundreds of miles) away from the actual crash site. Black boxes are designed to sink with the wreckage so that the wreckage can be found.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:29 am |
  49. John S

    As an airline pilot with 6500 hours of flight time much of it back and forth over the Atlantic (including routes from South America to Europe and back), I can say with a great amount of certainty that the Airbus A330-200 is a remarkbly durable aircraft that can withstand enormous amounts of turbulent weather. While updrafts and downdrafts from thunderstorms can cause severe movement of the airplane, the plane will continue to fly with little danger of catastrophic failure. There is more to this story than we know (and are being told). There should be major pieces of debris floating from this plane (seat cushions, insulation, clothing, etc). It is just impossible for a plane to disintegrate over the ocean and for no debris to be found.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:28 am |
  50. David

    Could it have been a missle that the local army was playing around with? and then covering it up because what was found had clear evidence that a missle brought it down? Why would a plane seat be floating around the area of sea garbage? Pallets sure, but a recent oil slick and a seat?!?!?!

    June 5, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  51. Andy

    Couple of responses

    It always amazes me how many armchair aviation experts we have around here theorising at what might have happened with no knowledge of the technology involved. Even the real experts (BEA, Airbus, NTSB etc) are probably in the blind with the little information received so far. Without a good Flight Data trace as backup there is little chance of proving, or disproving, any theory.

    "why don’t they search the shore line, maybe something washed up on the beach??"

    Genius. Why didn't the searchers think of that? Maybe because the plane was an estimated 400 miles from land and they are using presumed tides to determine a search area rather than walking along random beaches just hoping 🙂


    Having a high power burst mode that is gone in a short time is useless if there is no one around listening. Also GPS is a line of sight technology which really wouldn't help much for a box 4000ft+ underwater.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:26 am |
  52. JPR

    It is funny how now everybody is an aviation forensic expert, a black box design engineer and a FAA policy maker (Flight data transmitter)!!!!!

    June 5, 2009 at 11:25 am |
  53. The Real Dave

    Sadly, this tragedy has the potential to be one of the dreaded "cause cannot be determined" cases. A mid-ocean crash, with no witnesses, no black boxes, and not even any measurable wreckage leaves any investigation dead in the water before it even begins. They aren't back to square one – there isn't even a square to start with. All they have at this point is a missing airliner and some computerized signals that the plane was in distress.

    So, at this point, any explanation is plausible. Or none of them. Or some of them. Of course, with the vacuum of answers, there will be crackpot theories. But the worst that can happen is that no answers come forth, so we may never learn what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again. The airline industry's fantastic safety record of the past several years has come about because of the ability to learn from past accidents and keep them from recurring.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:25 am |
  54. Sam

    Why can't they take the time of the last computer generated message and approximate how far the plane had gone based on its departure time plus distance per hour? That should give them a general area in which the plane disappeared. If those messages contained airspeed and location it would be even more accurate. Don't planes have GPS?

    June 5, 2009 at 11:24 am |
  55. Dave

    Remember the structural fail of the Vertical stabilizer on the Flt. 587 crash in Nov. of 2001? There are similarities in both aircraft crashed after they encounter some turbulance. Lets not rule out this type of failure occurring again!

    June 5, 2009 at 11:24 am |
  56. Jack Johnson

    I think cell phone triangulation requires towers. Do you get reception in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean?

    June 5, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  57. Gary

    I recently watched a show on National Geographic about earth's magnetic field in which a professor from Johns Hopkins University was talking about the South Atlantic Anomaly and how it was just a matter of time before it affected our aircraft's electronics. See: and
    Note that the Hubble and other satellites has to shut down their electronic equipment when passing through the South Atlantic Anomaly to keep from destroying it. Another possible geomagnetic phenomenon that he talked about was whales losing their proper internal GPS function and beaching themselves and how it is speculated that this is caused by the same type interference. I recently found this article on the internet:

    Air France's Flight 447 tragically went down in the South Atlantic Anomaly, at approximately 1:30 am, after the onboard computer sent several messages reporting several massive electrical failures. Two days earlier, 50 whales were found beached, roughly 3000 miles, across the Atlantic on the southern tip of Africa which also lies in the South Atlantic Anomaly. Of note here is that these two locations, the crash site and the Whale beaching, lie near the northern edge of the Anomaly; see the map I used:

    June 5, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  58. Clyde

    What I find amazing is that so many are debating the mysteries with no mention of the 200+ people who are most likely dead!
    I think what is lost is your souls.
    Maybe you should look for those instead of a conspiracy.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:22 am |
  59. David

    Could it have been a missle that the local army was playing around with? and then covering it up because what was found had clear evidence that a missle brought it down? Why would a plane seat be floating around the area of sea garbage? Pallets sure, but a recent oil slick and a seat?!?!?!

    June 5, 2009 at 11:21 am |
  60. Bernie

    From everything that I have read it would seem that the plane broke up (and/or blew up) in mid-air. The result would have been pretty small fragments by the time they hit the water. I wonder if the data collecting instruments could have also survived that and are still sending a position signal.

    AirFrance and the French authorities should be trying to recruit every US submarine available to use sonar to try to locate the BlackBox. The family members of the victims deserve answers and so do all air travelers.Pretty scary stuff...

    June 5, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  61. Fred

    Don't you people have better things to do? You sound like a bunch of old women.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  62. Tracy Lane

    Why can't planes be equiped with automatic devices to launch something like a flare in cases such as this or even equiped with sometype of helium balloons to keep it floating until emergency services arrive. With all the technology we have these days something needs to be done to help planes out in cases like this.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:16 am |
  63. spiegry

    This is a longshot but....... Is there any chance this missing airline might have something to do with the recently discovered crop circles??? (Insert Twilight Zone music here) Weird.........

    June 5, 2009 at 11:14 am |
  64. lynn

    Agree Sean :)..if we can put air bags around a rover that goes through Mars' atmosphere and more or less crash lands on the surface of the planet, yet still arrives intact, there must be a way to do the same for these recorders. Either that, or make the boxes themselves out of a floatable, yet weathertight material. If naval engineering can make an aircraft carrier float, why not use the same type of idea with the recorders....simple matter of weight disperal.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:12 am |
  65. Hans Odermatt

    It seems the Airbus A330 at the moment of desapiering, was at a Geographical location of no contact with Africa or Brazil,:
    So after Air France received Bomb treats prior to This Incident, is there a possibility that a ship could be at a close by location and shot the Airbus out of the sky with a sea to air Missile without being noticed by anybody???

    June 5, 2009 at 11:12 am |
  66. Edwardo

    What I find interesting in this report is that the pitot tubes seem to have been the only speed measurement instrument. As a former process R&D and control system engineer I find this very disappointing. Pitot tubes are mechanical devices, and thus subject to error or failure from a potentially large number of causes. The GPS navigational system could have been set up to give speed readings as a byproduct of tracking the plane's position, and this data could have been used as a check on the pitot tube data (or more likely vice versa). I had always assumed that this was done because I certainly would have verified such a critical item as a plane's airspeed, especially since the necessary data was already at hand. Was this not done, or is the reporting on such a critical point incomplete?

    June 5, 2009 at 11:12 am |
  67. Edward

    Where is the plane? Planes just don't disappear.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:10 am |
  68. Rick

    Dear Airbus, Boeing, Etc., Whoever,
    1 – Make a black box with a battery that lasts longer than 30days, maybe that would last a year.
    2 – Make a black box that floats.
    3 – Install GPS on airplanes that will report position over a body of water.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:09 am |
  69. jeff

    The part of this whole story that sickens me the most, is not the horrible deaths of those involved, but rather the fact that we have despoiled the ocean so badly that someone could mistake "ocean trash" for the remains of an aircraft.

    Doesn't anyone care about our planet, or are we all just delusional, driving fast towards a cliff?

    June 5, 2009 at 11:08 am |
  70. lynn

    On the point of the plane not being on radar, I think they addressed that issue in the day after the plane disappeared. Apparently, there is a dead zone in that area that radar can't breach. Sort of like NASA's loss of signal when spacecraft went around the backside of the moon, there is a time period where the pane is effectively invisible, which is why the pilot was supposed to check back in once they got through the dead zone. When that didn't happen, that was one of the causes of concern that the plane was in trouble or already down.

    Unfortunately, when the searchers were concentrating on the "debris" already located, I don't think they expanded out. It's been what, four days now? Given the sea state in that area this time of year, the chances that debris is already off the visible surface is probably pretty good. I imagine it is going to take the proverbial miracle to find any evidence.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:07 am |
  71. pat rand

    I wonder why you can't use gps for speed detection, at least as a
    secondary check

    June 5, 2009 at 11:07 am |
  72. Axel Ohlsson

    Maybe the vertical stabilizer broke off, again.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:05 am |
  73. Sean McCabe

    Agree on the flight transmitters, however if the costs/data become to much of a burden how about a simple flotation device around the recorders? I assume their structure and weight may limit this ability, considering recorders should remain intact under extreme damage, however cannot imagine their are no materials in existence to ensure at least these are recoverable in a water crash.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:04 am |
  74. Gene Brass

    Or a bouyant FDR with water-activated position-indicating beacon.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:03 am |
  75. Tom J

    I think it's time to look at "Fly-by-wire" systems where primary control of the aircraft is significantly computerized. It seems that there are too many recent accidents where the computer causes the crash because of bad or conflicting sensor imput, where if the aircrew was allowed complete control of the plane there likely would not have been a crash.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:02 am |
  76. Bob Smith

    "Chances are they’ll never find Oceanic 815." – I would never fly Oceanic, that airline seems to always have trouble.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:01 am |
  77. Katie

    I guarantee about a year later there will be a life boat with six people in it that wash up. They will be the Air France 6.
    Hahaha just kidding but I find it completely weird that a plane crashed near small islands....
    LOST much?
    I'll admit this connection with LOST has my curiosity. I am constantly checking CNN for updates.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:00 am |
  78. John Harrison

    To all of you UFOs deniers, here is a proof that some aliens from another planet visited the mother earth and on their way back wanted to take a souvenir from earth. I guess AF447 is some where in the universe. Please keep those people in your thoughts and prayers. They may come back someday if their custodian released them.

    June 5, 2009 at 11:00 am |
  79. Andre

    Could it be an elaborate plot to steal a large plane?

    You could leave some debris in the area to mislead people, then fly the plane very low (under the radar), and land it somewhere.

    If the plane crashed, can satellite cameras not be used to locate the wreckage? It seems to me that we have the technology to see large areas in great detail (Google Earth for example).

    One would think that with the technology we have, this plane could be found. Why are overseas flights not fitted with some device that would survive a crash, and transmit its location until it is found? A small GPS that can transmit its location perhaps. There are endless technologies that could be in place but are apparently not.

    Maybe it's time to allow people to have their cell phones turned on during flights. We'd have hundreds of logs of peoples' last known location. I understand that some flights now offer cell service – likely through an uplink to a satellite. Likewise, in-flight Internet access could somehow be used to know the last whereabouts of a flight – using triangulation of its last connections.

    A modern aircraft such as an Airbus should have multiple ways of being tracked and located. I'll bet that you could find me right now quite easily.

    June 5, 2009 at 10:59 am |
  80. Bill Brasky

    Wow, fool. Really? I think the Bermuda Triangle got moved into your head and your brain is lost within its boundaries.

    June 5, 2009 at 10:59 am |
  81. MyThoery

    My Theory is simple.

    Solar Flairs.. Why do you ask.. well its simple.. this air bus was an ELECTRIC Plane...


    please see this...

    this might be "far fetched" but is it?

    deeply saddened...


    June 5, 2009 at 10:59 am |
  82. lynn

    How about using black boxes that can, uhm, float???

    June 5, 2009 at 10:56 am |
  83. Dorothy

    Would it be possible to have a flight data transmitter person on ground monitoring flight data to inform and guide a pilot in imminent trouble? Cost could be absorbed in ticket. How much is a life worth?

    June 5, 2009 at 10:55 am |
  84. Dan Ratto

    why don't they search the shore line, maybe something washed up on the beach??

    June 5, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  85. David

    It seems like a LOST episode...I think that someone is not telling everything he knows. How could a 60×60 (more or less) plane desapear without any trace?

    June 5, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  86. Huff


    You think this is a mysterious Bermuda triangle issue caused by global warming??? First off, the Bermuda triangle is a huge vast area of ocean where 90% of the shipping traffic passes through in the northern hemisphere. Of course its going to have the most accidents! Nothing mysterious at all.

    Next it's global warming thats brought down an airliner? The area is well known to have severe weather patterns. Been that way for many many decades. Nothings changed in that regard.

    It's all pure speculation but my guess is there were electrical, sensor and/or computer failures along with pilot error that brought the plane down. Unless wrekage is found I dont think we'll ever know.

    June 5, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  87. Pedro

    It seems like a LOST episode...I think that someone is not telling everything he knows. How could a 60×60 (more or less) plane desapear without any trace?

    June 5, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  88. Walt

    For the "black boxes", is 30 days the longest the batteries can last, or is 30 days the minimum time for the batteries?

    June 5, 2009 at 10:50 am |
  89. annamaria

    I don't want to heighten people's fears, but how certain can we be that this airplane wasn't hijacked or a victim to terrorism? We assume that if an act of terror occurs, the perpetrators will acknolwedge responsibility for it immediately? But what if this is just the first of more strikes to come?

    June 5, 2009 at 10:50 am |
  90. AgentFrank

    It is unfortunate that this event occured. I can't help but wonder how much a part technology played in the outcome. In our particular industry(unrelated to aircraft) , the newcomers are inclined, at times almost blindly, to believe in the computers and fancy software, while those of us who have been here for the last 25 – 30 years have a hard time trusting. I can't say for sure who is right, but in a significant number of cases, it was wrong to rely on the computer to do the work. It is sad to see so many things left to software and sensors and to remove the human and mechanical factor. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those lost.

    June 5, 2009 at 10:50 am |
  91. Patel

    These Blackbox and Redbox need to have better technology. They are outdated. With simple modular changes we can make it detectable within first hour of crash.
    Solution: Place transmitter in high power burst mode instead of countineous 30 days transmission with few special recivers built in LNA around the world. GPS built in will tell exact location info.

    Even more, if it is in sea water use salt water to generate electricity and transmitt it forever!

    I could do it in just few month.

    June 5, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  92. Paul

    They spoke about that last night on the CBS News and I agree that is a great idea but I guess the pilots union doesn't want it because it would mean continous monitoring of their voice and flight information which the report said would violate some privacy...once again, that's what was reported.

    June 5, 2009 at 10:46 am |
  93. Ron Feuer

    I would like for some aviation expert here to tell me just how far the ping signals from the black boxes are audible...just how far can they travel and be picked up by detecting devices?

    June 5, 2009 at 10:44 am |
  94. Jessica

    I know the ocean is pretty big...but im struggling to accept that a plane can just crash into it, and leave virtually nothing behind.

    what's even more weird to me is that this "debris" that now being labelled "sea trash" is just odd, given that most of the components of this "sea trash" are that of a there another plane that went missing?

    Is oil slick usually found amongst "sea trash"?

    Is there a reason why planes fall off radar when they are over the ocean? I can't grasp why we havent figured a way around this? It just seems "scary" to me to think a plane is virtually "gone" while over an ocean.

    June 5, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  95. Ron Feuer

    Could the Bermuda Triangle have possibly been driven further south by global warming and this plane was lost within its boundaries?

    June 5, 2009 at 10:37 am |
  96. Joe Korinek

    With the recent advances in technology, the internet and the reduction in costs related to computer hardware, it seem to me that it is time to switch from "Flight Data Recorders" to Flight Data Transmitters.

    With this upgrade, we have all the information needed to quickly assess what may have occurred and help narrow down the location of any possible crash, especially when it occurs in a remote location or over water.

    I understand the costs involved, but the benefits would seem to outweigh these costs...

    June 5, 2009 at 10:36 am |
  97. Paul

    If the pitot tube was iced over then there was also a failure of the pitot tube heating system which is supposed to prevent ice build up.

    June 5, 2009 at 10:35 am |
  98. wandernn1

    Chances are they'll never find Oceanic 815.

    June 5, 2009 at 10:30 am |
  99. musings

    This is a world in which people from different cultures deal with uncertainty in culturally different ways. French and/or Brazilian officials seized on that oil slick, which to my eyes looked like something from a ship. It gave them the opportunity, even though baseless, to get people to accept that there was no foul play, or at least no midair explosion.

    I don't think our officials are superior, just differently manipulative of the populace.

    June 5, 2009 at 10:26 am |
  100. Mike Kruger

    Browsing aviation forums, I have seen tens of theories, from turbulence to meteors, as to what could have brought the plane down.
    I think likely it is a combination of ice build-up, turbulence and auto-pilot erroneous input to correct due in part to ice obscuring the pitot tubes and/or static port and buggy A/P software.
    This could have thrown the aircraft into an overstressed situation before the pilots had time to recover.

    June 5, 2009 at 10:22 am |
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