Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hudson plane pilot recording

The communication between air traffic control and the US Airways flight which landed in New York's Hudson river after a bird strike has been released.

The recording begins as Captain Chesley B "Sully" Sullenberger reports the loss of power from both the plane's engines and seeks an airport to land in.

The video shows a computer simulation of the flight re-created by a software firm Just Flight.


How birds can bring down a plane

Dozens of passengers have had an amazing escape after their plane came down in New York. One theory is that the jetliner hit a flock of birds. It may sound like a freakish event, but "bird strikes" are an age-old problem for the aviation industry.

An Airbus 320 US Airways aircraft that went down in the Hudson River is seen in New York
The plane ditched in the Hudson River shortly after take-off

Even the earliest pioneers of flying machines, the Wright Brothers, had trouble with birds.

In 1905 they wrote in their diary: "Chased flock of birds for two rounds and killed one which fell on top of the upper surface and after a time fell off when swinging a sharp curve."

No-one was hurt in that incident, but seven years later another aviation trailblazer was not so lucky.

Nicknamed "The Birdman", Calbraith Rogers was the first person to fly across the US. Months after he completed his historic journey, he flew his biplane into a flock of birds and crash landed, dying of a broken neck.

According to reports from the time, a seagull jammed the controls in Rogers' plane.

Danger of flocks

With modern passenger planes, the technology is clearly more advanced, but the dangers posed by birds have not gone away.

Airport authorities around the world try to scare birds away - usually by driving around the airport in a truck with speakers, blasting out calls from birds of prey.

Kevin Poormon, a senior research engineer at the University of Dayton in the US state of Ohio, says the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stipulates planes must be able to withstand a strike from an 8lb (3.6kg) bird.

We're talking about large chunks of metal crashing around inside an engine
Chris Yates
Aviation expert

"Aircraft are being struck every day by birds - the reason you don't hear about them so much is they are designed to take these impacts," he told the Associated Press.

"But once you get to large flocks or large birds striking at a critical moment, that's where these events hit the news."

It is thought that the plane involved in Thursday's incident had both of its engines taken out after hitting a flock of Canada geese - which can weigh from about 3lb to 12lb.

According to the Bird Strike Committee, a US-based organisation, a 12lb Canada goose struck by an aircraft at lift-off would generate a force equivalent to a 1,000lb object being dropped from a height of 10ft (3m).

Rarity of 'double strike'

Chris Yates, an aviation expert for Janes Information Group, says plane engines are very delicate and a bird such as a Canada goose being sucked into the engine would prove catastrophic if it smashed the rotor blades.

"The debris will be spread around the rest of the engine," he told the BBC.

"We're not talking about bird bones here, we're talking about large chunks of metal crashing around inside an engine - it can impact virtually any part of the engine."

But he says instances where both engines are hit by birds are extremely rare - and bird strikes are a problem for large passenger jets only on take-off and landing, because jets generally fly at a higher altitude than birds.

Overall, statistics from the US authorities compiled by the FAA suggest some 219 people have died since 1988 in incidents involving animals colliding with planes.

The FAA received almost 76,000 reports of bird strikes between 1990 and 2007.

For the 18-year period, reports were received of 11 deaths in eight separate incidents involving bird strikes in the US.

sources above found at

Fire forces Australia jet to land

Photo provided by Guam radio and television broadcaster KUAM shows the Jetstar Airbus A330-200 that made an emergency landing on a flight from Japan to Australia
An official said there was a problem with the cockpit's heating system

An Australian passenger plane with 203 people on board has been forced to make an emergency landing after a fire broke out in the cockpit.

The Airbus A330-200 operated by Jetstar was flying from Japan to Australia when the fire started beside a window.

The pilots managed to extinguish it before landing in Guam. Jetstar said all of those on board were unharmed.

Last week, an Air France A330-200 on a flight from Brazil to France crashed, killing all 228 people on board.

Also on Thursday, a Russian Airbus A320 was forced to make an emergency landing after its windscreen cracked.

The Aeroflot plane was flying between Irkutsk and Moscow when it had to divert to the western Siberian city of Novosibirsk.

None of the 116 passengers and six crew was injured, a security official was quoted by Russian news agency Ria-Novosti as saying.


The Jetstar plane was four hours into its flight to the Gold Coast in Queensland when the fire broke out.

"Smoke became evident in the cockpit and one of our pilots was required to use an extinguisher," Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway told Australia's ABC News.

"We conducted an emergency diversion to Guam international airport where the aircraft landed without incident."

David Epstein, an official from Jetstar's parent Qantas Airways, said an electrical connector for the heating system had gone wrong, but the situation had quickly been brought under control.

Such incidents are not uncommon, he said, adding that it did not raise new safety concerns about the A330-200 model.

Most of the passengers were reported to be Japanese nationals.

Jetstar is owned by Qantas.

sources above found at

Monday, June 8, 2009

Deep-sea challenge of Air France debris

The remains of the Air France jet which went missing over the Atlantic on Monday are in very deep water, making the job of finding them extremely difficult, not to mention any attempt to salvage the aircraft and the bodies of those who were on board.

A French government minister has said the black box flight recorders are believed to be at a depth of between 3,660m (12,000 ft) and 3,700m. At this depth, pressure is immense and there is no daylight.

Any search to locate the flight recorders and any plane wreckage will involve a number of technologies. Below we outline the main methods of salvaging wrecks, from divers to the latest deep sea exploratory vehicles.


Scuba diver: US Navy divers were used to retrieve bodies and light debris from TWA flight 800 which crashed into the Atlantic off New York in 1996. The plane was discovered at a depth of 40m, within the maximum operating depth for divers which is typically 50m.

Bathymetric survey: This is a sonar device placed beneath a ship that would sail in a designated pattern over an area to map the seabed. It "looks" straight down to produce a 3-D map of the seabed but typically operate up to a depth of 1,000m.

Pinger Locator System: This is a specialised listening device that is towed at a depth of up to 4,000m by a ship. The device listens out for the sound of the pinger which is part of the flight recorder. It is activated on contact with sea water and every commercial aircraft carries one. It will emit a signal for up to 30 days.

Side Scan Sonar: Once the pinger is located, a more detailed survey of the area can be carried out. The SSS is a cigar-shaped tube that is towed by a ship to map the seabed in a designated pattern. "You attach it to a cable and you mow the lawn," says Tim Janaitis, Director of Business Development at Phoenix International, a specialist marine salvage company. Mr Janaitis said he believed only the US Navy had the sophisticated pinger locator system to operate at the depth the Air France airplane is believed to be.

Remote Operated Vehicle: These are highly sophisticated yet robust underwater vehicles that can operate at depths up to 6,000m. They have video and powerful lights to illuminate the gloomy deep waters that they operate in. They can also have mechanical arms attached that allow the ROV to pick up bits of debris or attach straps to enable a ship's winch to lift the item to the surface. Phoenix International says it has raised a portion of an Israeli submarine weighing 3,600kg from a depth of 3,000m. The US navy has raised an entire helicopter from a depth of 6,000m.

Mini submarine: France has dispatched a boat with a mini-submarine, the Nautile, aboard. This can operate at a depth of 6,000m, but it was not expected to reach the zone until early next week.

sources above found at

'More bodies found' from lost jet

A Brazilian Navy ship, bottom left, approaches debris that Brazilian authorities believe are from Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean, Saturday, June 6, 2008 (Photo: Brazilian Air Force)
Brazilian searchers found confirmed debris from the plane on Saturday

Three more bodies have been recovered from the Atlantic Ocean near where the Air France flight is thought to have crashed last week, Brazil's navy says.

Searchers have recovered five bodies so far, and ships are heading towards more that have been spotted in the area.

They were found some 1,000km (600 miles) north-east of Brazil's Fernando de Noronha islands where Flight 447 disappeared with 228 people on board.

Meanwhile, the investigation is looking into faulty speed sensors on the plane.

The Brazilian navy did not specify the gender of the three new bodies. The first two, recovered on Saturday, were males.

A spokesman said ships should be able to recover the additional bodies within a few hours, despite poor weather conditions.

He said around 100 objects had also been spotted in the crash zone, including seats with the Air France logo and oxygen masks.

A total of six ships and 14 Brazilian and French planes are involved in the search effort.

Speed sensors

The investigation is increasingly focusing on the aircraft's speed sensors, which had been providing inconsistent data in the minutes before it disappeared in turbulent weather.

1 June: Contact lost with plane over mid-Atlantic
2 June: First debris spotted from the air includes an airline seat. Brazilian defence minister says debris is from missing plane
3 June: More debris spotted, including a 7m-wide chunk of metal. Fuel slick seen on ocean surface
4 June: Buoys and pallet recovered from ocean said to be from plane. Officials later retract statement
6 June: First two bodies, plus suitcase and backpack found, along with seat thought to be from the plane
7 June: Three additional bodies recovered, more sighted

Earlier, Air France said it was stepping up the process of replacing speed monitors on board its Airbus planes.

The company said it had first noticed problems with speed monitors a year ago and began replacing them a few weeks before the accident.

But investigators said it was too soon to say if problems with the sensors were in any way responsible.

On Saturday, the Brazilian navy recovered the first confirmed debris from the plane, including a briefcase containing a ticket for Flight 447. Other debris linked to the flight included a blue seat and a backpack containing a computer.

The remains were found not far from where the last signal from the plane was received on Monday, and were taken to the islands of Fernando de Noronha to be examined by experts.

The search for the plane's flight data recorders - or black boxes - continues.

Sources above was found at

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lost plane 'sent 24 error alerts'

The Air France jet which went missing over the Atlantic sent 24 error messages minutes before it crashed, French investigators say.

Investigators also said the plane's autopilot was not on, though they do not know if it had been switched off or was not working.

Weather experts said there was no evidence storms the plane encountered were "exceptional" for the season.

The Airbus A330 vanished en-route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on Monday.

Officials do not know what triggered the plane's problems, but it was flying through an area of thunder storms and turbulence.

Speaking at a press conference in Paris, the director of France's air accident investigation agency, Paul-Louis Arslanian, said a total of 24 error messages were received in the final moments of Air France 447, as its systems shut down one by one.

But he said it was impossible to tell from the plane's signals why the autopilot was not on.

Faulty speed meters

Mr Arslanian confirmed that the missing jet had had a problem calculating its speed, adding that it was a recurring problem on the A330s and that Airbus was undertaking a replacement programmed.

"We have seen a certain number of these types of faults on the A330," Mr Arslanian said. "There is a programme of replacement, of improvement."

But he insisted the planes were safe in the meantime.

The deputy head of the French weather service, Alain Ratier, said the weather pattern was normal at the time that Flight 447 disappeared.

"According to the analysis of the infrared images, there is nothing to suggest that there was a cluster of thunderstorms of exceptional intensity," Mr Ratier said.

"Certainly there was powerful cumulo-nimbus [storm clouds], but these are found frequently in this area and in normal climactic conditions," he added.

Search efforts

Hopes of locating the plane have been frustrated so far.

Brazilian search teams first said on Tuesday they may have spotted debris from the plane. But material recovered from the sea on Thursday turned out to be unrelated to the Air France jet.

Efforts are now focusing on the two sonar beacons - or "pingers" - attached to the flight's data recorders boxes, the BBC's Hugh Schofield reports from Paris.

But at the news conference, a spokesman for France's accident investigation bureau said there was no guarantee the beacons were still attached to the flight recorders.

He said, given the likely force of the impact of a crash, they could easily have become separated.

On Friday, French Defense Minister Herve Morin said a French submarine was being sent to join in the search since it had sonar equipment that could help locate the airliner's flight data recorders.

The US is also sending specialized listening equipment.

Without the data recorders, investigators are unlikely to determine the cause of the crash, our correspondent says.

Sources above found at

Friday, June 5, 2009


1 June: Contact lost with plane over mid-Atlantic

2 June:
First debris spotted from the air includes an airline seat. Brazilian defence minister says debris is from missing plane

3 June:
More debris spotted, including a 7m-wide chunk of metal. Fuel slick seen on ocean surface

4 June:
Buoys and pallet recovered from ocean said to be from plane. Officials later retract statement

Debris 'not from Air France jet'

Brazilian authorities released images of the pallet they later called "sea trash"

Debris recovered from the Atlantic by Brazilian search teams is "sea trash" and not from a lost Air France jet, a Brazilian air force official has said.

Brig Ramon Borges Cardoso contradicted earlier reports, saying "no material from the plane has been recovered".

Teams found buoys and a wooden pallet and spotted a fuel slick, and are now searching for an airline seat and a chunk of metal seen earlier this week.

Relatives have been told that there is no hope of survivors being found.

In Paris, Air France Chief Executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon and Chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta briefed passengers' relatives in a hotel near Charles de Gaulle airport where they have been waiting for news.

Mr Gourgeon said the Airbus A330 jet, which was carrying 228 people from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, broke apart either in the air or when it hit the sea.

"What is clear is that there was no landing," said a support group representative who was at the meeting.

"There's no chance the escape slides came out," Guillaume Denoix de Saint-Marc said.

In Rio de Janeiro, hundreds of people gathered at a memorial service attended by the French and Brazilian foreign ministers.

"Those who are missing are here in our hearts and in our memories," French minister Bernard Kouchner told mourners.

A memorial service was held in Paris on Wednesday.

Oil slick

Speaking in Recife, the north-eastern Brazilian city from where search operations are being co-ordinated, Brig Cardoso sought to clarify earlier declarations that the wooden pallet and fuel slick had come from the Air France jet.

The Airbus A330 was not carrying wooden pallets, it was reported, while a large slick spotted in the area most likely spilled from a ship rather than from a downed plane.

Other fuel found in the sea probably did come from the Airbus, he said.

"It has been verified that the material did not belong to the plane, they were wood pallets that were used by ships and sometimes planes, but in this flight to Paris, there were no wood pallets," Brig Cardoso said.

Navy ships are now reported to be scouring the surface of the ocean, about 1,100km (690 miles) north-east of Brazil's coast, in an effort to locate other debris spotted from the air during the first sweeps of the area on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Rescuers hold out more hope that what was reported to be a seat and a large chunk of metal could have come from the plane, reports say.

Three more Brazilian boats and a French ship equipped with small submarines are expected to arrive in the area in the next few days.

He said the search effort would continue, with the main focus on finding bodies, but bad weather is forecast for the region on Friday.

'Clock ticking'

French military spokesman Christophe Prazuck said the priority was looking for wreckage from the plane, before turning the search to flight data recorders.

"The clock is ticking on finding debris before they spread out and before they sink or disappear," he said.

French officials have said the recorders, which could be deep under water, may never be found.

Officials have warned that they are far from working out the cause of the crash.

Investigators are reported to be relying on a stream of automated messages sent out just before the crash, which suggested the plane's systems shut down as it flew through high thunderstorms.

France's air safety investigation agency said on Friday that the messages revealed an "inconsistency in the different speeds measured".

It has been suggested that speed sensors failed or iced over, causing erroneous data to be fed to onboard computers. This might have caused the plane to fly too fast or too slowly through the storm, leading it either to break apart or stall and fall out of the sky.

A Spanish pilot flying in the area at the time of the crash was quoted by his airline, Air Comet, as saying he had seen an "intense flash of white light, which followed a descending and vertical trajectory and which broke up in six seconds".

The paper said Airbus, the maker of the plane, would issue A330 jets with new advice on flying in storms.

Airbus declined to comment on the report, though an unnamed official told AFP news agency that it was normal to update airlines following an accident.

Sources found at

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Air disasters timeline 1998-2009

A chronology of some of the world's recent air disasters:


20 May: An Indonesian army C-130 Hercules transport plane crashes into a village on eastern Java, killing at least 97 people.

6 April: An Indonesian army Fokker-27 crashes on landing near Bandung, West Java, killing 24 people.

25 February: A flight from Istanbul to Amsterdam crashes short of the runway at Schiphol international airport. Of the 135 people on board, nine are killed and at least 50 injured.

12 February: A passenger plane crashes into a house in Buffalo, New York, killing all 49 people on board and one person on the ground.

8 February: A passenger plane crashes into a river in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, killing 24 people, most of whom were from the same family.


14 September: A Boeing-737 crashes on landing near the central Russian city of Perm, killing all 88 passengers and crew members on board.

24 August: A passenger plane crashes shortly after take-off from Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek, killing 68 people.

20 August: A Spanair plane veers off the runway on take-off at Madrid's Barajas airport, killing 154 people and injuring 18.

Wreckage of the Spanair MD82, 21 August 2008 [Pic: EFE]
Three days of mourning was declared after the Madrid air disaster

2 May: South Sudan's defence minister is among 22 people killed after engine trouble causes a plane carrying a military delegation to crash about 400km (250 miles) west of Juba.

15 April: Some 40 people die when a DC-9 skids off the runway while attempting to take off in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo city of Goma during heavy rain, smashing through a wall and into a busy residential area.

24 January: Nineteen people die when a Polish Casa C-295M military transport plane crashes in the country's north-west, carrying officials who had attended an air safety conference.


30 November: All 56 people on board an Atlasjet flight are killed when it crashes near the town of Keciborlu in the mountainous Isparta province, about 12km (7.5 miles) from Isparta airport.

16 September: At least 87 people are killed after a One-Two-Go plane crashed on landing in bad weather at the Thai resort of Phuket.

17 July: A TAM Airlines jet crashes on landing at Congonhas airport in Sao Paulo, in Brazil's worst-ever air disaster. A total of 199 people are killed - all 186 on board and 13 on the ground.

5 May: A Kenya Airways' Boeing 737-800 crashes in swampland in southern Cameroon, killing all 114 on board. The official inquiry is yet to report on the cause of the disaster.

1 January: An Adam Air Boeing 737-400 carrying 102 passengers and crew comes down in mountains on Sulawesi Island on a domestic Indonesian flight. All on board are presumed dead.


29 September: A Boeing 737 carrying 154 passengers and crew crashed into the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, killing all on board, after colliding with a private jet in mid-air.

27 August: A Comair CRJ-100 jet goes down shortly after taking off from Lexington in the US state of Kentucky, killing 49 people.

22 August: A Russian Tupolev-154 passenger plane with 170 people on board crashes north of Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine.

9 July: A Russian S7 Airbus A-310 skids off the runway during landing at Irkutsk airport in Siberia. A total of 124 people on board die, but more than 50 survive the crash.

3 May: An Armavia Airbus A-320 crashes into the Black Sea near Sochi, killing all 113 people on board.


10 December: A Sosoliso Airlines DC-9 crashes in the southern Nigerian city of Port Harcourt, killing 103 people on board.

6 December: A C-130 military transport plane crashes on the outskirts of the Iranian capital Tehran, killing 110 people, including some on the ground.

22 October: A Bellview airlines Boeing 737 carrying 117 people on board crashes soon after take-off from the Nigerian city of Lagos, killing everyone on board.

The crash site of Mandala Airlines flight A330
The Mandala crash in Medan in Indonesia killed more than 100

5 September: A Mandala Airlines plane with 112 passengers and five crew on board crashes after take-off in the Indonesian city of Medan, killing almost all on board and dozens on the ground.

23 August: A Tans airline Boeing 737-200 crashes on an internal flight in Peru, near the city of Pucallpa. There are 40 people reported dead and 58 survivors.

16 August: A Colombian plane operated by West Caribbean Airways crashes in a remote region of Venezuela, killing all 160 people on board. The airliner, heading from Panama to Martinique, was packed with residents of the Caribbean island.

14 August: A Helios Airways flight from Cyprus to Prague with 121 people on board crashes north of the Greek capital Athens, apparently after a drop in cabin pressure.

16 July: An Equatair plane crashes soon after take-off from Equatorial Guinea's island capital, Malabo, west of the mainland, killing all 60 people on board.

3 February: The wreckage of Kam Air Boeing 737 flight is located in high mountains near the Afghan capital Kabul, two days after the plane vanished from radar screens in heavy snowstorms. All 104 people on board are feared dead.


21 November: A passenger plane crashes into a frozen lake near the city of Baotou in the Inner Mongolia region of northern China, killing all 53 on board and two on the ground, officials say.

3 January: An Egyptian charter plane belonging to Flash Airlines crashes into the Red Sea, killing all 141 people on board. Most of the passengers are thought to be French tourists.


25 December: A Boeing 727 crashes soon after take-off from the West African state of Benin, killing at least 135 people en route to Lebanon.

8 July: A Boeing 737 crashes in Sudan shortly after take-off, killing 115 people on board. Only one passenger, a small child, survived.

26 May: A Ukrainian Yak-42 crashes near the Black Sea resort of Trabzon in north-west Turkey, killing all 74 people on board - most of them Spanish peacekeepers returning home from Afghanistan.

8 May: As many as 170 people are reported dead in DR Congo after the rear ramp of an old Soviet plane, an Ilyushin 76 cargo plane, apparently falls off, sucking them out.

6 March: An Algerian Boeing 737 crashes after taking off from the remote Tamanrasset airport, leaving up to 102 people dead.

19 February: An Iranian military transport aircraft carrying 276 people crashes in the south of the country, killing all on board.

8 January: A Turkish Airlines plane with 76 passengers and crew on board crashes while coming in to land at Diyarbakir.


23 December: An Antonov 140 commuter plane carrying aerospace experts crashes in central Iran, killing all 46 people aboard.

German air crash, July 2002
The 2002 collision in Germany was blamed on air traffic control

The delegation had been due to review an Iranian version of the same plane built under licence.

27 July: A fighter jet crashes into a crowd of spectators in the west Ukrainian town of Lviv, killing 77 people, in what is the world's worst air show disaster.

1 July: Seventy-one people, many of them children, die when a Russian Tupolev 154 aircraft on a school trip to Spain collides with a Boeing 757 transport plane over southern Germany.

25 May: A Boeing 747 belonging to Taiwan's national carrier - China Airlines - crashes into the sea near the Taiwanese island of Penghu, with 225 passengers and crew on board.

7 May: China Northern Airlines plane carrying 112 people crashes into the sea near Dalian in north-east China.

7 May: On the same day, an EgyptAir Boeing 735 crash lands near Tunis with 55 passengers and up to 10 crew on board. Most people survive.

4 May: A BAC1-11-500 plane operated by EAS Airlines crashes in the Nigerian city of Kano, killing 148 people - half of them on the ground.

15 April: Air China flight 129 crashes on its approach to Pusan, South Korea, with over 160 passengers and crew on board.

12 February: A Tupolev 154 operated by Iran Air crashes in mountains in the west of Iran, killing all 117 on board.

29 January: A Boeing 727 from the Ecuadorean TAME airline crashes in mountains in Colombia, killing 92 people.


12 November: An American Airlines A-300 bound for the Dominican Republic crashes after takeoff in a residential area of the borough of Queens, New York, killing all 260 people on board and at least five people on the ground.

8 October: A Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) airliner collides with a small plane in heavy fog on the runway at Milan's Linate airport, killing 118 people.

4 October: A Russian Sibir Airlines Tupolev 154 en route from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk in Siberia explodes in mid-air and crashes into the Black Sea, killing 78 passengers and crew.

3 July: A Russian Tupolev 154, en route from Yekaterinburg in the Ural mountains to the Russian port of Vladivostok, crashes near the Siberian city of Irkutsk, killing 133 passengers and 10 crew.


30 October: A Singapore Airlines Boeing 747 bound for Los Angeles crashes after take-off from Taipei airport in Taiwan, killing 78 of the 179 people on board.

23 August: A Gulf Air Airbus crashes into the sea as it comes in to land in Bahrain, killing all 143 people on board.

25 July: Air France Concorde en route for New York crashes into a hotel outside Paris shortly after takeoff, killing 113 people, including four on the ground.

17 July: Alliance Air Boeing 737-200 crashes into houses attempting to land at Patna, India, killing 51 people on board and four on the ground.

19 April: Air Philippines Boeing 737-200 from Manila to Davao crashes on approach to landing, killing all 131 people on board.

31 January: Alaska Airlines MD-83 from Mexico to San Francisco plunges into ocean off southern California, killing all 88 people on board.

30 January: Kenya Airways A-310 crashes into Atlantic Ocean shortly after takeoff from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, en route for Lagos, Nigeria. All but 10 of the 179 people on board die.


31 October: EgyptAir Boeing 767 crashes into Atlantic Ocean after taking off from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on flight to Cairo, Egypt, killing all 217 on board.

24 February: China Southwest Airlines plane crashes in a field in China's coastal Zhejiang province after a mid-air explosion. All 61 people on board the Russian-built TU-154 flying from Chongqing to the south-eastern city of Wenzhou are killed.


11 December: Thai Airways International A-310 crashes on a domestic flight during its third attempt to land at Surat Thani, Thailand, killing 101 people.

2 September: Swissair MD-11 from New York to Geneva crashes in the Atlantic Ocean off Canada killing all 229 people on board.

16 February: Airbus A-300 owned by Taiwan's China Airlines crashes near Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek airport while trying to land in fog and rain after a flight from Bali, Indonesia. All 196 on board and seven people on ground are killed.

2 February: Cebu Pacific Air DC-9 crashes into mountain in southern Philippines, killing all 104 people aboard.

Source found at

Air France 447 missing over Atlantic

Airbus a330-200

static wick fitted on the wing are meant to dissipate electricity.

Details are emerging about the disappearance of an Air France flight from Brazil to France in the early hours of Monday.

Flight AF 447 left Rio de Janeiro, bound for Paris, at 1900 local time (2200 GMT) on Sunday 31 May.

The aircraft, an Airbus A330-200 with registration F-GZCP, had been in operation since April 2005.

Shortly after the aircraft's scheduled arrival time in Paris of 1110 local time (0910 GMT), it was announced that the flight was missing.

French aviation officials have said they may never find the flight data recorders of an Air France jet that went missing over the Atlantic.

The officials promised a thorough investigation but said the circumstances were very difficult.

Flight AF 447 was heading from Rio to Paris with 228 people on board on Monday when it was lost over the ocean.

Debris has been spotted 650km (400 miles) off Brazil's coast and navy vessels are converging on the area.

'Worst catastrophe'

The French civil aviation officials, at a news conference in Paris, said they hoped there would be an initial report by the end of June.

The officials, headed by Paul-Louis Arslanian, chief of the French civil aviation ministry's bureau of investigation, said there had appeared to be no problems with the flight before take-off.

Mr Arslanian said there would be no speculation and that it was "essential we check and verify everything".

He said: "This catastrophe - which is the worst that our country has witnessed in terms of aviation, took place in a very difficult region... so the investigation will not be easy... but we are not giving up."

Mr Arslanian said the exact time of the accident was not known, nor whether the chief pilot was at the controls.

It is possible that the fury of an equatorial storm brought down Air France flight 447.

The plane's flight path seems to have taken it through what meteorologists call the inter-tropical convergence zone.

This is where two air masses meet, sending huge storm clouds more than 40,000ft (12,000m) into the sky.

Eight years ago, former British Airways captain Roger Guiver was confronted with an enormous storm during a flight from Cape Town to London Heathrow.

"You take weather like that extremely seriously," he says. "You don't go anywhere near it."

There are two potential dangers - lightning and severe turbulence.


Lightning can strike anywhere - the charge flows around the plane's skin and can damage electrical systems.

But aircraft wings have what are called "static wicks"(picture shown above) which dissipate the electricity safely.

Bored, long-haul passengers looking out of the window at the wings will spot them - thin, aerial-like structures, trailing in the slipstream.

Roger Guiver says one dramatic warning of a possible lightning strike is St Elmo's Fire - static that flickers over the windscreen as the plane flies through a storm.

But lightning almost never causes air crashes, at least directly.

The respected Aviation Safety Network database lists just 15 incidents in more than 50 years of aviation history.

The worst was the loss of an Iranian Air Force Boeing 747 in 1976 near Madrid. Lightning ignited vapour in a fuel tank, causing an explosion.

Electrical faults

If lightning did strike AF 447, it is more likely to have caused the electrical faults mentioned in automated maintenance messages which were sent out over a satellite network shortly before the plane disappeared.

But electrical problems might in turn have resulted in the crew losing vital control systems, or a fire.

The pilot's main weapon against turbulence is weather radar - the receiver mounted in the nose of the aircraft can pick up signs of storm clouds ahead, which are displayed in the cockpit.

Crews aim to fly at least 10 miles (16km) around the worst storms, for reasons of safety and passenger comfort.

But it is not an exact science. Weather radars detect moisture primarily, and sometimes struggle to identify ice crystals, which can be present in the worst storm clouds.

At night, storms cannot easily be seen by eye.


Pilots try to avoid ending up in big storm clouds because of the forces they can impose on a plane.

At cruising height, the plane must be kept to precise speeds - the altitude means changes of speed can cause stalling.

But in a storm, the plane can be lifted up or thrown down in the turbulence, making it difficult for the autopilot to fly within the limits.

"It's not frightening for us, but it's awful for the passengers at the back," says Roger Guiver.

Investigators will want to discover if the Air France Airbus suffered such severe turbulence that it caused catastrophic structural damage - the loss of a rudder, engine mounting, or even a broken wing.

This would be extremely rare.

The wings on newly designed aircraft are literally tested to destruction by bending them at least 50% beyond the kinds of forces produced in a storm.

As ever with air accident investigations, finding the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder is key.

They may be up to thousands of metres below the surface.

But the US National Transportation Safety Board says the homing beacons they carry should be detectable down to 14,000ft (4,300m).

Retrieving them is tricky but, as military salvage experts point out, these

days there is no place on the ocean floor where remotely operated vehicles cannot go.

The boxes and key sections of wreckage could be winched up, so that investigators can begin the task of explaining the fate of flight AF 447.

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