Investigators Hope Recovered Flight Data and Cockpit Voice Recorders Shed More Light on AF447 Crash

 - May 9, 2011, 7:43 AM
The AF447's cockpit voice recorder lay on the seabed before search teams identified it and lifted to the surface, two days after the flight data recorder. (Photo: BEA)

Airbus, Air France and many others, both within and outside the aerospace industry, eagerly await the results of an analysis of the flight data and cockpit voice recorders from the Air France A330-200 that crashed into the South Atlantic on June 1, 2009, killing all 228 aboard. Search teams located and recovered Flight 447’s FDR and CVR from the seabed between May 1 and 3, after a tantalizing search. The French minister of transports hinted that investigators could know “part of the truth” by late this month.

However, it remains unclear whether the recorders’ memory units still hold the needed data after spending almost two years on the seabed. A Remora 6000 remotely operated vehicle grasped the CVR from the bottom of the ocean, then lifted it from about 13,000 feet under the surface to the cable-laying ship Ile-de-Sein, on May 3. Two days before, it did the same with the FDR.

As planned, the BEA asked the French Navy to send a patrol boat to transport the recorders to Cayenne, French Guyana. There, a French airplane will transfer them to the BEA’s headquarters at Paris Le Bourget Airport. The BEA’s investigator-in-charge, an officer from the French judicial police and an investigator from CENIPA (the BEA’s Brazilian counterpart) will accompany the recorders during their transfer from the Ile-de-Sein to Le Bourget. All told, the process should take about 10 days, meaning the devices could arrive in France late this week.

Meanwhile, the secretary general of the international civil aviation organization (ICAO), Raymond Benjamin, last week restated the goal of increasing the endurance of underwater locator beacons (ULBs) from 30 to 90 days and increase the range of the ULB signal from one to four nautical miles with existing and mature technology. The technology needed to develop systems to eject floatable recorders upon impact also already exists. In the longer term, ICAO hopes to see aircraft transmitting flight data on a continuous or event-triggered basis.