Thursday, July 02, 2009

Air France 447: The French Interim Report

Here's a pdf link to the interim report on the crash of Air France Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris that killed 228 when it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1.

From day one, because of personal history, I have had serious questions about why that airplane was "missing" for so long after it last had contact with Brazilian air traffic control -- shortly before the time we now know that it crashed. In fact, the plane was "missing" for almost seven hours after its last communication with Brazilian air traffic control.

Whatever catastrophic equipment failures, combined with severe weather, caused that crash, the loss of contact with that airplane is one of the key ancillary questions -- and by all indications the French are determined to dig out the facts on this.

What was the precise role of air traffic control in both Brazil and Senegal, which was the next center to have control? Who knew what and when? Why did it take so long? Where were mistakes made, and who made them? Why was the flight plan not transferred from Brazil to Senegal -- or was it transferred and not received? Did a rescue and recovery operation get underway hours later than it should have because of those mistakes?

In that context, I refer anyone who is very interested in these questions to the following pages in the interim report by the French Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses (BEA), that nation's equivalent of our National Transportation Safety Board. The BEA stresses that this is an initial report.

--Page 45: " ATC Messages"

--Page 56-57: " Preparation of Flight AF447 on 31 May 2009"

--Page 61: " Letters of agreement between the DAKAR [Senegal] and ATLANTICO [Brazil] control centers.

--Page 68: "2: Initiial Findings" ... "The flight was not transferred between the Brazilian and Senegalese control centers."

Something about a miscommunication over the flight plan.

I wonder where I have heard that before.

Anyway, here's a key passage from the Wall Street Journal update on this report today:

"BEA officials said they were also looking into why the plane was only reported missing almost seven hours after its last radio contact. Another five hours passed before Brazilian authorities launched a search and rescue mission.

Mr. Bouillard [Alain Bouillard, the BEA official leading the investigation] said that when the plane passed from a Brazilian air-traffic control region to a Senegalese zone at 2:20 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time, controllers in Dakar, Senegal, should have contacted Brazil's Atlantic center to confirm the hand-off. But the Dakar center never received the plane's flight path [reference is to the flight plan], as it should have, and never confirmed it was tracking the jetliner. The Brazilian center didn't contact Dakar to check why controllers hadn't been in contact, Mr. Bouillard said -- a lapse that the BEA plans to investigate further."



airWatch said...

Those informations is not true. Here everybody can hear ATC recordings when flight was transferred between the Brazilian and Senegalese control centers. As always you publish not conclusive reports.

Sefhany said...

Yes they transferred the flight. Senegal is playing the "it wasn't me was the other mate" game. And I cannot see France efforts to recover the blackboxes. Perhaps it's not interesting for anyone (Airfrance/Airbus) to know what happened in fact. Just easier to blame somebody else.