NYT magazine on the hunt from Air France 447

The New York Times magazine has an amazing narrative story about the hunt for Air France 447, and how the crash has affected victims' families, air safety science, and French regulators. It's beautiful, haunting, and—by the end—damn near guaranteed to make you cry.


  1. Great article… my only dissenting comment is that it paints a picture that their were a lot of early arguments between the camps that thought 447 broke up in-flight, vs. hitting the water intact. My understanding is that that debate was almost definitively settled by materials analysis done on the shear points for the otherwise largely intact vertical stabilizer that was found floating in the debris field relatively early on in the initial surface search. That analysis showed a rapid decelerative force that ripped the fin off forward, and not laterally as had been posited (a la AA 587 that lost its vertical stabilizer and crashed in Queens). The current thinking is that the flight pancaked into the ocean, and we’ll see if that is borne out by the FDR and CVR data and subsequent modeling.

    On a personal note, while there is some historic precedent for not entirely trusting AF, Airbus or the French authorities (usually focusing on the post accident process for the 4590 Concorde accident or for AF296 when the recorders were outside the investigative chain of custody for 10 days despite being recovered intact 2 hours after the accident), and my own admittedly American biased feeling that judicial process should follow and not parallel the investigative process as it does in France, I do feel its nonsense to believe there is a coverup going on here… And by coverup, I mean the conspiracy theories centering around falsifying the data about the crash or that the plane had already been discovered two years ago, for example. Certainly AF are being cagey about public disclosures about “what lessons they have learned” as that opens them up to liability. Disagreeable but totally understandable. But at the end of the day, Airbus in particular needs to know what went wrong as much as anyone. And AF certainly doesn’t want to be in the business of crashing planes. The fact that the conspiracy theorists’ versions of events has changed to form a new conspiracy with each new piece of data and discovery of hard physical evidence strains their credibility further.

    Anyway, public disclosure of the FDR/CVR data shouldn’t be all that far off. Oh, and for excellent ongoing analysis from pilots and engineers, I highly suggest the airliners.net and PPRuNe forums.

  2. Grr — I got halfway through it, and then it makes me log in. Did I hit the paywall?

    Anyway, I’m going to commit the sin of hubris and say I’m pretty sure what happened — an intermittent contact somewhere, probably a loose or damaged wire. Proof: everything working fine, then 24 varied faults in 4 minutes. I had a car that did this. The first symptom looked like failure of a single part, so it was replaced. A few weeks later, random failures of almost every electric component that would mysteriously fix themselves, for awhile. Works just fine at the shop, of course.


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