Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Remora ROV fishes out Air France black boxes

memory unit from the Flight Data Recorder (FDR)

From CNET & Reuters

An American-built remotely operated vehicle (ROV) has finally retrieved the black box of an Air France jet that crashed in the Atlantic in 2009, killing all 228 people aboard.

Remora 6000, built by Maryland-based Phoenix International, fished out the data recorder of Flight 447, an Airbus A330 that went down June 1, 2009 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.
It may have flown through thunderstorms but investigators still don't know why it crashed.

Wreckage from the aircraft was first spotted in early April, and the plane was found at a depth of about 3,900 meters (12,800 feet).

Photos of the orange recorder produced by Honeywell International suggest the device is intact, but it's unclear whether data can be retrieved from it after such a long period on the seabed.

The 2,000-pound
Remora was launched from the cable-laying ship Ile de Sein, operated by Alcatel-Lucent and Louis Dreyfus Armateurs of France.
The 5-foot-long, 25-horsepower ROV can operate to a depth of 6,000 meters (19,700 feet) and has two
Hydro-Lek six-function manipulators to grapple objects; two cameras; and powerful lights to illuminate the depths. Its sensors include a laser gyro and scanning sonar.
The Remora has been used in the investigations of
Yemenia Flight IY626, Adam Air Flight 574 and Tuninter Airline Flight 1153.
It has also retrieved parts of an Israeli submarine, a Japanese rocket, and a U.S. Navy F14B Tomcat.

Search parties scouring the sea bed off Brazil's northeast coast have also recovered the
second of two flight recorders from the Air France aircraft that crashed into the Atlantic in 2009, investigators said on Tuesday.

The discovery of the
audio recorder, two days after the flight data recorder was fished up, brings investigators even closer to the cause of the crash as it should hold recordings of cockpit conversations during the flight's final moments.

"The investigation team localized and identified the Cockpit Voice Recorder at (10:50 p.m. BST) on Monday 2 May, 2011," France's BEA air accident inquiry office said. The device was hauled up to the team's ship at 3:40 a.m. BST on Tuesday.

A BEA spokeswoman said the black box would be shipped back to France, probably by the end of next week.

"The outside appears to be in relatively good shape," she said, adding that it would only be possible to see if the recorder was "usable" once it was opened, which would not happen until it was back in France.

A photograph of the recorder on BEA's website shows a bright orange cylindrical device that looks scuffed and battered but otherwise intact.
So-called black boxes are painted orange so that they can be spotted more easily in wreckage.

The Airbus 330-203 airliner plunged into the sea off Brazil en route to Paris from Rio de Janeiro in June 2009 after hitting stormy weather, killing all 228 passengers and crew.

The discovery of the two flight recorders follows nearly two years of on-off search efforts over a 10,000 square kilometre area of seabed.

Theories about the cause of the disaster have focussed on the possible icing up of the aircraft's speed sensors, which seemed to give inconsistent readings before communication was lost.

Depending on how much data can be retrieved and how clearly it pinpoints the cause of the crash, lawyers say information from the black boxes could lead to a flood of liability claims.

Any fresh conclusions on the cause will also be fed into a judicial probe already under way in which Airbus and Air France have both been placed under formal investigation.

Links :
  • Marine GeoGarage blog : why is it so hard to find 447's black boxes

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