Tragedy for Air France; Flight 447 Lost at Sea

There were no voice communications related to the crash of Air France Flight 447 last Sunday evening. But a spurt of telemetry data received from the four-year-old Airbus A330 indicated at least a dozen system failures, including loss of electrical power and pressurization. All 216 passengers (from as many as 32 different countries) and 12 crew members are presumed lost, and search aircraft have located a debris field extending some three miles along the ocean surface. Two Americans were reportedly listed on the passenger manifest. The airliner was about four hours into the flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris and was cruising at 35,000 feet over the Atlantic, approximately 400 miles off the coast of Brazil.

So far, terrorism is not suspected, and the focus of the investigation seems to be a weather-related cause. Investigators have reported that the Airbus flew through an area of observed convective weather at the approximate time of the transmission of telemetry data. A line of severe storms was reported along the route, just north of the equator. Efforts are focusing on recovery of the airliner's cockpit voice and flight data recorders. The waters where the Airbus went down are as deep as 23,000 feet. The Air France captain of Flight 447 had 11,000 hours total time, with 1,700 hours in type. For more on the Air France accident, click here for Senior Editor Robert Goyer's web exclusive.

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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