You have all read this in the papers. About a month ago the debris of AF 477 was found on the bottom of the Atlantic, after almost two years of its rather mysterious crash. Last week the Flight Data Recorder and the Cockpit Voice Recorder were found, retrieved, brought to the BEA in Paris (read; French NTSB) and read out. Last Monday there was a short press statement saying all data on both recorders was successfully retrieved (50 hours of flight parameters, 2 hours of cockpit conversations). I can tell you a lot of people were holding their breath last week. Would the recorders be found? Would they be in one piece? Would they be salvageable? And then: would they still have and give up their data, after a violent crash and 2 years in 3 kilometers deep salt water. They did. We will know what happened. And we will learn from that and make air travel a bit safer again. A big BIG thumbs up to the French government, Air France, the BEA and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute for their relentless efforts to find the recorders, and to Honeywell for making them so incredibly strong and reliable.
OK, so that was old news (will not go into the question of retrieving the bodies or not). Then, French newspaper Figaro stated “sources close to the investigation stated that the preliminary analysis of the recorders exonerated Airbus”, implying it was a sole act of the pilots or an act of the Gods thing. Speculation immediately went into fifth gear. They were asleep. There was only one pilot in the cockpit when all the bells went off and he panicked, not hearing the gong to open the cockpit door. They incidentally locked themselves out of the cockpit etcetera, etcetera. Oh and of course this information was probably leaked by Airbus, following an agenda to push away the blame they obviously have.
The BEA was the first to respond there was no thing and also marked the entire affair as highly disrespectful to the (228) victims and families.
So what did happen? It was in fact this statement, from indeed Airbus, to its customers:
FROM : AIRBUS PRODUCT SAFETY DEPARTMENT TOULOUSE
ACCIDENT INFORMATION TELEX – ACCIDENT INFORMATION TELEX
SUBJECT: AF447 ACCIDENT INTO THE ATLANTIC OCEAN
OUR REF: AF447 AIT 7 dated May 16th 2011
- Ref 1: AF447 AIT 1 dated June 1st 2009
- Ref 2: AF447 AIT 2 dated June 4th 2009
- Ref 3: AF447 AIT 3 dated June 8th 2009
- Ref 4: AF447 AIT 4 dated July 2nd 2009
- Ref 5: AF447 AIT 5 dated July 30th 2009
- Ref 6: AF447 AIT 6 dated April 03rd 2011
This AIT is an update of the previous AIT 6 concerning the AF447 accident which occurred over the Atlantic Ocean on June 1st, 2009.
It has been approved for release by the French BEA who lead the investigation as per European Regulation and ICAO Annex 13 International Recommendations.
Following underwater search campaigns and subsequent operations, the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) were recovered. Data extraction of both recorders have been performed at the BEA facilities in the presence of two German investigators from BFU, an American investigator from NTSB, two British investigators from AAIB and two Brazilian investigators from CENIPA, as well as an officer from the French judicial police and a court expert.
Data from DFDR and CVR have been successfully downloaded.
At this stage of the preliminary analysis of DFDR Airbus has no immediate recommendation to raise to operators.
Further update will be provided as soon as new significant information becomes available or as soon as Airbus will be authorized to share more information in compliance with investigation rules.
Senior Vice President
Chief Product Safety Officer
Read: “We know you are all eager to know if there are issues with our product. We informed you 6 times earlier, including recommendations. The recorder readout did not raise any immediate issues that you should know about with the aircraft. But we will keep you, who after all are flying the plane, closely in the loop.” As would (and do) all OEM’s. And these statements are always approved by the investigation authorities.
Now that is slightly different eh? Going from “…Airbus has no immediate recommendation to raise to operators…” to “Airbus totally exonerated…”. The media. Gotta love em.
Disclaimer: While I love all airplanes and think all OEM’s make the most incredible and often also beautiful machines, I am a mild Airbus fan.