During today’s press conference at Le Bourget-Paris airport, the Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety released underwater photographs taken from what is believed to be the main Air France flight 447 crash site. The released photographs (shown below) depict aircraft engines, one main landing gear, the nose wheel, part of the wing, and a main fuselage section on the sea floor. This marks a major development for the latest effort began March 21st 2011 to locate the main site where the Airbus 330 crashed almost two years ago.
The flight operated by Airbus 330-203 registration F-GZCP had departed Rio de Janeiro in Brazil on the evening of May 31st 2009, for its overnight transatlantic crossing to Paris Charles De Gaulle airport with 216 passengers and 12 crew members on board had disappeared approximately four hours into its flight in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The disappearance of the plane had been even more shocking as a total lack of emergency communication from the flight crew suggested sudden, massive catastrophic failure. Subsequent search and rescue operations involving French, Brazil and US Naval and aviation assets failed to yield significant insight on the disaster. Despite the recovery of victims remains and scattered plane’s debris none of the ‘Black Box’ Flight Data Recorder nor Cockpit Voice Recorder were ever found (despite the 90% reliability of Underwater Locating Beacon as argued by France Transportation Secretary). The automatic transmitting of fault messages generated by the plane ACARS to the airline maintenance base has been the sole indicator of a cascade of systems faults during occurring during the last five minutes of the aircraft flight.
Following on the heels of four previous major search campaigns in the past two years ago, the latest effort was initiated in February 2011 only after additional funding from the aviation industry (with Airbus and Air France contributing $12.5 million) had been secured in order to locate the site while the French Government would assume the costs for the remaining site survey and possible raising of the ship.
The operation began officially on March 21st 2011 when the Seattle-based Alucia Exploration ship anchored at the staging port of Suape in Brazil. In the latest new mission operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Alucia played a critical role as Launch And Recovery System (LARS) for the three REMUS 6000 -2,000 pounds, 28 inches diameter ‘portable or mini’ Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) that had been re-assembled to cover 10,000 square kilometers area of underwater sea floor. The two Remus 6000 belonging to the San Diego-based Waitt Foundation and a third one belonging to the German Oceanographic Institute Geomar were programmed to serve until July 2011 operating in 3 phases covering 36 days each. Remus 6000 provides long enduring deep sea underwater search vehicle which according to WHOI can use its 11 kWh rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery pack to carry out 22 hours long search mission traveling at 4 knots (less than 5 miles per hour). Equipment on board consists of a variety of advanced sensors that comprises a High Resolution digital still camera, up- and down-looking Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP), sidescan sonar, a CT profiler, and a light scattering sensor. Remus control computer use PC-104 motherboard technology and can be interfaced to laptop running Windows XP operating system.