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AF 447 Flight Recorder Found In the Atlantic 218

Posted by timothy
from the famous-memory-part dept.
romiz writes "The memory of the flight recorder for the Air France 447 flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, crashed on June 1st 2009, has been found on the seabed of the Atlantic Ocean, and brought back to the surface in good shape. This is the data recorder, which saves the flight parameters. The search is still continuing in hope of finding the voice recorder containing the sounds recorded in the plane's cockpit."
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AF 447 Flight Recorder Found In the Atlantic

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  • Amazing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @04:08PM (#35992550) Homepage

    The memory of the flight recorder for the Air France 447 flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, crashed on June 1st 2009, has been found on the seabed of the Atlantic Ocean...

    When you look at the twisted mass of wreckage the flight recorder came from, finding the data unit is a miracle. Thousands of feet underwater, working remotely in a pile of twisted metal and they find a little memory unit. I have trouble finding my car keys some days.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Dunbal (464142) *

      I have trouble finding my car keys some days.

      I'm sure if you spent a couple dozen million dollars, you would find your car keys very quickly.

      • Meh. (Score:2, Insightful)

        by PPH (736903)
        New car.
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by syousef (465911)

        I have trouble finding my car keys some days.

        I'm sure if you spent a couple dozen million dollars, you would find your car keys very quickly.

        Surely at that price it would be more cost effective to just buy a new car every day. $24M @ $30k per car would get you 800 days or over 2 years before you have to go searching for another day's car. If you drive a cheaper car and/or buy in bulk you could probably push that to 3 1/2 years. Or better yet buy or fit one out so that it's keyless. Of course your car won't be as cool as anything that can submerge a few thousand feet and still operate, but hey thems the breaks kid.

        • 1% interest rate on $24M would be enough to pay the annual salaries of chauffeurs 24/7 to sit in your driveway holding your keys, for life.

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          Surely at that price it would be more cost effective to just buy a new car every day. $24M @ $30k per car would get you 800 days or over 2 years before you have to go searching for another day's car. If you drive a cheaper car and/or buy in bulk you could probably push that to 3 1/2 years. Or better yet buy or fit one out so that it's keyless. Of course your car won't be as cool as anything that can submerge a few thousand feet and still operate, but hey thems the breaks kid.

          If you're looking for cost effectiveness, why not just buy an endless supply of spare keys? Or one keyfinder [amazon.com]?

      • Of euros. I think it's worth mentioning that the French found it. Not that they've been fast tho , but credit where it's due ;-)

        • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Interesting)

          by John Hasler (414242) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @05:50PM (#35993222) Homepage

          I think it's worth mentioning that the French found it.

          With more than a little of help from the Americans at WHOI [whoi.edu].

    • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Luckyo (1726890) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @04:55PM (#35992872)

      This is quite possibly one of the best examples of just how far underwater robotics have come. They literally found something that is harder to find then a needle in a haystack by several orders of magnitude.

      • Re:Amazing (Score:5, Funny)

        by Aardpig (622459) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @04:57PM (#35992892)
        In fact, finding a needle in a haystack is trivial. Douse the whole stack in gas, torch it, and then run a strong electromagnet over the ash.
        • What is the gas for?

          • by scrib (1277042)

            What is the gas for?

            Fun.
            Although, I'm not sure how the magnet will help you find a charred pine needle in a mess like that...
            I always wondered why some other sort of needle would be mixed in with hay.

          • by jd (1658)

            If you're going to charge spectators for watching the conflaguration, you gotta make it spectacular.

        • They also used some needles made of bone, so the magnet was useless. Dunking in water did the trick, hay floats bone sinks.

      • The recorder has pingers in it, and even if they go dead, sidescan sonar makes it little more than a matter of time.

        • The pingers have long been dead. They have a battery life on the order of days.
          • by Luckyo (1726890)

            Requirement on black box pingers life time is at least several weeks iirc. This is why they searched for quite a long time on the first time, and intensified the search towards end-of-life of pingers.

        • by Solandri (704621)

          The recorder has pingers in it, and even if they go dead, sidescan sonar makes it little more than a matter of time.

          You're vastly overestimating the effectiveness of sidescan sonar. The CSMU [sea-avionics.com] is about 5" in diameter and 9" long. If the longer dimension generated a 1 pixel wide sonar return, a 1x1 km search area would be 1 pixel among 19 million. The search area for AF447 ranged from about 250 to 2000 sq km. 1 pixel mixed in with numerous other 1 pixel returns from rocks, trash, debris, etc. (if you've e

      • by Solandri (704621)
        The previous "crowning moment" of an underwater search and recovery was the cargo door from United 811 [wikipedia.org]. The door blew out on a flight from Hawaii, killing 9 people. After an extensive search 15,000 ft underwater [governmentattic.org] (chapter 5, page 4-16) they found and recovered the cargo door from the floor of the Pacific. It was vital to determining that a design flaw in the door's locking mechanism caused the accident. (I remember the Oceans '91 paper [ieee.org] being better, but it's behind a paywall.)

        Finding something this sm
    • by daBass (56811)

      When you look at the twisted mass of wreckage the flight recorder came from, finding the data unit is a miracle.

      I miracle would have been some deity appearing in the cockpit on that fateful night and telling the guys how to not get into this mess.

      Finding this flight recorder is simply a great achievement of science, technology and perseverance.

      I really wish people would stop calling great examples of human ingenuity with no evidence of divine intervention "miracles".

      "Miracle on the Hudson" my ass!

  • Does somebody know why it's so hard for them to find it? I would assume that it's properly secured against crashes, and has a GPS/transmitter on board? What causes this to be so hard?

    Hmm, how about from now on they'll just box an iPhone; then at least you know for sure that the location is known ;-)
    • turn in your nerd credentials for thinking that would work

      additionally, flight data recorders do send out a ping for 30 days:

      http://boingboing.net/2009/06/03/miles-obrien-bloggin.html [boingboing.net]

      The submersible will be listening for the distinctive "pinging" noise that these boxes are designed to emit once they are submerged in water. They are supposed to "ping" for thirty days in water as deep as 20,000 feet. Sonar used by surface ships is only good to about a thousand feet of depth - so it is essential to send some "ears" deep beneath the sea in order to find the boxes. These sonar devices can be towed by ships or ply the deep on their own power.

      • by zensonic (82242)

        What about making the container so that it is able to float? Should be a matter of making the container airtight and creating enough uplift.

        • While also being securely attached to the airframe? Airframe sinks, that's a big flotation device required.

          • by zensonic (82242)

            Trying to solve one problem at the time ;-)

            This problem was a device burried at the oceanic floorbed that took 2+ years to recover. The 'i am here' distress signal consists of 30 days worth of 'pings' that in itself requires a probe far down to be able to hear the pings.

            But you are right, if it is bolted to the airframe, then a big flotation device is required.

            • by jd (1658)

              Depends on the airframe. If instead of a tissue-thick aluminium airframe you had something better able to absorb the shock of impact, you should be fine. Your only requirement is that the mass of water displaced by a largely-intact airframe exceeds the mass of that airframe. Well, after making an airframe capable of plunging 20,000 feet into storm-churned ocean waters without disintegrating either on the way down or when it hits the water.

              (This isn't impossible. If the wings and tail are designed to break a

          • You could attach it with water soluble adhesives.
        • by jd (1658)

          Then it would drift, making it harder to find. Having it sink means less chance of ocean currents pulling it. The ideal would be to have the container capable of anchoring itself if totally detached from the airframe.

      • by JamesP (688957)

        Yeah, about that

        They didn't find the Underwater Locator Beacon attached to the memory unit.

        So it may have been torn apart/damaged during impact

        Besides, it's a poor system. I mean, they never got any signal from them, but they had several confusing signals.

    • Re:I don't get this (Score:5, Informative)

      by 0123456 (636235) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @04:57PM (#35992890)

      Does somebody know why it's so hard for them to find it? I would assume that it's properly secured against crashes, and has a GPS/transmitter on board? What causes this to be so hard?

      Inside the data recorder it's attached to a pinger which sends out a sound pulse on a regular basis for about a month after a crash; that makes it easy to find if the recorder stays intact and it's in relatively shallow water, but in this case it's so far down that the pinger was barely audible during the first search (it wasn't detected during the search and only found by post-search processing of the recorded audio data) and the various layers in the ocean reflect sound so it's hard to track. Obviously the batteries died long ago so the only way to find it now was to look for an orange cylinder on the seabed.

    • by BronsCon (927697) <social@bronstrup.com> on Sunday May 01, 2011 @05:09PM (#35992972) Journal

      Got a GPS?
      Good.
      Now, go jump in a lake with it.

      Where are you? What? No GPS lock? Oh, that's ok, it still transmits its last known coordinates and you shouldn't be too far from there; I'll just use that signal. Oh... wait, there's no signal. Hmm, that LARGE BODY OF WATER must be blocking it.

      No bother, anyway, those coordinates would only be accurate enough to tell me you're at the crash site; something I already know.

    • by xlsior (524145)
      Does somebody know why it's so hard for them to find it? I would assume that it's properly secured against crashes, and has a GPS/transmitter on board? What causes this to be so hard?

      Yes, supposedly it was broadcasting at first -- but you are talking about an incredibly weak signal under 2.5 miles of ocean... Let alone that it can get an accurate GPS lock under water, and you probably have a significant amount of drift during that 2.5 mile descent

      Then the additional problem is that the emergency batter
      • by 0123456 (636235)

        In my mind the best solution would be to have all data+voice streamed real-time from the airplane to an external source by satellite for the entire flight, so you don't have to depend on locating the black box at all to determine what happened... But from what I've read, the problem there is pilot unions objecting to being recorded and 'monitored' all day long.

        No, the problem is that you'd have to spend about $10,000,000,000 to set up such a system and hunting for a recorder on the bottom of the Atlantic every few years is much cheaper.

      • by Dunbal (464142) *

        Let alone that it can get an accurate GPS lock under water

        I would think that it can't get any sort of GPS lock at all when under water. The red side of the spectrum is the first one to go - guess which end of the spectrum radio waves are on.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Ummm. Yea you don't
      1. It is the size of a breadbox.
      2. Sank into the ocean.
      3. It had a few KM of water column to sink through with currents.
      4. I doubt that the aircraft was sending it's postion in realtime all the way to impact. So it had a few KMs of air column to "fall through" with a pretty high rate of forward motion.
      5. Just incase you didn't know water blocks radio except for ELF. ELF requires a trailing antenna that is a few KMs long usually. Not really practical for a fight recorders.
      6. GPS doesn't u

  • Why don't they put the voice recorder in the same box, that way if you find one you find them both? For that matter, why don't they put two identical black boxes in the plane, that way searchers have a higher chance of finding at least one of them?

    • The voice recorder may be completely destroyed. Keeping them separate decreases the possibility that a single force or impact will destroy both units.

      Same reason enterprise IT departments (should) maintain multiple, separate backups of critical data.

  • by MarkTina (611072) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @05:48PM (#35993202)

    Why if you have 2 flight recorders do they not have the voice replicate to the data and the data to the voice ... that way it you find one you have the complete data set.

    I know "crazy talk" but I'm a storage bod and it irks me when people lose VERY important data!

    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @06:22PM (#35993402) Homepage Journal

      Development cycles in Aviation are very long. Technology used is generally very old but well proven. Both recorders are probably jam packed with data with no room to spare and no free space to double up. The newer systems being designed will transmit the data which would now be recorded so it won't have to be scraped off the bottom of the Atlantic.

    • by JamesP (688957)

      As far as I've heard they are thinking of something like that.

      But still, that recorder stores around 36Mb of memory.

      Of course, the technology for redundant recording of sufficient data is only available for around 10 years now (or maybe less). Remember how USB sticks were around 64Mb in 2004?

    • by FlyingGuy (989135)

      My Guess is... A CVR ( Cockpit Voice Recorders) is on a 30 minute cycle. Write to the end of the (tape ( continuous loop ) / memory module ) reset your pointer back to the begging and start recording over the 30 minute data chuck.

      Now these days you could put a terabyte of flash in the things an record hundreds of hours, put the pilots have managed to ensure that only ( last I knew ) 30 minutes is recorded. Additionally in the cockpit there is/ used to be a button labeled CVR Erase which after pulling up

    • by jd (1658)

      The individual recorders don't have the capacity. Instead, have twice the number of recorders so that both types of data get mirrored. If the backup recorders are as far from the originals as possible, then if the damage wrecks one set there's a good chance the other set will be intact. (The plane is unlikely to break such that two diametrically opposite parts of the plane will impact the ground or water with equal severity.)

    • Supposedly they found the flight data recorder the other day, but the data module was missing. So I have to wonder, if the data is stored in an external module, in what way was the flight data recorder a flight data recorder?
      • IIRC the data module was part of the data recorder but the recorder was sufficiantly damaged that it became separated.

  • Planes can transmit "in real time" much more information than what they record by using the same satellites used for those fancy global radio phones. That way, everything is captured at the moment it happens, including coordinates, which makes the plane easier to find.
    • by AC-x (735297)

      Planes can transmit "in real time" much more information than what they record by using the same satellites used for those fancy global radio phones

      What nonsense, sat phones are limited to a couple of hundred kbps while modern data recorders can record megabits per second. I doubt the sat phone system as a whole could handle the thousands of planes flying at any one time constantly streaming data at anywhere near full speed either.

      What would be practical, and something I've seen in articles about the Air France crash, is streaming a few basic flight parameters so that if the data recorders can't be recovered there is at least some data that can be used

    • by jepaton (662235)

      An even better solution would be a physical recorder on the aircraft and transmission of that data from the aircraft. In this way the information will be protected from either loss of the physical recorder, problems that affect the transmission equipment (e.g. aircraft damage in the region of the antenna) or problems with the ground stations. Also, the volume of data that could be logged on a physical recorder could exceed what could be reasonably transmitted continuously (because it might not possible to t

    • by slyborg (524607)

      What happens if (I know this never happens in real life, LOL) but hypothetically, what happens if something interrupts the communication from the plane, say for example when it is upside-down in a raging thunderstorm plunging towards the ocean surface?

      You would still need a backup flight recorder. The advantage of the inflight system is that you might obviate having to find wreckage in a case like the Air France flight, but in exchange you would have to be constantly storing telemetry data from thousands of

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Well over the ocean you would have to use sat phone like tech like iridium which is not fast enough for all the data that a flight recorder keeps. Add in that Aircraft tech takes forever to certify and tends to be used for decades at a time. Global satellites like Iridium are actually still a bit on the new side the network may not be here in 20 years. If a plane starts to tumble or other issues it could stop sending data long before the crash, and finally what about sunspots or other solar events that caus

  • Something tells me the world airline safety experts are already debating the update of recorders to offer redundant multiple storage of ALL data from a plane in case of a crash.

    Given the nature of storage density these days, I really doubt it would cost much more or take up much more room to have redundant storage. It would seem to require primarily a couple extra cables and connectors.

  • Why don't passenger planes have parachutes under every seat?

    Answers along the lines of "because laypeople are stupid hurr" need not apply. Is there good reason which doesn't invoke an argument by authority, point out that 30k feet is too high, or remark that there probably won't be enough time for everyone to get out this way?

    • by Ksevio (865461)
      - Passengers would need to be trained in their use - Jets are usually moving too fast to parachute out of - If they're not moving too fast, they're probably going to crash before they get the door open. - Pilots tend to want to land the plane rather than have everyone bail out. Basically there aren't many plausible situations where it would help. If the pilot can crash land, people are more likely to survive than if they all jump out.
      • OTH I wonder how you could go if the pilot had the ability to dump all the cargo. I mean all the suitcases and such, not the self loading type though I am sure they have been tempted from time to time.

    • You can always take your own parachute if you want. My uncle has a military cargo parachute which he collected as a souvenir from Vietnam. It would pack up fairly tight and would be better than nothing in a free fall situation.

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