Flight 447 Black Boxes Countdown: Search Teams Have 8 Days

On Tuesday, the French newspaper Le Monde broke a story that a French submarine had detected sounds from the Air France Flight 447 black boxes (abclocal.go.com). Here’s the original story:

PARIS, June 23, 2009

Air France Black Boxes Reportedly Detected

French Newspaper Says Navy Has Picked Up “Very Weak” Signal From Data Recorders At Bottom Of Atlantic

(CBS) A newspaper reported Tuesday that French naval vessels had detected a “very weak” signal from flight data recorders, or black boxes, of downed Air France flight 447, which plunged into the Atlantic on June 1. Le Monde said on its Web site a mini submarine was being sent to try and retrieve the vital aircraft components at a depth of some 5,000 yards, but the recovery was being hampered by strong currents. The Airbus A330 crashed into the ocean in the midst of a flight from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Paris, killing all 228 passengers and crew aboard. Ten of 50 bodies recovered from the flight have been identified as Brazilians, medical examiners said Monday. Investigators cite broken limbs sustained by the victims whose bodies were recovered in drawing their preliminary conclusion that the aircraft broke up in the air before plunging into the southern Atlantic. Recovery of the black boxes has been the central focus of the search effort, as information contained in the recorders should be able to shed further light on what downed the passenger jet.

Later on in the day, a France Transport Ministry official denied that the ping detected was that of a black box from Air France Flight 447 (more at Reuters).

The original reports from Le Monde were that a mini research submarine, the Nautile, was sent down to search for the 2 Flight 447 black boxes based on the report of a very weak signal from the flight recorders. Supposedly, French ships had detected this very weak signal during a search near the presumed crash location in the deepest depths of the Atlantic Ocean.

Investigators are still looking for debris and bodies from the doomed Air France flight. Knowing that the flight’s data recorder and voice recorder (aka the black boxes) will transmit a signal for about 30 days after an accident, search and rescue teams are down to about 8 days left. Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1st, so that gives them just over a week to find the Flight 447 black boxes.

French ships, which include a nuclear submarine with advanced acoustic sonar equipment, have been searching an area with a 50 mile radius, and they are sending United States Navy underwater listening devices to depths of nearly 20,000 feet. This particular area of the Atlantic Ocean is not very search friendly. It’s a very remote area of the Atlantic, and the terrain in this particular region is very mountainous. To makes matters even worse the black boxes have a signal that will only travel about 1.25 miles. The black boxes contain locator beacons, known as pingers, and those pingers will send an electronic impulse every second for at least 30 days. Given all the circumstances involved with this crash, locating the electronic tapping sound and finding these black boxes would be nothing short of a miracle.

If those black boxes are never found, we may never know the actual cause of the crash of Air France Flight 447. I definitely wish the search team the best of luck. God speed to you all.

For more on the search for the Flight 447 black boxes and the Flight 447 tragedy:

  • Hopes of finding jet’s flight recorders fade fast (link)
  • Officials: No black box signals from Flight 447 (link)
  • Official Air France Flight 447 News Site (link)
  • FLight 447 on Wikipedia (link)