Monday, June 8, 2009

What really happened on Air France Flight 447?

The Air France 447 mystery may never be solved beyond a shadow of doubt, but there are some telling, tragic clues to consider based on what we know about the airplane systems and the extreme weather and aerodynamic conditions it encountered before it went down a week ago.

First, a bit of aerodynamics: The doomed Airbus A-330-200 was flying ever so close to its maximum altitude – in a zone pilots call the “Coffin Corner”. It refers to the edge of so-called “flight envelope” of an aircraft. At this altitude, the air is much thinner and that significantly narrows the swath of speed at which the airplane can safely operate.

Check out the complete post at

(I was always a big fan of Miles O'Brien at CNN, who did a masterful job with science and space-related stories. I was shocked when they let him go last year - to save money, I guess, but what a loss. He is starting his own blog site where you can hear he take on science, astronomy, and aviation-related stories. Here is a thoughtful post on what may have really happened during Air France #447's doomed flight from Brazil to Paris. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is a very believable scenario, based on what little we know from the transcript of the last moments).

Click here to read the rest of Miles' post, including a detailed meteorological explanation of a MCS, a Mesoscale Convective System - a broad swarm of severe thunderstorms that tends to form at night. Tim Vasquez has posted comprehensive information on weather conditions encountered by the Air France flight the night of the apparent crash, another very good read.

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