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  • AF447: Will The Black Boxes Yield Clues?
    Posted by Robert Wall 9:17 AM on Apr 27, 2011

    There have been a lot of questions hanging over aspects of the crash of Air France flight 447, including whether the cockpit voice and flight data recorders will yield useful information when and if they are retrieved from the Atlantic's seabed 4,000 meters below the surface.

    But officials familiar with the situation note the biggest risk to the so called black boxes is not the depth of the wreckage. In fact, the biggest threat could be the recovery effort itself.

    With the French air accident investigation office (BEA) led team now in place as part of the fifth search phase for AF447 debris, safety officials are hopeful they will soon locate the recorders that are housed in the aft section of the Airbus A330-200 that crashed June 1, 2009 on its flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris and killing all on board.

    The biggest risk, at this point, will come when the black boxes are retrieved. As soon as they are recovered, they will need to be quickly submerged again in salt water and sealed to avoid contamination during the period when the devices are moved to France for closer examination.

    Safety officials are encouraged that the so called black boxes will yield some information. The depth, in fact, could be a benefit. The biggest threat to the integrity of the data is from corrosion, but the lack of oxygen at the sea floor will likely have shielded the devices from that form of contamination. 
    One official points out that even if some of the recorders are damaged or suffer from corrosion, experts have developed techniques to repair some of the damage and maximize the ability to extract data. What is more, the way the information is stored means that even if there are periodic losses of data, because one memory chip is faulty, the recorders should allow investigators to puzzle together the sequence of events as long as the majority of the storage elements can be tapped. 

    Tags: tw99, AF447, safety, Airbus, Air France

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