Monday, April 4, 2011

Air France Flight 447 Wreckage Found: My Take

When an airliner disappears, and nearby pilots report a bright flash, I think there's a tendency these days to assume that terrorists blew up the plane. Particularly when the names of people linked to terrorism are on the passenger list.

It's 'obvious.' Provided that a writer weaves a tale focusing on terrorism, the names, and that bright flash.

I think the reported flash isn't quite so conclusive, since there were thunderstorms in the area, as well as the missing airliner.

This post is a followup on Air France Flight 447, that disappeared over the Atlantic in 2009.

What's left of the Airbus was found - fairly intact - as well as quite a few bodies. It looks like the airliner was in one piece, and pressurized, when it hit the water:
"Search finds bodies 2 years after mystery crash"
Niki Cook, CNN World (April 4, 2011)

"Nearly two years after an Air France plane mysteriously fell out of the sky, killing 228 people, the bulk of the wreckage has been found with bodies still aboard, French officials said Monday.

"The human remains will be brought to the surface and identified, French Ecology and Transportation Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said at a news conference.

"Submarines searching for the wreck spotted two engines, the fuselage and landing gear over the weekend, officials said.

"But the flight data recorders have not been recovered, leaving investigators as puzzled as ever about why the plane crashed in stormy weather on June 1, 2009....

"...'The fact that we found various pieces, a lot of pieces of the plane in a quite concentrated area is a good hope for finding the black boxes, but we have no assurance,' she [Kosciusko-Morizet] said.

"It is impossible to tell how many bodies remain in the wreck, he [soon-to-be head of the recovery operation Alain Bouillard] added. Fifty bodies were recovered in previous searches, leaving 178 victims still missing....

"...The debris is dispersed over "quite a compact area" of about 600 meters by 200 meters (1,960 feet by about 650 feet), he said.

"All the wreckage will be brought to the surface and sent to France for study, said Jean-Paul Troadec, head of the French air accident investigation agency, the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses, or BEA....

"...Studies of the debris and bodies found after the crash led the BEA to conclude the plane hit the water belly first, essentially intact. Oxygen masks were not deployed, indicating that the cabin did not depressurize, the agency said in a 2009 report.

"Automated messages sent from the plane in the minutes before the crash showed there were problems measuring air speed, investigators have said, though they said that alone was not enough to cause the disaster...."
A determined conspiracy theory enthusiast might find the two years it took to find the wreckage sinister. I figure it's because what's left of the airliner and people came down where the sea floor is mountainous. Also that it seems to have drifted from the surface impact point.

Today's news hasn't changed my opinion about what, exactly, caused Air France Flight 447 to come down in the Atlantic: not much, anyway.

Given the condition of the wreckage, and the conclusions that folks who make a career out of drawing sensible conclusions, I think it's now less likely that the Airbus was knocked out of the sky by terrorists. That flash could have been from a bomb on the flight - and the logical consequence of hot jet fuel sprayed into air. Now it looks like those pilots saw - no surprise - lightning in a thunderstorm.

Was it wrong for the pilots to report the flash? In my opinion, no. It was an observation they made - and one more piece of evidence for investigators to evaluate.

Was it wrong for news services to pass the pilots' report along? In my opinion, no. However, I do think that reporters - and more particularly editors - occasionally failed to put the flash in context.

Sure, it's more dramatic without the picky detail about the weather. But I'd like to see 'thorough,' as well as 'dramatic' reporting. I'd also like to see a million dollars, tax-free: and I'm not sure which I'm more likely to get.

My opinion about the cause of A. F. Flight 447's end is still - I have no opinion. There's simply not enough evidence in the public domain yet. It's like I wrote, about two years ago:
"Air France Flight 447 Investigators Find Terror List Names: Suggestive, But Far From Proof"
(June 10, 2009)

"...I might think that finding the names of terrorists on the passenger list was a strong indication of foul play, except for two things.
  1. "In my ten years as a list manager for a small publishing company, I developed an appreciation for how common some names are
  2. "About two years ago, an eight-year-old boy was fingered as a terrorist because his name was on a no-fly list (July 20, 2007)
"Which is why French investigators are looking into birth dates and family connections. ... There are quite a few people in America, for example, who have the same name that I do. But none of them is going to have the same birth date and relatives.

"Air France 447 - My Opinion

"I don't think that terrorists brought down AF 447.

"I don't think that terrorists didn't bring down AF 447.

"I do think that officials investigating the incident don't seem to know what happened, yet.

"I do think that there will be more assertions about what 'obviously' happened: and that the statements will reflect what the writers believe should have happened...."
I think it's one thing to 'not have an opinion' because facts point at an unwanted conclusion. When there's a lack of facts to work with - no opinion can be better than a baseless one.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.