The communications satellites Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251 collide in orbit, destroying both.
Bush fires in Victoria leave 173 dead in the worst natural disaster in Australia’s history.
A protest movement in Iceland culminates as the 2009 Icelandic financial crisis protests start.
Air France Flight 447 crashes into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil on a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. All 228 passengers and crew are killed.
|Date||1 June 2009|
|Summary||Entered high-altitude stall; impacted ocean|
near waypoint TASIL:9
|Aircraft type||Airbus A330-203|
|IATA flight No.||AF447|
|ICAO flight No.||AFR447|
|Call sign||AIRFRANS 447|
|Flight origin||Rio de Janeiro/Galeão International Airport|
|Destination||Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport|
Air France Flight 447 (AF447 or AFR447[a]) was a scheduled international passenger flight from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Paris, France. On 1 June 2009, the Airbus A330 serving the flight stalled and did not recover, eventually crashing into the Atlantic Ocean at 02:14 UTC, killing all 228 passengers and crew.
The Brazilian Navy recovered the first major wreckage, and two bodies, from the sea within five days of the accident, but the initial investigation by France's Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) was hampered because the aircraft's flight recorders were not recovered from the ocean floor until May 2011, nearly two years later.
The BEA's final report, released at a news conference on 5 July 2012, concluded that the aircraft crashed after temporary inconsistencies between the airspeed measurements—likely due to the aircraft's pitot tubes being obstructed by ice crystals—caused the autopilot to disconnect, after which the crew reacted incorrectly and ultimately caused the aircraft to enter an aerodynamic stall, from which it did not recover.:79:7 The accident is the deadliest in the history of Air France, as well as the deadliest aviation accident involving the Airbus A330.
The aircraft involved in the accident was a 4-year-old Airbus A330-203, with manufacturer serial number 660, registered as F-GZCP. Its first flight was on 25 February 2005, and it was delivered 2 months later to the airline on 18 April 2005. At the time of the crash, it was Air France's newest A330. The aircraft was powered by two General Electric CF6-80E1A3 engines with a maximum thrust of 68,530 or 60,400 lbf (304.8 or 268.7 kN) (take-off/max continuous), giving it a cruise speed range of Mach 0.82–0.86 (871–913 km/h, 470–493 knots, 540–566 mph), at 35,000 feet (11 km) of altitude and a range of 12,500 km (6750 nmi, 7760 statute miles). On 17 August 2006, this A330 was involved in a ground collision with Airbus A321-211 F-GTAM, at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris. F-GTAM was substantially damaged while F-GZCP suffered only minor damage. The aircraft underwent a major overhaul on 16 April 2009, and at the time of the accident had accumulated about 18,870 flying hours.
Passengers and crew
|Sweden||1 (2)||0||1 (2)|
|Total (33 nationalities)||216||12||228|
Nationalities shown are as stated by Air France on 1 June 2009.
Attributing nationality was complicated by the holding of multiple citizenship
by several passengers.
Passengers who had citizenship in one country but were attributed to
another country by Air France are indicated with parentheses ().
The aircraft was carrying 216 passengers, three aircrew, and 9 cabin crew in two cabins of service. Among the 216 passengers were 126 men, 82 women and eight children (including one infant).
Three pilots were in the aircrew::24–29
- The captain, 58-year-old Marc Dubois (PNF-pilot not flying):21 had joined Air Inter (which later merged into Air France) in February 1988, and had 10,988 flying hours, of which 6,258 were as captain, including 1,700 hours on the Airbus A330; he had carried out 16 rotations in the South America sector since arriving in the A330/A340 division in 2007.
- The first officer, co-pilot in left seat, 37-year-old David Robert (PNF) had joined Air France in July 1998 and had 6,547 flying hours, of which 4,479 hours were on the Airbus A330; he had carried out 39 rotations in the South America sector since arriving in the A330/A340 division in 2002. Robert had graduated from École Nationale de l'Aviation Civile, one of the elite Grandes Écoles, and had transitioned from a pilot to a management job at the airline's operations center. He served as a pilot on this flight to maintain his flying credentials.
- The first officer, co-pilot in right seat, 32-year-old Pierre-Cédric Bonin (PF-pilot flying) had joined Air France in October 2003 and had 2,936 flight hours, of which 807 hours were on the Airbus A330; he had carried out five rotations in the South America sector since arriving in the A330/A340 division in 2008. His wife Isabelle, a physics teacher, was also on board.
Of the 12 crew members (including aircrew and cabin crew), 11 were French and one was Brazilian.
Air France established a crisis center at Terminal 2D for the 60 to 70 relatives and friends who arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport to pick up arriving passengers, but many of the passengers on Flight 447 were connecting to other destinations worldwide. In the days that followed, Air France contacted close to 2,000 people who were related to, or friends of, the victims.
On 20 June 2009, Air France announced that each victim's family would be paid roughly €17,500 in initial compensation.
- Prince Pedro Luiz of Orléans-Bragança, third in succession to the abolished throne of Brazil and grandnephew of Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg. He had dual Brazilian–Belgian citizenship. He was returning home to Luxembourg from a visit to his relatives in Rio de Janeiro.
- Giambattista Lenzi, member of the Regional Council of Trentino-Alto Adige
- Silvio Barbato, composer and former conductor of the symphony orchestras of the Cláudio Santoro National Theater in Brasilia and the Rio de Janeiro Municipal Theatre; he was en route to Kyiv for engagements there.
- Octavio Augusto Ceva Antunes, professor of chemistry and pharmaceutics at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
- Fatma Ceren Necipoğlu, Turkish classical harpist and academic of Anadolu University in Eskişehir; she was returning home via Paris after performing at the fourth Rio Harp Festival.
- Izabela Maria Furtado Kestler, professor of German studies at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
- Pablo Dreyfus from Argentina, was a campaigner for controlling illegal arms and the illegal drugs trade.
The aircraft departed from Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International Airport on 31 May 2009 at 19:29 Brazilian Standard Time (22:29 UTC),:21 with a scheduled arrival at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport at 11:03 Central European Summer Time (09:03 UTC) the following day (estimated flight time of 10:34). Voice contact with the aircraft was lost around 01:35 UTC, 3 hours and 6 minutes after departure. The last message reported that the aircraft had passed waypoint INTOL ( ), located 565 km (351 mi; 305 nmi) off Natal, on Brazil's north-eastern coast. The aircraft left Brazilian Atlantic radar surveillance at 01:49 UTC,:49 and entered a communication dead zone.[failed verification]
The Airbus A330 is designed to be flown by two pilots, but the 13-hour "duty time" (the total flight duration, as well as preflight preparation) required for the Rio-Paris route exceeded the 10 hours permitted before a pilot had to take a break as dictated by Air France's procedures. To comply with these procedures, Flight 447 was crewed by three pilots: a captain and two first officers. With three pilots on board, each pilot could take a break in the A330's rest cabin, located behind the cockpit.
In accordance with common practice, Captain Dubois sent one of the co-pilots for the first rest period with the intention of taking the second break himself. At 01:55 UTC, he woke up First Officer Robert and said, "... he's going to take my place". After attending the briefing between the two co-pilots, the captain left the cockpit to rest at 02:01:46 UTC. At 02:06 UTC, the pilot warned the cabin crew that they were about to enter an area of turbulence. About two to three minutes later, the aircraft encountered icing conditions. The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) recorded sounds akin to hail or graupel on the outside of the aircraft, and ice crystals began to accumulate in the pitot tubes, which measure airspeed. The other first officer, Bonin, turned the aircraft slightly to the left and decreased its speed from Mach 0.82 to 0.80, which was the recommended speed to penetrate turbulence. The engine anti-ice system was also turned on.
At 02:10:05 UTC, the autopilot disengaged, most likely due to icing of the pitot tubes, and the aircraft transitioned from "normal law" to "alternate law 2". The engines' autothrust systems disengaged three seconds later. As the PF, Bonin took over control of the aircraft, using the command language, "I have the controls." Without the autopilot, the aircraft started to roll to the right due to turbulence, and Bonin reacted by deflecting his side-stick to the left. One consequence of the change to alternate law was an increase in the aircraft's sensitivity to roll, and the pilot overcorrected. During the next 30 seconds, the aircraft rolled alternately left and right as he adjusted to the altered handling characteristics of the aircraft. At the same time, he abruptly pulled back on his side-stick, raising the nose. This action has been described as unnecessary and excessive under the circumstances. The aircraft's stall warning briefly sounded twice due to the angle-of-attack tolerance being exceeded, and the aircraft's indicated airspeed dropped sharply from 274 knots (507 km/h; 315 mph) to 52 knots (96 km/h; 60 mph). The aircraft's angle of attack increased, and subsequently began to climb above its cruising altitude of 35,000 ft (FL350). During this ascent, the aircraft attained vertical speeds well in excess of the typical rate of climb for the Airbus A330, which usually ascend at rates no greater than 2000 feet per minute (10 m/s). The aircraft experienced a peak vertical speed close to 7,000 feet per minute (36 m/s; 130 km/h), which occurred as Bonin brought the rolling movements under control.
At 02:10:34 UTC, after displaying incorrectly for half a minute, the left-side instruments recorded a sharp rise in airspeed to 223 knots (413 km/h; 257 mph), as did the integrated standby instrument system (ISIS) 33 seconds later. The right-side instruments were not recorded by the flight data recorder. The icing event had lasted for just over a minute,:198 yet Bonin continued to make nose-up inputs. The trimmable horizontal stabilizer (THS) moved from 3 to 13° nose-up in about one minute, and remained in the latter position until the end of the flight.
At 02:11:10 UTC, the aircraft had climbed to its maximum altitude around 38,000 feet (11,582 m). At this point, the aircraft's angle of attack was 16°, and the engine thrust levers were in the fully forward takeoff/go-around (TOGA) detent . As the aircraft began to descend, the angle of attack rapidly increased toward 30°. A second consequence of the reconfiguration into alternate law was that the stall protection no longer operated, whereas in normal law, the aircraft's flight-management computers would have acted to prevent such a high angle of attack. The wings lost lift and the aircraft began to stall.[page needed]
Confused, Bonin exclaimed, "[Expletive] I don't have control of the airplane any more now", and two seconds later, "I don't have control of the airplane at all!" Robert responded to this by saying, "controls to the left", and took over control of the aircraft. He pushed his side-stick forward to lower the nose and recover from the stall; however, Bonin was still pulling his side-stick back. The inputs cancelled each other out and triggered an aural "dual input" warning.
At 02:11:40 UTC, Captain Dubois re-entered the cockpit after being summoned by Robert. Noticing the various alarms going off, he asked the two crew members, "er what are you (doing)?" The angle of attack had then reached 40°, and the aircraft had descended to 35,000 feet (10,668 m) with the engines running at almost 100% N1 (the rotational speed of the front intake fan, which delivers most of a turbofan engine's thrust). The stall warnings stopped, as all airspeed indications were now considered invalid by the aircraft's computer due to the high angle of attack. The aircraft had its nose above the horizon, but was descending steeply.
Roughly 20 seconds later, at 02:12 UTC, Bonin decreased the aircraft's pitch slightly. Airspeed indications became valid, and the stall warning sounded again; it then sounded intermittently for the remaining duration of the flight, stopping only when the pilots increased the aircraft's nose-up pitch. From there until the end of the flight, the angle of attack never dropped below 35°. From the time the aircraft stalled until its impact into the ocean, the engines were primarily developing either 100% N1 or TOGA thrust, though they were briefly spooled down to about 50 percent N1 on two occasions. The engines always responded to commands and were developing in excess of 100 percent N1 when the flight ended. Robert responded to Dubois by saying, "We've lost all control of the aeroplane, we don’t understand anything, we’ve tried everything". Soon after this, Robert said to himself, "climb" four consecutive times. Bonin heard this and replied, "But I've been at maximum nose-up for a while!" When Captain Dubois heard this, he realized Bonin was causing the stall, and shouted, "No no no, don't climb! No No No!"
When Robert heard this, he told Bonin to give him control of the airplane. In response to this, Bonin temporarily gave the controls to Robert. Robert pushed his side-stick forward to try to regain lift for the airplane to climb out of the stall. However, the aircraft was too low to recover from the stall. Shortly thereafter, the ground proximity warning system sounded an alarm, warning the crew about the aircraft's imminent crash with the ocean. In response, Bonin (without informing his colleagues) pulled his side-stick all the way back again, and said, "[Expletive] We're going to crash! This can't be true. But what's happening?" The last recording on the CVR was Dubois saying, "(ten) degrees pitch attitude."
The flight data recorders stopped recording at 02:14:28 UTC, 3 hours and 45 minutes after takeoff. At that point, the aircraft's ground speed was recorded as 107 knots (198 km/h; 123 mph), and that the aircraft was descending at 10,912 feet per minute (55.43 m/s) (108 knots (200 km/h; 124 mph) of vertical speed). Its pitch was 16.2° nose-up, with a roll angle of 5.3° to the left. During its descent, the aircraft had turned more than 180° to the right to a compass heading of 270°. The aircraft remained stalled during its entire 3-minute-30-second descent from 38,000 feet (12,000 m). The aircraft struck the ocean belly-first at a speed of 152 knots (282 km/h; 175 mph), comprising vertical and horizontal components of 108 knots (200 km/h; 124 mph) and 107 knots (198 km/h; 123 mph), respectively. All 228 passengers and crew on board died on impact from extreme trauma and the aircraft was destroyed.
Air France's A330s are equipped with a communications system, Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), which enables them to transmit data messages via VHF or satellite.[b] ACARS can be used by the aircraft's on-board computers to send messages automatically, and F-GZCP transmitted a position report about every 10 minutes. Its final position report at 02:10:34 gave the aircraft's coordinates as .[c]
In addition to the routine position reports, F-GZCP's centralized maintenance system sent a series of messages via ACARS in the minutes immediately prior to its disappearance. These messages, sent to prepare maintenance workers on the ground prior to arrival, were transmitted between 02:10 UTC and 02:15 UTC, and consisted of five failure reports and 19 warnings.
Among the ACARS transmissions at 02:10 is one message that indicates a fault in the pitot-static system. Bruno Sinatti, president of Alter, Air France's third-biggest pilots' union, stated, "Piloting becomes very difficult, near impossible, without reliable speed data." The 12 warning messages with the same time code indicate that the autopilot and autothrust system had disengaged, that the traffic collision avoidance system was in fault mode, and flight mode went from 'normal law' to 'alternate law.'
The remainder of the messages occurred from 02:11 UTC to 02:14 UTC, containing a fault message for an air data inertial reference unit and ISIS. At 02:12 UTC, a warning message NAV ADR DISAGREE indicated that a disagreement existed between the three independent air data systems.[d] At 02:13 UTC, a fault message for the flight management guidance and envelope computer was sent. One of the two final messages transmitted at 02:14 UTC was a warning referring to the air data reference system, the other ADVISORY was a "cabin vertical speed warning", indicating that the aircraft was descending at a high rate.
Weather conditions in the mid-Atlantic were normal for the time of year, and included a broad band of thunderstorms along the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). A meteorological analysis of the area surrounding the flight path showed a mesoscale convective system extending to an altitude of around 50,000 feet (15,000 m) above the Atlantic Ocean before Flight 447 disappeared. During its final hour, Flight 447 encountered areas of light turbulence.
Commercial air transport crews routinely encounter this type of storm in this area. With the aircraft under the control of its automated systems, one of the main tasks occupying the cockpit crew was that of monitoring the progress of the flight through the ITCZ, using the on-board weather radar to avoid areas of significant turbulence. Twelve other flights had recently shared more or less the same route that Flight 447 was using at the time of the accident.
Search and recovery
Flight 447 was due to pass from Brazilian airspace into Senegalese airspace around 02:20 (UTC) on 1 June, and then into Cape Verdean airspace at roughly 03:45. Shortly after 04:00, when the flight had failed to contact air traffic control in either Senegal or Cape Verde, the controller in Senegal attempted to contact the aircraft. When he received no response, he asked the crew of another Air France flight (AF459) to try to contact AF447; this also met with no success.
After further attempts to contact Flight 447 were unsuccessful, an aerial search for the missing Airbus commenced from both sides of the Atlantic. Brazilian Air Force aircraft from the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha and French reconnaissance aircraft based in Dakar, Senegal, led the search. They were assisted by a Casa 235 maritime patrol aircraft from Spain and a United States Navy Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion anti-submarine warfare and maritime patrol aircraft.
By early afternoon on 1 June, officials with Air France and the French government had already presumed the aircraft had been lost with no survivors. An Air France spokesperson told L'Express that "no hope for survivors" remained, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced almost no chance existed for anyone to have survived. On 2 June at 15:20 (UTC), a Brazilian Air Force Embraer R-99A spotted wreckage and signs of oil, possibly jet fuel, strewn along a 5 km (3 mi; 3 nmi) band 650 km (400 mi; 350 nmi) north-east of Fernando de Noronha Island, near the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago. The sighted wreckage included an aircraft seat, an orange buoy, a barrel, and "white pieces and electrical conductors". Later that day, after meeting with relatives of the Brazilians on the aircraft, Brazilian Defence Minister Nelson Jobim announced that the Air Force believed the wreckage was from Flight 447. Brazilian vice-president José Alencar (acting as president since Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was out of the country) declared three days of official mourning.
Also on 2 June, two French Navy vessels, the frigate Ventôse and helicopter-carrier Mistral, were en route to the suspected crash site. Other ships sent to the site included the French research vessel Pourquoi Pas?, equipped with two minisubmarines able to descend to 6,000 m (20,000 ft), since the area of the Atlantic in which the aircraft went down was thought to be as deep as 4,700 m (15,400 ft).
On 3 June, the first Brazilian Navy (the "Marinha do Brasil" or MB) ship, the patrol boat Grajaú, reached the area in which the first debris was spotted. The Brazilian Navy sent a total of five ships to the debris site; the frigate Constituição and the corvette Caboclo were scheduled to reach the area on 4 June, the frigate Bosísio on 6 June and the replenishment oiler Almirante Gastão Motta on 7 June.
Early on 6 June 2009, five days after Flight 447 disappeared, two male bodies, the first to be recovered from the crashed aircraft, were brought on board the Caboclo along with a seat, a nylon backpack containing a computer and vaccination card, and a leather briefcase containing a boarding pass for the Air France flight. Initially, media (including The Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune) cited unnamed investigators in their reporting that the recovered bodies were naked, which implied the plane had broken up at high altitude. However, the notion that the aircraft fragmented while airborne ultimately was refuted by investigators. At this point, on the evidence of the recovered bodies and materials, investigators confirmed the plane had crashed, killing everyone on board. The following day, 7 June, search crews recovered the Airbus's vertical stabilizer, the first major piece of wreckage to be discovered. Pictures of this part being lifted onto the Constituição became a poignant symbol of the loss of the Air France craft.[page needed]
The search and recovery effort reached its peak over the next week or so, as the number of personnel mobilized by the Brazilian military exceeded 1100.[e] Fifteen aircraft (including two helicopters) were devoted to the search mission. The Brazilian Air Force Embraer R99 flew for more than 100 hours, and electronically scanned more than a million square kilometers of ocean. Other aircraft involved in the search scanned, visually, 320,000 square kilometres (120,000 sq mi; 93,000 sq nmi) of ocean and were used to direct Navy vessels involved in the recovery effort.
By 16 June 2009, 50 bodies had been recovered from a wide area of the ocean. They were transported to shore, first by the frigates Constituição and Bosísio to the islands of Fernando de Noronha, and thereafter by air to Recife for identification. Pathologists identified all 50 bodies recovered from the crash site, including that of the captain, by using dental records and fingerprints. The search teams logged the time and location of every find in a database which, by the time the search ended on 26 June, catalogued 640 items of debris from the aircraft.
On 5 June 2009, the French nuclear submarine Émeraude was dispatched to the crash zone, arriving in the area on the 10th. Its mission was to assist in the search for the missing flight recorders or "black-boxes" that might be located at great depth. The submarine would use its sonar to listen for the ultrasonic signal emitted by the black boxes' "pingers", covering 13 sq mi (34 km2; 9.8 sq nmi) per day. The Émeraude was to work with the mini-sub Nautile, which can descend to the ocean floor. The French submarines would be aided by two U.S. underwater audio devices capable of picking up signals at a depth of 20,000 ft (6,100 m).
Following the end of the search for bodies, the search continued for the Airbus's "black boxes"—the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and the Flight Data Recorder (FDR). French Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) chief Paul-Louis Arslanian said that he was not optimistic about finding them since they might have been under as much as 3,000 m (9,800 ft) of water, and the terrain under this portion of the ocean was very rugged. Investigators were hoping to find the aircraft's lower aft section, for that was where the recorders were located. Although France had never recovered a flight recorder from such depths, there was precedent for such an operation: in 1988, an independent contractor recovered the CVR of South African Airways Flight 295 from a depth of 4,900 m (16,100 ft) in a search area of between 80 and 250 square nautical miles (270 and 860 km2; 110 and 330 sq mi). The Air France flight recorders were fitted with water-activated acoustic underwater locator beacons or "pingers", which should have remained active for at least 30 days, giving searchers that much time to locate the origin of the signals.
France requested two "towed pinger locator hydrophones" from the United States Navy to help find the aircraft. The French nuclear submarine and two French-contracted ships (the Fairmount Expedition and the Fairmount Glacier, towing the U.S. Navy listening devices) trawled a search area with a radius of 80 kilometres (50 mi), centred on the aircraft's last known position. By mid-July, recovery of the black boxes still had not been announced. The finite beacon battery life meant that, as the time since the crash elapsed, the likelihood of location diminished. In late July, the search for the black boxes entered its second phase, with a French research vessel resuming the search using a towed sonar array. The second phase of the search ended on 20 August without finding wreckage within a 75 km (47 mi; 40 nmi) radius of the last position, as reported at 02:10.
The third phase of the search for the recorders lasted from 2 April until 24 May 2010, and was conducted by two ships, the Anne Candies and the Seabed Worker. The Anne Candies towed a U.S. Navy sonar array, while the Seabed Worker operated three robot submarines AUV ABYSS (a REMUS AUV type). Air France and Airbus jointly funded the third phase of the search. The search covered an area of 6,300 square kilometres (2,400 sq mi; 1,800 sq nmi), mostly to the north and north-west of the aircraft's last known position. The search area had been drawn up by oceanographers from France, Russia, Great Britain and the United States combining data on the location of floating bodies and wreckage, and currents in the mid-Atlantic in the days immediately after the crash. A smaller area to the south-west was also searched, based on a re-analysis of sonar recordings made by Émeraude the previous year. The third phase of the search ended on 24 May 2010 without any success, though the BEA says that the search 'nearly' covered the whole area drawn up by investigators.
2011 search and recovery
In July 2010, the U.S.-based search consultancy Metron, Inc. had been engaged to draw up a probability map of where to focus the search, based on prior probabilities from flight data and local condition reports, combined with the results from the previous searches. The Metron team used what it described as "classic" Bayesian search methods, an approach that had previously been successful in the search for the submarine USS Scorpion and SS Central America. Phase 4 of the search operation started close to the aircraft's last known position, which was identified by the Metron study as being the most likely resting place of flight 447.
Within a week of resuming of the search operation, on 3 April 2011, a team led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution operating full ocean depth autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) owned by the Waitt Institute[failed verification] discovered, by means of sidescan sonar, a large portion of the debris field from flight AF447. Further debris and bodies, still trapped in the partly intact remains of the aircraft's fuselage, were at a depth of 3,980 metres (2,180 fathoms; 13,060 ft). The debris was found lying in a relatively flat and silty area of the ocean floor (as opposed to the extremely mountainous topography originally believed to be AF447's final resting place). Other items found were engines, wing parts and the landing gear.
The debris field was described as "quite compact", measuring 200 by 600 metres (660 by 1,970 ft) and a short distance north of where pieces of wreckage had been recovered previously, suggesting the aircraft hit the water largely intact. The French Ecology and Transportation Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet stated the bodies and wreckage would be brought to the surface and taken to France for examination and identification. The French government chartered the Île de Sein to recover the flight recorders from the wreckage. An American Remora 6000 remotely operated vehicle (ROV)[g] and operations crew from Phoenix International experienced in the recovery of aircraft for the United States Navy were on board the Île de Sein.
Île de Sein arrived at the crash site on 26 April, and during its first dive, the Remora 6000 found the flight data recorder chassis, although without the crash-survivable memory unit. On 1 May the memory unit was found and lifted on board the Île de Sein by the ROV. The aircraft's cockpit voice recorder was found on 2 May 2011, and was raised and brought on board the Île de Sein the following day.
On 7 May, the flight recorders, under judicial seal, were taken aboard the French Navy patrol boat La Capricieuse for transfer to the port of Cayenne. From there they were transported by air to the BEA's office in Le Bourget near Paris for data download and analysis. One engine and the avionics bay, containing onboard computers, had also been raised.
By 15 May, all the data from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder had been downloaded.:20 The data was analysed over the following weeks, and the findings published in the third interim report at the end of July. The entire download was filmed and recorded.
Between 5 May and 3 June 2011, 104 bodies were recovered from the wreckage, bringing the total number of bodies found to 154. Fifty bodies had been previously recovered from the sea. The search ended with the remaining 74 bodies still not recovered.
Investigation and safety improvements
The French authorities opened two investigations:
- A criminal investigation for manslaughter began on 5 June 2009, under the supervision of Investigating Magistrate Sylvie Zimmerman from the Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance. The judge gave the investigation to the Gendarmerie nationale, which would conduct it through its aerial transportation division (Gendarmerie des transports aériens or GTA) and its forensic research institute (the "Institut de Recherche Criminelle de la Gendarmerie Nationale", FR). As part of the criminal investigation, the DGSE (the external French intelligence agency) examined the names of passengers on board for any possible links to terrorist groups. In March 2011, a French judge filed preliminary manslaughter charges against Air France and Airbus over the crash.
- A technical investigation was started, the goal of which was to enhance the safety of future flights. In accordance with the provisions of ICAO Annex 13, the BEA participated in the investigation as representative for the state (country) of manufacture of the Airbus. The Brazilian Air Force's Aeronautical Accidents Investigation and Prevention Center (CENIPA), the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation (BFU), the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also became involved in accordance with these provisions; the NTSB became involved as the state of manufacture of the General Electric equipment installed in the plane, and the other representatives could supply important information. The People's Republic of China, Croatia, Hungary, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Norway, South Korea, Russia, South Africa, and Switzerland appointed observers, since citizens of those countries were on board.
On 5 June 2009, the BEA cautioned against premature speculation as to the cause of the crash. At that time, the investigation had established only two facts - the weather near the aircraft's planned route included significant convective cells typical of the equatorial regions, and the speeds measured by the three pitot tubes differed from each other during the last few minutes of the flight.
On 2 July 2009, the BEA released an intermediate report, which described all known facts, and a summary of the visual examination of the rudder and the other parts of the aircraft that had been recovered at that time.[page needed] According to the BEA, this examination showed:
- The airliner was likely to have struck the surface of the sea in a normal flight attitude, with a high rate of descent;[h][page needed]
- No signs of any fires or explosions were found.
- The airliner did not break up in flight. The report also stresses that the BEA had not had access to the post mortem reports at the time of its writing.[page needed]
On 16 May 2011, Le Figaro reported that the BEA investigators had ruled out an aircraft malfunction as the cause of the crash, according to preliminary information extracted from the FDR. The following day, the BEA issued a press release explicitly describing the Le Figaro report as a "sensationalist publication of non-validated information". The BEA stated that no conclusions had been made, investigations were continuing, and no interim report was expected before the summer. On 18 May, the head of the investigation further stated no major malfunction of the aircraft had been found so far in the data from the flight data recorder, but that minor malfunctions had not been ruled out.
In the minutes before its disappearance, the aircraft's onboard systems sent a number of messages, via the ACARS, indicating disagreement in the indicated airspeed readings. A spokesperson for the BEA claimed, "the airspeed of the aircraft was unclear" to the pilots and, on 4 June 2009, Airbus issued an Accident Information Telex to operators of all its aircraft reminding pilots of the recommended abnormal and emergency procedures to be taken in the case of unreliable airspeed indication. French Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau said, "Obviously, the pilots [of Flight 447] did not have the [correct] speed showing, which can lead to two bad consequences for the life of the aircraft: under-speed, which can lead to a stall, and over-speed, which can lead to the aircraft breaking up because it is approaching the speed of sound and the structure of the plane is not made for enduring such speeds".
Between May 2008 and March 2009, nine incidents involving the temporary loss of airspeed indication appeared in the air safety reports (ASRs) for Air France's A330/A340 fleet. All occurred in cruise between flight levels FL310 and FL380. Further, after the Flight 447 accident, Air France identified six additional incidents that had not been reported on ASRs. These were intended for maintenance aircraft technical logs drawn up by the pilots to describe these incidents only partially, to indicate the characteristic symptoms of the incidents associated with unreliable airspeed readings.:122 The problems primarily occurred in 2007 on the A320, but awaiting a recommendation from Airbus, Air France delayed installing new pitot tubes on A330/A340 and increased inspection frequencies in these aircraft.
When it was introduced in 1994, the Airbus A330 was equipped with pitot tubes, part number 0851GR, manufactured by Goodrich Sensors and Integrated Systems. A 2001 Airworthiness Directive (AD) required these to be replaced with either a later Goodrich design, part number 0851HL, or with pitot tubes made by Thales, part number C16195AA. Air France chose to equip its fleet with the Thales pitot tubes. In September 2007, Airbus recommended that Thales C16195AA pitot tubes should be replaced by Thales model C16195BA to address the problem of water ingress that had been observed. Since it was not an AD, the guidelines allow the operator to apply the recommendations at its discretion. Air France implemented the change on its A320 fleet, where the incidents of water ingress were observed and decided to do so in its A330/340 fleet only when failures started to occur in May 2008.
After discussing these issues with the manufacturer, Air France sought a means of reducing these incidents, and Airbus indicated that the new pitot probe designed for the A320 was not designed to prevent cruise-level ice-over. In 2009, tests suggested that the new probe could improve its reliability, prompting Air France to accelerate the replacement program, which started on 29 May. F-GZCP was scheduled to have its pitot tubes replaced as soon as it returned to Paris. By 17 June 2009, Air France had replaced all pitot probes on its A330 type aircraft.
On 12 August 2009, Airbus issued three mandatory service bulletins, requiring that all A330 and A340 aircraft be fitted with two Goodrich 0851HL pitot tubes and one Thales model C16195BA pitot (or, alternatively, three of the Goodrich pitot tubes); Thales model C16195AA pitot tubes were no longer to be used.:216 This requirement was incorporated into ADs issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency on 31 August and by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on 3 September. The replacement was to be completed by 7 January 2010. According to the FAA, in its Federal Register publication, use of the Thales model has resulted in "reports of airspeed indication discrepancies while flying at high altitudes in inclement weather conditions" that "could result in reduced control of the airplane." The FAA further stated that the Thales model probe "has not yet demonstrated the same level of robustness to withstand high-altitude ice crystals as Goodrich pitot probes P/N 0851HL."
On 20 December 2010, Airbus issued a warning to roughly 100 operators of A330, A340-200, and A340-300 aircraft regarding pitot tubes, advising pilots not to re-engage the autopilot following failure of the airspeed indicators. Safety recommendations issued by BEA for pitot probes design, recommended, "they must be fitted with a heating system designed to prevent any malfunctioning due to icing. Appropriate means must be provided (visual warning directly visible to the crew) to inform the crew of any nonfunctioning of the heating system".:137
Findings from the flight data recorder
On 27 May 2011, the BEA released an update on its investigation describing the history of the flight as recorded by the FDR. This confirmed what had previously been concluded from post mortem examination of the bodies and debris recovered from the ocean surface; the aircraft had not broken up at altitude, but had fallen into the ocean intact. The FDRs also revealed that the aircraft's descent into the sea was not due to mechanical failure or the aircraft being overwhelmed by the weather, but because the flight crew had raised the aircraft's nose, reducing its speed until it entered an aerodynamic stall.[dead link]
While the inconsistent airspeed data caused the disengagement of the autopilot, the reason the pilots lost control of the aircraft had remained a mystery, in particular because pilots would normally try to lower the nose in the event of a stall. Multiple sensors provide the pitch (attitude) information and no indication was given that any of them were malfunctioning. One factor may be that since the A330 does not normally accept control inputs that would cause a stall, the pilots were unaware that a stall could happen when the aircraft switched to an alternate mode due to failure of the airspeed indication.[i]
In October 2011, a transcript of the CVR was leaked and published in the book Erreurs de Pilotage (Pilot Errors) by Jean Pierre Otelli. The BEA and Air France both condemned the release of this information, with Air France calling it "sensationalized and unverifiable information" that "impairs the memory of the crew and passengers who lost their lives." The BEA subsequently released its final report on the accident, and Appendix 1 contained an official CVR transcript that did not include groups of words deemed to have no bearing on flight.
Third interim report
On 29 July 2011, the BEA released a third interim report on safety issues it found in the wake of the crash. It was accompanied by two shorter documents summarizing the interim report and addressing safety recommendations.
The third interim report stated that some new facts had been established. In particular:
- The pilots had not applied the unreliable-airspeed procedure.
- The pilot-in-control pulled back on the stick, thus increasing the angle of attack and causing the aircraft to climb rapidly.
- The pilots apparently did not notice that the aircraft had reached its maximum permissible altitude.
- The pilots did not read out the available data (vertical velocity, altitude, etc.).
- The stall warning sounded continuously for 54 seconds.
- The pilots did not comment on the stall warnings and apparently did not realize that the aircraft was stalled.
- There was some buffeting associated with the stall.
- The stall warning deactivates by design when the angle of attack measurements are considered invalid, and this is the case when the airspeed drops below a certain limit.
- In consequence, the stall warning came on whenever the pilot pushed forward on the stick and then stopped when he pulled back; this happened several times during the stall and this may have confused the pilots.
- Despite the fact that they were aware that altitude was declining rapidly, the pilots were unable to determine which instruments to trust; all values may have appeared to them to be incoherent.[page needed]
A brief bulletin by Air France indicated, "the misleading stopping and starting of the stall-warning alarm, contradicting the actual state of the aircraft, greatly contributed to the crew's difficulty in analyzing the situation."
On 5 July 2012, the BEA released its final report on the accident. This confirmed the findings of the preliminary reports and provided additional details and recommendations to improve safety. According to the final report, the accident resulted from this succession of major events:
- Temporary inconsistency between the measured speeds, likely as a result of the obstruction of the pitot tubes by ice crystals, caused autopilot disconnection and reconfiguration to alternate law.
- The crew made inappropriate control inputs that destabilized the flight path.
- The crew failed to follow appropriate procedure for loss of displayed airspeed information.
- The crew were late in identifying and correcting the deviation from the flight path.
- The crew lacked understanding of the approach to stall.
- The crew failed to recognize the aircraft had stalled, and consequently did not make inputs that would have made recovering from the stall possible.:200
These events resulted from these major factors in combination:
- Feedback mechanisms between all those involved (the report identifies manufacturers, operators, flight crews, and regulatory agencies), which made it impossible to identify repeated non-application of the loss of airspeed information procedure, and to ensure that crews were trained in icing of the pitot probes and its consequences.
- The crew lacked practical training in manually handling the aircraft both at high altitude and in the event of anomalies of speed indication.
- The two co-pilots' task sharing was weakened both by incomprehension of the situation at the time of autopilot disconnection, and by poor management of the "startle effect", leaving them in an emotionally charged situation;
- The cockpit lacked a clear display of the inconsistencies in airspeed readings identified by the flight computers.
- The crew did not respond to the stall warning, whether due to a failure to identify the aural warning, to the transience of the stall warnings that could have been considered spurious, to the absence of any visual information that could confirm that the aircraft was approaching stall after losing the characteristic speeds, to confusing stall-related buffet for overspeed-related buffet, to the indications by the flight director that might have confirmed the crew's mistaken view of their actions, or to difficulty in identifying and understanding the implications of the switch to alternate law, which does not protect the angle of attack.
Before and after the publication of the final report by the BEA in July 2012, many independent analyses and expert opinions were published in the media about the cause of the accident.
Significance of the accident
In May 2011, Wil S. Hylton of The New York Times commented that the crash "was easy to bend into myth" because "no other passenger jet in modern history had disappeared so completely—without a Mayday call or a witness or even a trace on radar." Hylton explained that the A330 "was considered to be among the safest" of the passenger aircraft. Hylton added that when "Flight 447 seemed to disappear from the sky, it was tempting to deliver a tidy narrative about the hubris of building a self-flying aircraft, Icarus falling from the sky. Or maybe Flight 447 was the Titanic, an uncrashable ship at the bottom of the sea." Dr. Guy Gratton, an aviation expert from the Flight Safety Laboratory at Brunel University, said, "This is an air accident the likes of which we haven't seen before. Half the accident investigators in the Western world – and in Russia too – are waiting for these results. This has been the biggest investigation since Lockerbie. Put bluntly, big passenger planes do not just fall out of the sky."
In a July 2011 article in Aviation Week, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger was quoted as saying the crash was a "seminal accident" and suggested that pilots would be able to better handle upsets of this type if they had an indication of the wing's angle of attack (AoA). By contrast, aviation author Captain Bill Palmer has expressed doubts that an AoA indicator would have saved AF447, writing: "as the PF [pilot flying] seemed to be ignoring the more fundamental indicators of pitch and attitude, along with numerous stall warnings, one could question what difference a rarely used AoA gauge would have made".
Following its investigation, the BEA recommended that the European Aviation Safety Agency and the FAA should consider making an AoA indicator on the instrument panel mandatory.[needs update] In 2014, the FAA streamlined requirements for AoA indicators for general aviation without affecting requirements for commercial aviation.
Human factors and computer interaction
On 6 December 2011, Popular Mechanics published an English translation of the analysis of the transcript of the CVR controversially leaked in the book Erreurs de Pilotage. It highlighted the role of the co-pilot in stalling the aircraft, while the flight computer was under alternate law at high altitude. This "simple but persistent" human error was given as the most direct cause of this accident. In the commentary accompanying the article, they also noted that the failure to follow principles of crew resource management was a contributory factor.
The final BEA report points to the human-computer interface (HCI) of the Airbus as a possible factor contributing to the crash. It provides an explanation for most of the pitch-up inputs by the pilot flying, left unexplained in the Popular Mechanics piece: namely that the flight director display was misleading. The pitch-up input at the beginning of the fatal sequence of events appears to be the consequence of an altimeter error. The investigators also pointed to the lack of a clear display of the airspeed inconsistencies, though the computers had identified them. Some systems generated failure messages only about the consequences, but never mentioned the origin of the problem. The investigators recommended a blocked pitot tube should be clearly indicated as such to the crew on the flight displays. The Daily Telegraph pointed out the absence of AoA information, which is so important in identifying and preventing a stall. The paper stated, "though angle of attack readings are sent to onboard computers, there are no displays in modern jets to convey this critical information to the crews". Der Spiegel indicated the difficulty the pilots faced in diagnosing the problem: "One alarm after another lit up the cockpit monitors. One after another, the autopilot, the automatic engine control system, and the flight computers shut themselves off." Against this backdrop of confusing information, difficulty with aural cognition (due to heavy buffeting from the storm, as well as the stall) and zero external visibility, the pilots had less than three minutes to identify the problem and take corrective action. The Der Spiegel report asserts that such a crash "could happen again".
In an article in Vanity Fair, William Langewiesche noted that once the AoA was so extreme, the system rejected the data as invalid, and temporarily stopped the stall warnings, but "this led to a perverse reversal that lasted nearly to the impact; each time Bonin happened to lower the nose, rendering the angle of attack marginally less severe, the stall warning sounded again—a negative reinforcement that may have locked him into his pattern of pitching up", which increased the angle of attack and thus aggravated the stall.
Side-stick control issue
In April 2012 in The Daily Telegraph, British journalist Nick Ross published a comparison of Airbus and Boeing flight controls; unlike the control yoke used on Boeing flight decks, the Airbus side-stick controls give little visual feedback and no sensory or tactile feedback to the second pilot. The cockpit synthetic voice, however, does give an aural message 'Dual Input' whenever opposite inputs are initiated by the pilots. Ross reasoned that this might in part explain why the PF's [pilot flying] fatal nose-up inputs were not countermanded by his two colleagues. In fact BEA's final report July 2012 page 177 said, "during this forty-six second period between the autopilot disconnection and the STALL 2 warning, the C-chord warning (an altitude related alarm) sounded for a total duration of thirty-four seconds, thirty-one seconds of which as a continuous alert, and the STALL warning sounded for two seconds. The C-chord alert therefore saturated the aural environment within the cockpit ... This aural environment certainly played a role in altering the crew’s response to the situation."
In a July 2012 CBS report, Sullenberger suggested the design of the Airbus cockpit might have been a factor in the accident. The flight controls are not mechanically linked between the two pilot seats, and Robert, the left-seat pilot who believed he had taken over control of the aircraft, was not aware that Bonin continued to hold the stick back, which overrode Robert's own control.[j] BEA's final report July 2012 page 179 said, "In fact the situation, with a high workload and multiple visual prompts, corresponds to a threshold in terms of being able to take into account an unusual aural warning. In an aural environment that was already saturated by the C-chord warning ... "
Getting enough sleep is a constant challenge for pilots of long-haul flights. Although the BEA could find no "objective" indications that the pilots of Flight 447 were suffering from fatigue,:100 some exchanges recorded on the CVR, including a remark made by Captain Dubois that he had only slept an hour,[k] could indicate the crew were not well rested before the flight. The co-pilots had spent three nights in Rio de Janeiro, but the BEA was unable to retrieve data regarding their rest and could not determine their activities during the stopover.:24
Shortly after the crash, Air France changed the number of the regular Rio de Janeiro-Paris flight from AF447 to AF445.
Six months later, on 30 November 2009, Air France Flight 445 operated by another Airbus A330-203 (registered F-GZCK) made a mayday call because of severe turbulence around the same area and at a similar time to when Flight 447 was lost. Because the pilots could not obtain immediate permission from air traffic controllers (ATCs) to descend to a less turbulent altitude, the mayday was to alert other aircraft in the vicinity that the flight had deviated from its allocated flight level. This is standard contingency procedure when changing altitude without direct ATC authorization. After 30 minutes of moderate-to-severe turbulence, the flight continued normally. The flight landed safely in Paris 6 hours and 40 minutes after the mayday call.
Inaccurate airspeed indicators
Several cases have occurred where inaccurate airspeed information led to flight incidents on the A330 and A340. Two of those incidents involved pitot probes.[l] In the first incident, an Air France A340-300 (F-GLZL) en route from Tokyo to Paris experienced an event at 31,000 feet (9,400 m), in which the airspeed was incorrectly reported and the autopilot automatically disengaged. Bad weather and obstructed drainage holes in all three pitot probes were subsequently found to be the cause. In the second incident, an Air France A340-300 (F-GLZN) en route from Paris to New York encountered turbulence followed by the autoflight systems going offline, warnings over the accuracy of the reported airspeed, and 2 minutes of stall alerts.
Another incident on TAM Flight 8091, from Miami to Rio de Janeiro on 21 May 2009, involving an A330-200, showed a sudden drop of outside air temperature, then loss of air data, the ADIRS, autopilot and autothrust. The aircraft descended 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) before being manually recovered using backup instruments. The NTSB also examined a similar 23 June 2009 incident on a Northwest Airlines flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo, concluding in both cases that the aircraft operating manual was sufficient to prevent a dangerous situation from occurring.
Following the crash of Air France 447, other Airbus A330 operators studied their internal flight records to seek patterns. Delta Air Lines analyzed the data of Northwest Airlines flights that occurred before the two companies merged and found a dozen incidents in which at least one of an A330's pitot tubes had briefly stopped working when the aircraft was flying through the ITCZ, the same location where Air France 447 crashed.
Air France and Airbus have been investigated for manslaughter since 2011, but in 2019, prosecutors recommended dropping the case against Airbus and charging Air France with manslaughter and negligence, concluding, "the airline was aware of technical problems with a key airspeed monitoring instrument on its planes but failed to train pilots to resolve them". The case against Airbus was dropped on 22 July the same year. The case against Air France was dropped in September 2019 when magistrates said, "there were not enough grounds to prosecute". However, in 2021, a public prosecutor in Paris requested to have Airbus and Air France tried in a court of law. In April, it was announced that both companies would be prosecuted over the crash. Lawyers for Airbus stated they would lodge an immediate appeal against the decision.
In popular culture
A one-hour documentary entitled Lost: The Mystery of Flight 447 detailing an early independent hypothesis about the crash was produced by Darlow Smithson in 2010 for Nova and the BBC. Using the then-sparse publicly available evidence and information, and without data from the black boxes, a critical chain of events was postulated, employing the expertise of an expert pilot, an expert accident investigator, an aviation meteorologist, and an aircraft structural engineer.
On 16 September 2012, Channel 4 in the UK presented Fatal Flight 447: Chaos in the Cockpit, which showed data from the black boxes including an in-depth re-enactment. It was produced by Minnow Films.
The aviation-disaster documentary television series Mayday (also known as Air Crash Investigation and Air Emergency) produced an hour-long episode titled "Air France 447: Vanished", which aired on 15 April 2013 in Great Britain and 17 May 2013 in the U.S.
In November 2015, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor David Mindell discussed the Air France Flight 447 tragedy in the opening segment of an EconTalk podcast dedicated to the ideas in Mindell's 2015 book Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myths of Autonomy. Mindell said the crash illustrated a "failed handoff", with insufficient warning, from the aircraft's autopilot to the human pilots.
- Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501, a 2014 fatal crash involving an Airbus A320 resulting from a high-altitude stall and pilots making opposite inputs with the aircraft's side-stick controls
- Colgan Air Flight 3407, a 2009 fatal crash resulting from improper response to a stall by the pilot
- Birgenair Flight 301, a 1996 fatal crash resulting from blocked pitot tubes. which led to a high-altitude stall
- Aeroperú Flight 603, a 1996 fatal crash caused by a blocked static port
- Northwest Airlines Flight 6231, a 1974 fatal crash caused by frozen pitot tubes
- XL Airways Germany Flight 888T, a 2008 fatal crash resulting from a stall that was caused by frozen angle-of-attack sensors
- List of aircraft accidents and incidents resulting in at least 50 fatalities
- Air France accidents and incidents
- AF is the IATA designator and AFR is the ICAO designator
- At the time of its disappearance, F-GZCP was using satellite communication, its position over the mid-Atlantic being too far from land-based receivers for VHF to be effective.
- On the map, page 13 the coordinates in BEA's first interim report with the information on page 13) is referenced as the "last known position" (French: Dernière position connue, "last known position").
- More precisely: that after one of the three independent systems had been diagnosed as faulty and excluded from consideration, the two remaining systems disagreed.
- 850 from its Navy and 250 Air Force.
- The areas showing detailed bathymetry were mapped using multibeam bathymetric sonar. The areas showing very generalized bathymetry were mapped using high-density satellite altimetry.
- The Remora 6000 remotely operated vehicle was designed and constructed by Phoenix International Holdings, Inc. of Largo, Maryland, United States.
- The airliner was considered to be in a nearly level attitude, but with a high rate of descent when it collided with the surface of the ocean. That impact caused high deceleration and compression forces on the airliner, as shown by the deformations that were found in the recovered wreckage.
- Some reports have described this as a deep stall, but this was a steady state conventional stall. A deep stall is associated with an aircraft with a T-tail, but this aircraft does not have a T-tail. The BEA described it as a "sustained stall".
- There was a similar side-stick control issue in the Air Asia Flight 8501 accident.
- "I didn't sleep enough last night. One hour – it's not enough right now." "Cette nuit, j'ai pas assez dormi. Une heure, c'était pas assez tout à l'heure."
- For an explanation of how airspeed is measured, see air data reference.
Official sources (in English)
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2 h 10 min 08: CAS changes from 274kt to 156kt. The CAS ISIS changes from 275 knots to 139 knots then goes back up to 223 knots. The Mach changes from 0.80 to 0.26.
2 h 10 min 09: CAS is 52kt. The CAS ISIS stabilises at 270 knots for four seconds.
2 h 10 min 34: CAS increases from 105 to 223 kt in two seconds. The CAS ISIS is 115 knots.
2 h 11 min 07: The CAS ISIS changes from 129 to 183 kt. The CAS is at 184 kt.
FDR graph parameters (in French):
– 2 h 10 min 04 to 2 h 10 min 26
– 2 h 10 min 26 to 2 h 10 min 50
– 2 h 10 min 50 to 2 h 11 min 47
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A large quantity of more or less accurate information and attempts at explanations concerning the accident are currently being circulated. The BEA reminds those concerned that in such circumstances, it is advisable to avoid all hasty interpretations and speculation on the basis of partial or non-validated information. At this stage of the investigation, the only established facts are:
· the presence near the airplane's planned route over the Atlantic of significant convective cells typical of the equatorial regions;
· based on the analysis of the automatic messages broadcast by the plane, there are inconsistencies between the various speeds measured.
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Malfunctions in the pitot probes on the A320 led the manufacturer to issue a recommendation in September 2007 to change the probes. This recommendation also applies to long-haul aircraft using the same probes and on which a very few incidents of a similar nature had occurred.
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Starting in May 2008, Air France experienced incidents involving a loss of airspeed data in flight... in cruise phase on A340s and A330s. These incidents were analysed with Airbus as resulting from pitot probe icing for a few minutes, after which the phenomenon disappeared.
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Pitot Sensors: Air France has received the recommendation from Airbus concerning the replacement of two Thalès probes by Goodrich probes on its long-haul A330/A340 aircraft. The technical instructions for the replacement of these probes will be available next week, after which Air France will proceed to modify its fleet of A330s and A340s.
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This AD requires replacing Thales Avionics pitot probes having P/N C16195AA and P/N C16195BA at positions 1 (captain) and 3 (standby) with Goodrich pitot probes having P/N 0851HL at positions 1 and 3. This AD also requires replacing Thales Avionics pitot probes having P/N C16195AA at position 2 (first officer) with Thales Avionics pitot probes having P/N C16195BA at position 2. In addition, this AD provides for optional installation of Goodrich pitot probes having P/N 0851HL at position 2.Alternate location Archived 25 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
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But the greater issue remains unaddressed. No matter how many possible scenarios a training program can simulate, pilots will continue to find themselves in unexpected circumstances.
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A suicide bombing at a hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, kills 25 people, including three ministers of the Transitional Federal Government.
|2009 Hotel Shamo bombing|
|Date||3 December 2009|
The 2009 Hotel Shamo bombing was a suicide bombing at the Hotel Shamo in Mogadishu, Somalia, on 3 December 2009. The bombing killed 25 people, including three ministers of the Transitional Federal Government, and injured 60 more, making it the deadliest attack in Somalia since the Beledweyne bombing on 18 June 2009 that claimed more than 30 lives.
Mohammed Olad Hassan, BBC News
The attack took place inside the meeting hall of the Hotel Shamo in Mogadishu during a commencement ceremony for medical students of Benadir University and was carried out by a suicide bomber dressed as a woman, "complete with a veil and a female's shoes", according to Minister of Information Dahir Mohamud Gelle. According to witnesses, the bomber approached a speakers' panel, verbally greeted them with the phrase "peace", and detonated his explosives belt. Former Minister of Health Osman Dufle, who was speaking when the blast happened, reported that he had noticed an individual wearing black clothing moving through the audience immediately before the explosion.
The ceremony—the second since Benadir University was formed in 2002 and a rare event in war-torn Somalia—had attracted hundreds of people. In attendance were the graduates and their family members, University officials, and five ministers of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Security inside the meeting hall was light and all of the ministers' bodyguards were outside the hall.
Abdinasir Mohamed, The Wall Street Journal
The bombing killed 24 people and injured 60 others. Most of those killed were students, but also among the dead were two doctors, three journalists, and three government ministers—Minister of Education Ahmed Abdulahi Waayeel, Minister of Health Qamar Aden Ali, and Minister of Higher Education Ibrahim Hassan Addow were killed. Minister of Sports Saleban Olad Roble was critically injured, and was hospitalised. He was later reported to have been flown to Saudi Arabia for treatment, where he died on 13 February 2010.
The three journalists killed in the bombing were: Mohamed Amiin Abdullah of Shabelle Media Network, a Somali television and radio network; freelance photographer Yasir Mairo, who died of injuries in hospital; and a cameraman alternately identified as freelancer Hassan Ahmed Hagi and Al Arabiya cameraman Hassan Zubeyr or Hasan al-Zubair. Their deaths raised to nine the number of journalists killed in Somalia during 2009, including four for Radio Shabelle. The explosion also injured six other journalists, including two—Omar Faruk, a photographer for Reuters, and Universal TV reporter Abdulkadir Omar Abdulle—who were taken to Medina Hospital in critical condition.
In a news conference held in the Hotel Shamo after the attack, President Ahmed called for international assistance to Somalia. He also displayed, according to a local journalist, what he identified as the bomber's body and remains of an explosive belt and a hijab. The Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende reported the bomber was a 23-year-old citizen of Denmark.
According to Idd Mohamed, a senior Somali diplomat, the attack was carried out to foster "terror" and "panic" and undermine the legitimacy of the Transitional Federal Government. Wafula Wamunyini, the acting head of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), expressed a similar opinion, claiming that the attack had the purpose of "intimidat[ing] and blackmail[ing]" the Somali government. Stephanie McCrummen of The Washington Post described the attack as "the worst blow in months" to the United Nations-supported government of Somalia.
The attack drew condemnation from a number of organisations, including the African Union (AU), the European Union, the United Nations Security Council, and the National Union of Somali Journalists.
AMISOM described the bombing as "inhumane and cowardly", and characterised it as a "heinous [crime] against humanity". AMISOM also promised to "spare no efforts" to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of the attack, and stated that the attack would not deter the AU from continuing to carry out its mission in Somalia.
Baroness Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy for the European Union (EU), echoed AMISOM's sentiment, calling the bombing a "cowardly attack against civilians including students, doctors and journalists".
The UN Security Council president Michel Kafando labelled the attack an act of terrorism and a "criminal act", called for a "thorough investigation", and conveyed "sympathies and condolences" to the victims of the attack, their families, the TFG, and the Somali people.
A joint statement by the UN, the EU, the Arab League and the United States affirmed that the international community would continue its support of the Transitional Federal Government; however, a senior European diplomat indicated that any additional military support to the TFG was unlikely.
President Ahmed characterised the attack as a "national disaster".
The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement expressing condolences to the families of the three journalists killed in the bombing and noted that the attack "cemented" Somalia's "position as the deadliest country in Africa for journalists".
- 2009 Beledweyne bombing
- List of journalists killed during the Somali civil war
- List of terrorist incidents, 2009
- Somali Civil War (2009–present)
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A mine explosion in Heilongjiang, China kills 108.
|Date||November 21, 2009|
|Location||Hegang, Heilongjiang, China|
|108 dead and 29 injured|
The 2009 Heilongjiang mine explosion (Chinese: 鹤岗新兴煤矿爆炸事故; pinyin: Hègǎng Xīnxīng méikuàng bàozhà shìgù) was a mining accident that occurred on November 21 2009, near Hegang in the Heilongjiang province, northeastern China, which killed over 108 people. A further of 29 people were hospitalised. The explosion occurred in the Xinxing coal mine shortly before dawn, at 02:30 CST, when 528 people were believed to be in the pit. Of these, 420 are believed to have been rescued.
Location and explosion
The mine, located close to the China–Russia border, is owned by the state-run Heilongjiang Longmay Mining Holding Group Co., Ltd., which has been open since 1917, and produces 12 million tons of coal per year, making it one of the largest and oldest coal mines in the country. The explosion itself, a preliminary investigation concluded, was caused by trapped, pressurised gases underground, caused by poor ventilation in the mine shaft. The blast was powerful enough that it was felt six miles away. Many nearby buildings were damaged, including one next to the mine whose roof was blown off. The director of Hegang General hospital, where the injured were being treated, told the Xinhua News Agency that "most of the injured are suffering from compound injuries, such as respiratory injuries, broken bones and gas poisoning".
A Chinese official said rescue efforts were being impeded by gas and debris from collapsed tunnels. The death toll makes it the worst accident of its type within the past two years. While hope for those trapped was fading, a Chinese official stated that the effort was still a rescue operation. San Jingguang, a mining company spokesman stated that "if we haven't found them, to us that means they are still alive."
Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang visited the site to inspect rescue efforts on the afternoon of November 21, while President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao are both said to have "made instructions on the rescue work". Both have also expressed condolences for those killed. Meanwhile, Li Zhanshu, the governor of Heilongjiang called for increased safety standards in Chinese mines, and the provincial work safety bureau vowed to step up its mining reform programme.
As a result of the accident, the director, vice director and chief engineer of the mining company are reported to have been removed from their individual posts. The Chinese state prosecutor is investigating the possibility that criminal negligence was responsible for the disaster. Chinese state media reported on November 23, 2009, that an investigation had concluded poor management was to blame for the incident. Relatives of the deceased also claimed on November 23 that officials did not notify them of the accident.
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The 28 October 2009 Peshawar bombing kills 117 and wounds 213.
|28 October 2009 Peshawar Market Bombing|
|Date||28 October 2009 |
1300 hrs (UTC+5)
|Car bombing, fire|
|Weapons||150 kilograms (330 lb) of explosive|
The 28 October 2009 Peshawar bombing occurred in Peshawar, Pakistan, when a car bomb was detonated in a Mina Bazar (Market for women and children) of the city. The bomb killed 137 people and injured more than 200 others, making it the deadliest attack in Peshawar's history. Pakistani government officials believe the Taliban to be responsible, but both Taliban and Al-Qaeda sources have denied involvement in the attack.
area and within seconds plumes of smoke and dust
started emitting out of a building near Al-Falah Mosque.
shopkeeper Karim Khan
According to the North West Frontier Province's information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, most of the victims were women and children, in the woman-exclusive Peepal Mindi shopping section of Peshawar. The blast originated from a car bomb parked outside of the city's Meena Bazar. The bomb was said to contain 150 kilograms (330 lb) of explosives, according to bomb squad worker Shafqatullah Malik. The blast caused widespread fires among stores selling flammable fabrics, which caused further damage and casualties; the bomb was stated to be the deadliest since the 2007 Karachi bombing, and the worst in Peshawar's history. The death toll was expected to rise, from an original estimate of 90, as rescuers and civilians sifted through the rubble of a four-story building that was collapsed by the blast; the explosion also collapsed a mosque and damaged four other four-story buildings. Among the dead was a female teacher doing winter shopping for her young children. Many of the wounded were seriously injured and would later succumb to their injuries. According to Mohammad Usman, whose shoulder was wounded, "There was a deafening sound and I was like a blind man for a few minutes... I heard women and children crying and started to help others. There was the smell of human flesh in the air." The location of the bombing, Meena Bazar, usually draws low-income female shoppers.
Pakistani authorities believed that the Taliban were responsible for orchestrating the attack, but the group has denied any involvement. Information minister Hussain stated that the government believed the bombing to be a response to a recent anti-militant operation in South Waziristan.
On 24 April 2015 Italian DIGOS detectives arrested a terror cell that plotted to bomb the Vatican. According to Mario Carta, an officer in the anti-terrorism unit, there was evidence that the 2009 Peshawar attack was substantially planned and financed from Olbia, Sardinia, and that Italy-based militants had taken part in it.
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was visiting Pakistan, condemned the attacks, saying that the perpetrators were on the "losing side of history". Clinton added, "We commit to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Pakistani people in your fight for peace and security, we will give you the help that you need in order to achieve your goal." Meanwhile, nearby Lady Reading Hospital went into a state of emergency as the injured were transferred there; medical officials pleaded with the public to donate blood for the blast's victims.
the hospital... We don’t even have time to count the bodies.
It's absolutely mayhem here. We have called for blood
donation to meet with the crisis...
Anonymous medical official
Medical staff complained that the authorities were not adequately prepared to deal the repercussions of an attack with so many casualties. According to Muzamil Hussain, a responder, "There are a lot of wounded people. We tried to help them but there were no ambulances so we took the victims on rickshaws and other vehicles." Muzamil Hussain added that, "There were no police. The police and government didn't help us, the police even opened fire on us." Another man claimed that there was only a pretense of security, and that the government was actually unable to stop such attacks. Government officials acknowledged Peshawar's lack of ability to prepare for terrorist attacks, and Azam Khan, the city's senior-most civil servant, stated that, "The police strength of Peshawar cannot secure everything," and explained how the militants had penetrated a "three-ring police cordon" around the city.
Sahibzada Anees, Peshawar's deputy coordination officer, cited the city's lack of trained firefighters, and the inability to move excavating machinery into areas where people had been buried alive because of the city's narrow streets. A local government official added that crowds were hindering rescue efforts, stating how, "People have thronged the scene... They have made it difficult for us to remove the rubble and retrieve bodies and those still alive." All shops in the area were closed after the blast. An inquiry was ordered by NWFP Chief Minister Amir Hyder Khan Hoti.
As many as 60 people were considered unaccounted for as of 30 October.
- : President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the attack while Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani denounced the attacks and directed the government officials to provide the best possible treatment to the injured. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the violence would not break his government's will to fight back. The resolve and determination will not be shaken," Qureshi said. "People are carrying out such heinous crimes – they want to shake our resolve. I want to address them: We will not buckle. We will fight you. We will fight you because we want peace and stability in Pakistan." NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said, "Terrorism cannot be described as jihad as our religion does not allow taking lives of innocent people".
- : Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, called Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to condemn the Peshawar blast. He also expressed grief over loss of innocent lives.
- : Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was in Pakistan to discuss the growing number of militant attacks in the country, condemned the attacks, stating that the U.S. would "commit to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Pakistani people in your fight for peace and security, we will give you the help that you need in order to achieve your goal."
- : Al-Qaeda sent an e-mail to media outlets stating that they do not explode bombs in bazaars and mosques. They said that separate forces, "who want to defame jihad and refugees, are behind the Peshawar bomb blast."
- : Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan also condemned the attacks and denied their involvement in the blast.
- United Nations: U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that he wanted to "express my outrage at the loss of so many innocent lives, no cause can justify such inhuman and indiscriminate violence."
- List of terrorist incidents in Pakistan since 2001
- List of terrorist incidents, 2009
- 2019 Ghotki riots
- 2014 Larkana temple attack
- 2009 Gojra riots
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The October 2009 Baghdad bombings kill 155 and wounds at least 721.
|25 October 2009 Baghdad bombings|
|Date||25 October 2009 |
10:30 am – (UTC+3)
|Perpetrators||Islamic State of Iraq|
The attack was caused by two suicide car bombs, in a minivan and a 26-seat bus, which targeted the Ministry of Justice and the Baghdad Provincial Council building in a quick succession at 10:30 am local time. The Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works, which is approximately 50 metres (160 ft) from the Justice Ministry, also sustained severe damage. Among the dead were 35 employees of the Ministry of Justice and at least 25 staff members of the Baghdad Provincial Council. Among the wounded were three American contractors. A bus carrying children from a daycare next to the Justice Ministry was also hit, killing the driver and 2 dozen children on board as well as wounding six other children.
The blasts badly damaged St George's church, the only Anglican church in Iraq. Canon Andrew White reported body parts had been blown into the church by the explosion and that a humanitarian medical clinic which operated on the site had been destroyed.
Iraqi Deputy Interior Minister Ahmad al-Khafaji told Adnkronos International (AKI) that the bombs were manufactured inside the Green Zone, in a location right next to the blasts. Deputy Minister al-Khafaji said, "It seems the individuals who carried out the attacks had rented a house or commercial premises in a sidestreet of the area they intended to target and gradually sneaked in the bomb-making materials."
On 11 March 2010, Iraqi police arrested Munaf Abdul Rahim al-Rawi, the mastermind of the bombings. His capture also led to the death of Al-Qaeda leaders Abu Ayub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. Al-Rawi was called the "Governor of Baghdad" and masterminded many of the other Baghdad bombings since Aug. 2009, according to Major General Qassim Atta, a Baghdad military spokesman.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had been trying to portray the country as safer than the period of civil war from 2006 to 2008. Local politicians said the blasts were trying to destroy faith in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his ability to secure the country after the U.S. withdrawal. He faced re-election in January 2010, and much of his popularity had rested on the safety of the country. The bombings prompted some Iraqis to reconsider their support for the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister responded, stating, "The cowardly acts of terrorism which occurred today, must not weaken the resolution of Iraqis to continue their journey and to fight the followers of the fallen regime, the Baathists and al-Qaeda."
US President Barack Obama strongly condemned the attacks; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement that the U.S. would work together with Iraqis "to combat all forms of violence and attempts at intimidation."
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- Shadid, Anthony (26 October 2009). "Bombings rock Iraq's political landscape". The Washington Post. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
- "Twin Baghdad blasts kill scores". BBC News. 25 October 2009. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
- Santana, Rebecca (26 October 2009). "Iraq steps up security after blasts kill 155". Baghdad: The Associated Press. Retrieved 26 October 2009.
- Norland, Rod (26 October 2009). "Iraq Blast Toll Continues to Rise, Includes Children". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 October 2009.
- Shalash, Saad (25 October 2009). "Bloodiest attack in Baghdad in months". Independent News & Media. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
- "Deadly bombings worst Iraq attack in two years". CNN. 25 October 2009. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
- Santana, Rebecca (25 October 2009). "Bombings Target Government in Baghdad, 147 Killed". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 28 October 2009. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
- Williams, Timothy (25 October 2009). "Iraq Bombings, Deadliest Since 2007, Raise Security Issue". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
- "Iraq: Deadly car bombs 'made inside' Green Zone". Adnkronos International. 26 October 2009. Retrieved 28 October 2009.
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- "Al Qaeda commander: How I planned Iraq attacks". CNN. 20 May 2010.
- "Obama: Iraq attacks an attempt to derail progress". . 25 October 2009. Retrieved 25 October 2009.[dead link]
-  Images of the attack
Gunmen attack the Manawan Police Academy in Lahore, Pakistan.
At 7:31 am on 30 March 2009, the Manawan Police Academy in Lahore, Pakistan was attacked by an estimated 12 gunmen. The perpetrators were armed with automatic weapons and grenades or rockets and some were dressed as policemen. They took over the main building during a morning parade when 750 unarmed police recruits were present on the compound’s parade ground. Police forces arrived 90 minutes later and were able to take back the building by 3:30 pm. Five trainees, two instructors and a passer-by were killed. A suspect was captured alive in a field near the school. Three of the attackers blew themselves up to avoid arrest while three others were taken into custody as they tried to escape in police uniforms. The four were taken to undisclosed locations for interrogation by the security forces according to local media.
he Manawan Police Academy is a training school of the Pakistan Police located on the outskirts of Lahore. At around 7:30 am local time at least 12 gunmen, some dressed in police uniform, attacked the academy during the morning drill hour when around 750 unarmed police recruits were on parade. The gunmen apparently gained access to the site by scaling the perimeter wall before causing three or four explosions on the parade ground, using grenades or rockets, and opening fire with automatic weapons. Several civilians on the road adjacent to the compound were hit by fire from the gunmen apparently when the gunmen attacked a police guard detachment near to a gate.
The academy had only been in a peacetime defensive stance and probably contained just a small armoury of outdated weapons. The attackers proceeded across the parade ground and stormed the academy building, taking hostages from the police trainees and establishing three or four defensive positions including one on the rooftop.
Red star depicts the Manawan Police Training School.The vertical line on right is Border with India
Elite Forces of Punjab Police arrived on the site within 90 minutes of the attack and were cheered on by a crowd of spectators. The security forces took up position on rooftops around the compound, firing on the gunmen and sealing off any escape routes. The gunmen returned fire with automatic weaponry and grenades and also shot at a police helicopter. Several hours into the attack security forces used explosives to storm the building and retake it from the gunmen after ten to fifteen minutes of sustained firing, capturing the building by 3:30 pm. During the course of the attack and siege eight police personnel, two civilians and eight gunmen were killed and 95 people injured. At least four of the gunmen have been captured alive by the security forces.
A curfew was imposed in the area surrounding the academy. Several hundred civilians poured in from close-by localities to watch the operation despite the ‘curfew-like’ conditions in the area. Elite forces declared victory signs on completion of the successful operation. Punjab Police resorted to aerial firing and chanted slogans of Allahu Akbar after the siege successfully ended and hostages were freed and at least three of the would-be suicide bombers were caught alive.
The leader of Tehrik-i-Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud took responsibility for the attack. “Yes, we have carried out this attack. I will give details later,” Mehsud, an al Qaeda-linked leader based in the Waziristan tribal region told Reuters by telephone. He also said that his next target would be Washington D.C.
Mehsud was also accused by the government of Pakistan for carrying out the attack that killed popular Pakistani political leader, Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.
Fedayeen al-Islam, a previously unknown group, claimed responsibility for the assault and added that it would carry out more attacks unless Pakistani troops withdraw from the tribal areas near the Afghan border and the end of US drone attacks in the country.
A person named Hijratullah, believed to be part of the group of attackers, was apprehended by local citizens when he was seen hiding in the nearby fields at first and then moving slowly towards the rescue helicopters with two grenades in his hand. He was confirmed by authorities as a resident of Paktika province of Afghanistan. Authorities also confirmed later to have arrested 3 more attackers after the Rangers forced them to lay down their arms. Another gunman Hazrat Gull of Miranshah in Waziristan was also arrested. 10 suspects belonging to a religious organisation were arrested from Sukkur. Police also arrested Qari Ishtiaq, who was said to be the commander of the Punjabi Taliban. He was arrested from Bahawalpur on the information provided by the Hijratullah who was jailed for 10 years due to his role. 7 other militants were arrested from different parts of Punjab on his information him.
Bushfires in Victoria leave 173 dead in the worst natural disaster in Australia.
The road into the Victorian town of Kinglake is treacherous at the best of times. It is absurdly narrow and winding, with a maximum speed of 20km/h and grim signs saying “Sheer Drop: No Safety Barriers” as you circumnavigate your way to the township on the mountain peak at the northern end of the Yarra Valley.
If the road into Kinglake is scary on a sunny afternoon, God knows what it would have been like on that most awful day, February 7, 2009, when 173 people died in Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires, the deadliest natural disaster in Australian history.
The majority of them died in and around Kinglake and Kilmore East, many meeting their fate on that shocking road as they tried to escape when it was far too late, their cars colliding with trees, other fleeing vehicles, or rolling into the burning ravine in the afternoon darkness.
I attended two weddings over summer, both of which said something about Australia and its ongoing relationship with bushfire.
The first was in the Yarra Valley, which took us to Kinglake. The second was on top of Adelaide’s tallest hill, Mt Lofty, on January 3, the day that the Sampson Flat bushfire was burning out of control to the city’s northeast.
That fire was truly terrifying. It was burning out of control in every direction. It was stinking hot and the northerly wind was blowing a gale by 1pm, right across town.
As I was putting my tie on there was an almighty crash at the back of our suburban home; a 5m-long branch had fallen off the neighbour’s gum tree and smashed his back fence. There were lightning forecasts for late afternoon, prompting warnings that more fires could start across the ranges.
The fire ended up burning out 125,000ha, destroying 27 homes, and came so close to the city that residents were evacuated in Golden Grove, a place so urban and so typical of Australian suburbia that no-one who lives there had ever dreamt of drawing up a fire plan.
Every cat and dozens of dogs at a boarding kennel died when the premises burnt to the ground.
But not one person lost their life.
Why the difference between what happened in Victoria in 2009 and in South Australia last month, on a day which authorities were validly likening to SA’s Ash Wednesday disaster of 1983, when 75 people died?
A major investigation is underway into how the Sampson Flat fire was fought and, crucially, how the affected communities responded to it. The investigation involves experts from across Australia, men and women who have studied bushfires from WA to Canberra and Tassie to NSW. The anecdotal and media reports so far suggest one clear difference between Victoria in 2009 and SA in 2015.
Almost everybody got the hell out of there.
The so-called “stay and defend” policy was the subject of much debate after Victoria in 2009. This week I read a report by the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authority Council, which was based on interviews with 1914 people who survived the Victorian fires. The survey found that 50 per cent of people intended to stay and defend their property that day, and 19 per cent intended to leave early or before they came under threat.
The remaining 31 per cent were undecided or had no strategy, with 17 per cent saying they intended to stay and defend but leave if they felt threatened, 9 per cent saying they intended to wait until the fire arrived and then come up with the plan, and 5 per cent not citing a plan.
Talk about a margin for error. The only group that had what I would regard as a viable plan was the 19 per cent who got out in advance.
One leading Australian fire expert, Dr Richard Thornton, said in an interview during the week that 2009 demonstrated so tragically that many people were simply cutting it way too fine. He also questioned whether people who intended to stay and defend were psychologically and physically prepared for the onslaught.
The wedding at Mt Lofty was almost cancelled that day. It wasn’t until late morning that we got confirmation that it was still going ahead. It started at 4pm. It was a creepy drive up the hill, so much wind and electricity in the air, to the very mountain that was left black by the big blaze of 1983.
After nightfall, I was standing on the lawn at the back of the function centre, looking over the escarpment to the northeast of the ranges. A thick red line of fire stretched across the horizon. It was 40km away but it was so vast and so intense that, every so often, the red would glow deeper as the wind blew, reaching higher into the air.
“Our house is over there,” a bloke called Luke told me over a beer. He and his wife live in Lobethal, one of several towns where residents had been advised to leave the day before as the fire intensified.
They had taken their kids to the grandparents and, figuring that there was nothing they could do, decided to come to their mate’s wedding anyway and have a good time. At that stage they thought it would be days before they got to enter the fire zone to see if their house was still standing.
“Still,” Luke said, “it’s only a f—ing house.”
It was a laconic Australian way of putting it, and one which makes a hell of a lot more sense than stay and defend.