BEA - Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la sécurité de l'aviation civile - Zone Sud - Bâtiment 153 - 200, rue de Paris - Aéroport du Bourget - 93352 Le Bourget Cedex - FRANCE - Téléphone 33 1 49 92 72 00 - Télécopie 33 1 49 92 72 03BEA - Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la sécurité de l'aviation civile - Zone Sud - Bâtiment 153 - 200, rue de Paris - Aéroport du Bourget - 93352 Le Bourget Cedex - FRANCE - Téléphone 33 1 49 92 72 00 - Télécopie 33 1 49 92 72 03

 

Flight AF 447 1st June 2009

A330-203, registered F-GZCP

 

Overview of the Previous Sea Searches

 

In the night of 31 May to 1st June 2009, flight AF 447 from Rio to Paris disappeared off the Brazilian coast, without any emergency message, without witnesses and outside radar coverage. As soon as the alert was raised on the morning of 1st June, significant air and naval resources were mobilised to try to find some trace of the airplane and any possible survivors. It was only 5 days later, and during the following days, that bodies and floating debris were found drifting on the surface of the sea, north of the last known position automatically transmitted by the airplane, a little less than 5 minutes before the impact.

On 10 June 2009, a first undersea search operation began. Its aim was to detect the acoustic signals that should be transmitted, for a certified period of 30 days, by beacons attached to the airplane's flight recorders. These searches were undertaken using receivers lent by the US Navy, towed by surface vessels, and a receiver on board a French Navy submarine. The acoustic searches were brought to an end on 10 July 2009.

This operation was followed from 27 July to 17 August 2009 by a new attempt to localise the wreckage with the aid of sonar on board an IFREMER vessel. This operation was also unsuccessful in its attempt to find the wreckage.

Thus, in August 2009, the BEA defined a new strategy to search for the wreckage in a particularly difficult environment:

  • A vast search zone (17,000 km2) corresponding to the area of the circle into which the airplane crashed into the sea;
  • Sea depths that go down as far as 4,300 metres;
  • A very rough sea bed;
  • A region in which the currents are not well known.

In order to be able to define the impact site, the BEA then launched a study to model the sea currents so as to estimate the drift of the recovered debris. This work was entrusted to a group of specialists from eleven oceanographic institutes and organisations and resulted in the definition of a reduced area of about 2,000 km2 in which the wreckage should, with a high degree of probability, be located. The third search campaign was thus launched on 29 March 2010 on the basis of this hypothesis.

The hope of quickly localising the wreckage led the BEA to mobilise versatile and complementary naval resources that made possible both localisation of the wreckage and the immediate recovery of the recorders and, if appropriate, of elements of the wreckage useful to the investigation.

This campaign took place in two stages, in April and then May 2010. It was based on two vessels, one equipped with Remus 6000 autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) as well as means for observation and lifting, the other with a towed sonar (the latter did not participate in the second stage).

During these two stages an area of over 6,000 km2 was covered: the initial zone of 2,000 km2 was extended to the adjacent zones. The operation came to an end at the end of May 2010 without having detected the wreckage of the airplane.

The lack of success of the sea searches undertaken between June 2009 and May 2010 meant that a review was required in order to answer the following questions:

  • Did the resources used make it possible to localise the wreckage?
  • Were the zones explored the ones that might contain the wreckage?

Work undertaken by the BEA with the support of Metron Inc made it possible to exploit the results of the searches undertaken up to now. It was possible to deduce that the zones that had been searched previously using sonar underwater imagery did not need to be covered again.

However, the wreckage may be located in the other zones in the 40 nautical mile (74 km) circle centred on the last known position that have not yet been explored by this type of equipment. This is why the new campaign is based on the strategy of systematically searching all of the zones that have not yet been explored by means of sonar underwater imagery. It will begin in the 20 nautical mile (37 km) circle centred on the last known position.

CNRS / Brest, University of Massachussets / Dartmouth, INMRAS / Moscou, Mercator Océan / Toulouse, CLS / Toulouse, WHOI / Woods Hole, IMT / Toulouse, SHOM / Brest, NOC / Southampton, IFREMER / Brest et Météo-France / Toulouse.

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Incident to the Airbus A320 registered TS-IMC and operated by tunisair, on 12 March 2013 at Paris Orly Airport (France). Report published in English on 24 September 2014
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Serious incident on 27 February 2012 to the Airbus A330-200 registered F-GZCG and operated by Air France in cruise at FL360 over Tanzania, final report published in English on 24 July 2014
Accident on 25 April 2010 to the Beechcraft 200 registered F-OIAN and operated by Air Alizé at Nadi (Fiji), final report published in English on 24 July 2014
serious incident on 10 May 2012 on Paris le Bourget airport (France) to the Beechcraft 200 King Air registered EC-KNP and operated by Air Taxi and Charter International, final report published in English on 1st July 2014
Accident on 19 August 2012 in Feings (France) to the Cameron Balloons Z-750 registered F-HDJH operated by Air Magic, SARL Flying Circus, published in English on 27 June 2014
Accident on 16 July 2013 in Authon-la-Plaine (France) to Lindstrand 180 A balloon registered F-GSAE operated by Aerfun Montgolfières, published in English on 27 June 2014
Serious incident on 29 June 2010 near Basel-Mulhouse airport (France) between the Airbus A319 registered HB-JZQ operated by easyJet Switzerland and the Airbus A319 registered F-GRHA operated by Air France, published in English on 12 May 2014
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Accident on 25 July 2010 to the Schweizer 269 C helicopter registered F-GJGQ at Coullons (45). Final Report published in English on 24 July 2012.
Accident on 24 May 2012 to the aircraf Embraer ERJ 145 MP registered F-GUBF at Ljubljana aerodrome (Slovenia), runway 31. Final Report published in English on 24 July 2012.
Serious incident on 17 January 2011 to the Boeing 777 registered F-GSPM in cruise, over the Atlantic ocean. Final Report published in English on 16 July 2012.
Serious incident on 16 August 2008 on take-off from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (95) to the Boeing 737-800 registered SU-BPZ operated by AMC Airlines. Final Report published in English on 29 August 2011.
Accident on 1st June 2009 between Rio and Paris to the Airbus A330-203 registered F-GZCP, flight AF 447. Final Report, published on 5 July 2012.
 




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