What Killed Flight AF 447

What Brought Down the Air France Jet over the Atlantic?

Flight AF 447 left Rio de Janeiro, bound for Paris, at 1900 local time (2200 GMT) on Sunday 31 May.  The aircraft, an Airbus A330-200 with registration F-GZCP, had been in operation since April 2005.  Shortly after the aircraft's scheduled arrival time in Paris of 1110 local time (0910 GMT), it was announced that the flight was missing.
Flight AF 447 left Rio de Janeiro, bound for Paris, at 1900 local time (2200 GMT) on Sunday 31 May. The aircraft, an Airbus A330-200 with registration F-GZCP, had been in operation since April 2005. Shortly after the aircraft's scheduled arrival time in Paris of 1110 local time (0910 GMT), it was announced that the flight was missing.

Just my tuppence worth.  The best current info on the subject is Wikipedia which has peer reviewed sifting and not a load of speculative ‘maybes’.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AF_447 Also, check https://www.weathergraphics.com/tim/af447/ for good weather, navigation and aircraft info.


Aside from a bomb, which has never been mentioned because the authorities must have had a bit more information than they are letting on to disregard that option, lightning has been bandied around a bit along with big hailstones and updrafts.

A lot is being made about turbulence and thunderstorms in the Intertropical Conversion Zone (ITCZ).  As far as I can find, no wings have ever snapped on a modern airliner due to up or down drafts.  They may cause the airplane to do something else, but the wings stay on!

British Nobel Prize winning phyicist, meteorologist and Inventor, Charles Thomson Rees WilsonSo thunderstorms, especially in the tropics, happen all the time.  But aircraft can take them routinely nowadays because they are designed to.  So let’s eliminate this option.  If the airplane had stalled, at normal altitude the crew would have had plenty of time to radio mayday.  Even with electrics fused, the airplane has an automatic spinner that pops out to generate new electric for control and comms.  Lightning, similarly, because it happens all the time, is planned for and designed against, so eliminate that as well.

However, I remember everything, (on this sort of thing!!), and way back in the 90s I saw a TV show about the recently discovered phenomenon of Blue jets and Red Sprites.  There are a host of such upward moving electrical discharges from the top of thunderstorms, nearly always above the ocean.  They were postulated by Wilson in the 1920s, physicist inventor of the Cloud Chamber, which, it can easily be argued, helped to bring about the Atomic Bomb.  They were discovered in 1989.  Wilson knew his stuff.

My emphasis shows that all the factors are in place for a viable method of bringing down a large modern aircraft in open airspace.  (also, see Letter to Nature: Gigantic jets between a thundercloud and the ionosphere;  Wikipedia: Upper Atmosheric Lightning or TLE).  Because of global warming, thunderstorms will be more prevalent and more violent as the Earth seeks to equalise it’s overheated energy balance.  So I suggest that in future, it’s probably safer (but more expensive in time and fuel) to fly right round thunderstorms, not over the top or steer through.  It’s another example of Karmic Retribution or Lovelock’s Gaia effect of automatic feedback mechanisms.

Blue Jets

Enough of that.  I think Blue Jets are the most likely cause of the aircraft’s demise.  Their origin is at normal flying height.

Now watch the videos.  Imagine trying to fly an aircraft right over that lot.  The jets are remarkably reminiscent of what could be called a particle beam weapon, or a Star Trek-like phaser or photon bomb-type weapon.  The concentration of energy, in my mind, seems perfectly capable of knocking a airplane from the sky either by electrical overload, or physical damage to the structure by pressure force, or electrical corrosion due to plasma ablation.  No-one haas been able to study the effects of such a thing because they are so rare.

Although totally natural, I doubt this knowledge will bring much immediate comfort to those affected.  If the black box flight recorders are ever found (it’s gonna be tricky, two to four miles down a crack in the ocean floor), they may give some information.  They may be completely burnt out by the discharge, of course.  I know they have various structural and pressure design limits – I don’t know their electrical resistance to high intensity plasma discharges.?

By Strangely

Founding member of the gifted & talented band, "The Crawling Chaos" from the North-East of England.


  1. Well a month has gone by since the AF447 crash, and many theories have come and gone, some seriously latched on by a media short of real facts.

    So what do we have now?

    The best guess the French investigators have is from by examining the bits of plane and the few tens of bodies. The conclusion, based mainly on the kind of damage to the fuselage parts, is that the plane more or less plummetted straight down from 35000 feet!

    The speed sensors are mentioned but not blamed specifically.

    This is a reasonable news report: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8130989.s

    So what we have is a plane flying flat at 35000 feet, suddenly losing most contact with the outside world apart from a few automated and confusing sensor messages, then plummetting straight bdown – but not fast enough to break up due to excess airspeed or pancake rotations (called a flat spin). Old style high tailplane airliners (like the VC10, Tristar etc) were noted for getting into this sort of un-recoverable stall. There are several ways that an airplane can enter this stall condition…

    My initial guess still holds. I still think it got whacked by a massive electric charge which knocked out nearly all the electrics. In all likelihood, the 'cursed' speed sensors (a red herring perhaps?), were the actually the most robust components and their circuitry continued to function, thus providing a discontinuous flow of bizarre readings that have provided many speculative news column inches and some head-aches for Thales, the maker. Remember – there was NO radio contact at all. Just the speed sensor messages.

    Check the Blue Jets again in the videos. It gives a good feel for what I mean.

  2. There’s continuing talk of the air speed sensors being at fault, although the team in charge say nothing has been ruled in or out.
    Despite this the amount of speculation is huge. For example, check this article from today’s Telegraph Online:


    In this, they say that new ‘evidence’ proves the plane broke up over a long period.
    The Evidence?
    At the top of the article they say,

    The Brazilian Air Force said bodies from flight AF 447 had been picked up from locations more than 50 miles apart – supporting the theory that the plane did not simply plummet into the ocean.

    but lower down at the end they say,

    Brazilian searchers in charge of recovering floating bodies and debris say strong ocean currents have led them to widen the surface search area into Senegalese waters

    So what does it mean? Which is right?

    As far as I can see, strong ocean currents (say 5mph) can easily, over the course of a week, dissipate floating material & bodies over a wide area.
    5mph equates to 120 miles per day or ~1000 miles in a week or so. It only needs debris to be spread over a few hundred metres for wide dispersal to occur in the swirling currents, which don’t always go in nice straight lines!!

    Furthermore, if the bodies are a mix of surface bodies and are also being continuously released from the sunken fuselage over a period of time as the varying bottom currents affect it, then a 50+ mile dispersal does not seem excessive and in no way proves the first statement in the Telegraph article which can now be consigned to the category of “speculation”, the same as every other report I’ve seen.

    It’s certainly not evidence!

    BTW, I have extensive knowledge of Oceanography – it was part of my degree!

  3. Over the last day more bodies have been found (24 so far as of today) as well as a significant bit of the airplane.
    The bodies, once identified, mapped to their seating postions and post-mortemed will provide vital information.
    The airplane part is the vertical stabiliser, which still has the rudder attached (see photo here: https://www.fab.mil.br/portal/voo447/FOTOS/090609/foto1.jpg )
    This is important as it narrows the search area down for one of the important black box flight recorders. There are two in a airplane, usually placed at opposite ends for obvious reasons.
    The picture clearly shows the little metal trailing spikes which are used to remove static electricity from the airplane in flight.
    Another related photo with the tail in the water ( https://www.fab.mil.br/portal/voo447/FOTOS/080609/foto_3.jpg )shows that the rudder in a different attitude and thus, movable, and not locked (or jammed) in position. This is important.

    There have been no discoveries so far of pitot tubes or black boxes containing data. Because of this, I consider talk about pitot tube problems just that – talk. They may as well talk about tyres as there’s just as much evidence for tyre damage causing the crash as pitot tubes. BTW, tyre damage caused the Concorde to crash.

    So far, for a crash cause or related cause we have:

    weather – the thunderstorms, but nothing particularly unusual about them as other airplanes fared okay.
    electrical malfunctions – spurious error messages, cause unknown and/or unreleased.

    …er. That’s all.

    To these we can now add that the rudder wasn’t jammed.

    A lot of documentary evidence is accumulating on the Brazilian Air Force website here: https://www.fab.mil.br/portal/capa/index.php?page=voo447

    The Wikipedia website is as good as anywhere for peer-reviewed and moderated information. See:

  4. Today, two bodies from the airplane have been found and Air France is acelerating the replacement of air speed sensors which have at times been found to give erroneous readings.

    First the bodies will be examined, especially for external injuries that may help arrive at a cause. Burns, shrapnel particles etc. The lungs will have to be examined for any foreign particles that were inhaled ante-mortem. The bodies will need identifying and then what seats they were sat at.
    Then all that info will be plugged into the big panjandram of ideas to help with a final conclusion.

    I doubt that two bodies will be enough, though. Hopefully, a few more will break free of the submerged wreckage and tell their sorry tale.

    As for the speed sensors. They can’t be the be all and end all of the argument. The airplanes are currently okay to fly worldwide (which they do every day) with the current crop. It sounds to me like more clutching at straws in an attempt to quickly apportion blame. This is wrong. Evidence should be quickly found so that it doesn’t degrade too fast. Then reasoned judgements need to be made.
    Quick, knee-jerk blame and finger pointing won’t revive the dead. They’ll be just as dead in a week and just as dead the week afterwards.
    The important thing is to derive a proper truth.

  5. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8086860.stm
    Today’s latest news is that 24 ‘error messages’ were sent by the automated system. There is no other information, just speculation.

    Q. So what can I tell from that?
    A. I can tell TWO things.

    ONE: That various electrical (the whole airplane is fly-by-wire and thus electrical) systems were not working or working incorrectly.
    TWO: That the automated (electrical) system was working.

    Q. So what does that mean?
    A. Whatever problem it was didn’t have enough power to black out all electrics simultaneously but was severe enough to prevent crew radio alerts. Maybe the radio was broken, maybe the crew were incapacitated either completely or by fervent actions (i.e. too busy to speak).
    Whether this eliminates Blue Jets or not, I don’t know. I’m just suggesting them as a reasonable source for a rare catastrophic event at the correct altitude.

    Any more?

    No, not really. It would be informative, especially to the designers of the alerting system, what those alerts were though…?
    I think the key, unless we get further information as either useful wreckage or flight recorders, is in interpreting the causes and order of these 24 alerts.

    I imagine that the best minds in Toulouse, Chester and Filton are working on this right now. After all, it’s the first fatal crash of an Airbus 330 in 16 years of flight. They’re not that bad in that light, and there’s a lot of negative comment, even from pilots who should know better, about the airplane marque. Other makes e.g. Boeing, have had many more crashes, so I suspect that there’s some business shark zenophobic skullduggery behind some of the comments.

    1. <img src="http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/08/americas_enl_1247584535/img/1.jpg&quot; alt="The US carrier Southwest Airlines has inspected about 200 planes after a hole opened up in the passenger cabin during a flight, forcing an emergency landing." />Some of the prejudicial comments about the Airbus marque versus the likes of Boeing were quite bad. there was all sorts of stuff like 'fly-by-wire' is bad – that's why Boeing don't use it (they do!), to composite planes are bad, that's why Boeings are better (Boeings are nearly all composite now).

      Anyway, a METAL skinned Boeing 737 has been mysteriously holed (see picture) which has meant checks on all 200 planes at one carrier.

      This means that Boeings do fail, even the all metal, hydraulic actuation systems ones!

      And don't forget, they DO crash occasionally….. Industrial xenophobia is the weirdest thing. lets keep it level and balanced.

  6. The latest news is still a string of “maybe” this’s and “maybe” that’s.
    The debris and oil that was initialy found and attributed to the crashed airplane AF 447, has now been assigned to a naval origin, probably.

    So after 3 days, the cause of the crash remains the same with the same list of possibles. Blue Jets still seem more likely to me than the other reasons, because all the encountered factors such as storms applied equally to neaby airplanes and anyway, the airplanes and pilots are designed and trained for such exceedingly common happenings. A bomb remains a small option as there was a warning, the airplane was searched, but no-one has claimed responsibility as they’re usually quick to do.

    My hunch is that it has to be something rare and powerful. A Blue Jet.

  7. I’ve recently read two further salient comments on the workings of this tragedy. Both are on this webpage, http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/06/03/air-france-flight-447-a-detailed-meteorological-analysis/

    Unfortunately, comments aren’t numbered so I’ll copy.

    Ecotretas (09:15:05) :
    AF 447 was very near to a TAP airplane at the time it went down. Pilot from TAP, which was slightly to the west, confirmed on Portuguese TV that it was a “normal trip for that zone, smooth”. In the meantime, brazillians have suggested a link with global warming. There is even a greenie that said he had predicted it more than 2 years ago!


    IW (09:54:14) :

    A pilot flying 150 miles behind saw two very bright flashes. The complete and sudden breakup at altitude (leaving a debris field 30+ miles long on the ocean surface) is not consistent with engine failure, or electrical failure, or lightning strike. Weather notwithstanding, an onboard explosion seems most likely to me.
    In some ways, to think it was a terror attack is more comforting; I’d greatly prefer that explanation to suggesting that the aircraft was flawed, or that thunderstorms can bring down aircraft at altitude.


    So a nearby pilot said it was “smooth” even though there were copious thunderstorms from everyone’s knowledge.
    And another nearby pilot said he saw “two very bright flashes”

    Now ignore the bomb or explosion part of the comments and just sticking to visuals remember the words …
    “smooth and clear”
    “two very bright flashes”
    …and examine the videos above again.

    See what I mean?

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