Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Unsolved Mysteries

Still lots of uncertainty about the crash of AF 447 but the evidence is slowly providing some clues:
The paper also reported that some victims were found with little or no clothing, and had no signs of burns.

That lack of clothing could be significant, said Jack Casey, an aviation safety consultant in Washington, D.C., who is a former accident investigator. "In an in-air break up like we are supposing here, the clothes are just torn away."
That, combined with being shock-exposed to temperatures from -30F to -40F, should have been enough to put most of the victims to sleep well before hitting the water, perhaps a small comfort to the victms' families.

As to the theory, a break-up/ejection theory comports with an extreme turbulence event. They found the tail fin largely intact, which some have compared to AA 587 (downed due to wake turbulence) except in this case the rudder section was intact, unlike 587. Of course it also comports with an explosion as per former NTSB member John Goglia:
Lack of burn evidence would not necessarily rule out an explosion, said John Goglia, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

If something caused the lower fuselage to burn or explode, "passengers would not be exposed to any blast damage" and the plane would still disintegrate in flight," Goglia said. "These are scenarios that cannot be ruled out."
Identification of the bodies is also critical, as pointed out by former NTSB Managing Director Peter Goelz:
"If the victims found in one part of the ocean mostly came from one part of the plane, and the victims in the other area came from another part of the plane, that is really telling you something," he said - perhaps what parts of the plane had broken up in the air.
The above two gentlemen were involved in the TWA 800 crash investigation during the 90s, another airliner that broke up and plunged into the ocean, reputedly from a fuel tank explosion (the one directly under the passenger compartment):
Goelz noted that the pattern of injuries found on passengers of TWA Flight 800 - which went down in 1996 off the coast of Long Island, New York - helped investigators confirm that the nose broke off and fire blew back from the fuel tank.
Since they are bringing up flight 800 please allow a short detour for comparion, beginning with the phrasing, 'the nose broke off and fire blew back from the fuel tank'. The quote, assuming it was direct, begs for more explanation. It's as if they believe the causative event, a fuel-air explosion, which was massive enough to split the aircraft in two, would have allowed the nose-less section to simply fly along intact spraying flaming fuel back through the rear seats. OK then, the initial theory was that this rear section with wings included was zoom-climbing upwards another 2000 feet trailing a flaming fuel spill, which looked like an ascending missile.

How much fuel was left to burn in the near empty center tank after the explosion? Especially since it must be assumed the wing tanks were functioning since the engines were still producing thrust to propel the plane upwards. Presumably the wing tanks did not explode when the nose was sheared off by the initial explosion. An exercise in hair splitting perhaps, but puzzling nevertheless. Maybe that's why the NTSB has gradually climbed down off that explanation over the years.

In comparison, the only thing remotely weird about 447 so far was the eyewitness report of a large flash in the vicinity, which clearly could have been lightning. Autopsies will obviously be critical in clearing up some of the mysteries here but very little official information was ever publicly released on the autopsies from flight 800, which prompted an engineer to file a FOIA with the FBI in an effort to determine the properties of small 'bb-like' fragments found in some of the bodies. It seems logical to think that metallurgical tests on these fragments could have helped rule out a bomb or missile, providing concrete support for the spark theory. But it didn't happen.

Instead the FBI was very unresponsive, which led to an appeal, which led to a decision. As with all conspiracies this engineer could just be a partisan crank out to blast Bill Clinton or make a quick buck, as could this person. This post will be called conspiratorial, as will anyone who argues against the official story, which is why most steer clear. But the evidence says what it says. Actions speak louder than words. To wit--after nearly 13 years we're still awaiting the nitrogen fuel inerting system retrofit. Imagine if they find that 447 was brought down due to exploding fuel vapors.

That's why it's so critical to find the black boxes, especially the CVR. In the 800 event it provided very little aside from a curious comment about a fuel-flow indicator (common on 747s according to NTSB) followed by nothing. If this French A330 was brought down by turbulence alone there will almost certainly be conservation pertaining to the problem prior to the event.

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