Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Aviation Update

With each story that comes out about Germanwings 9525 it's almost as if someone is trying to create conspiracy theories.

Today the Daily Mail published another tabloid version of the CVR transcript, this time by the French site "Paris Match".  The German site "Bild" had previously published a tabloid version, which was picked up by the so-called legitimate media around the world and featured the captain outside the door yelling "open the damn door".  That was apparently a scrubbed version as other sites quoted it as "open the Goddamned door".

The Paris Match version now changes the cuss words and removes the blasphemy:
The captain’s voice can be heard as he tries to open the door: “It’s me!” The captain is facing a camera connected to the cockpit: Lubitz sees him on screen but does not react. The captain grabs an oxygen tank or fire extinguisher in order to break down the door.No response from Lubitz. The captain yells: “For the love of God, open this door!”
So the captain wasn't damning God, he was asking in His name. The point where we were previously told he damned God has now become the F word...
10:37 and several seconds A second alarm is set off, audible and visual: “TERRAIN, PULL UP.” Still no reaction from Lubitz. The captain yells: “Open this f… door!”
Seems that whoever is leaking could get this straight, although it's possible the leaker is a third-hand source, maybe coming via gossip from a wife or husband close to the investigators (and perhaps being paid). Anything is possible with a tabloid.  Otherwise it doesn't make much sense for someone close to the investigation to get it so wrong.  Keep in mind the initial leak to the New York Times about the lockout story quoted a 'military source' close to the investigation, so we know those in the inner circle have already been leaking.

In another twist, the Paris Match adds extra details that seem to have come from something other than a CVR, such as the captain looking at a video monitor to identify himself when he was initially locked out and Lubitz looking at the monitor in the cockpit but not responding.  Not sure how that would be picked up on a voice recording.  The PM also now clarifies it was not a crash axe the captain was using to beat down the door but a crowbar stowed in the rear galley.  Which is nice because the crash axe is normally stored in the cockpit.  They also mention the sounds of people running up and down the aisles, something also yet reported. 

The PM version also mentions that Lubitz donned an oxygen mask, which has not been revealed previously. Pilots on various message boards have questioned whether a CVR tape could have picked up his normal breathing especially if he had taken off his headset--having a mask on would seem to answer that loose end (assuming it was one) because it contains a mic.  But why would a suicidal maniac driving the plane into a mountain put on an oxygen mask in his last seconds?   Was he trying to make it look like an accident?  Insurance payout for his girlfriend and yet-to-be-born child?   What was his insurance situation?   

Finally the CVR itself. It was found less than 12 hours after the crash--the same day--while the FDR has still not been found. They are both housed in the same area of the fuselage--the rear--a part of which was shown on the Daily Mail story (a relatively large fragment of the aircraft). It's hard to believe one could have completely disappeared while the other was easily found the first day.

It would be less strange had the authorities not initially claimed to have found the FDR the second day but missing its memory card, which was later changed to 'not found'. Pilots and others had also questioned whether a memory card could have been ejected from the solid casing while the CVR's case remained intact.

Another story the Bild and Paris Match are pumping is the cell phone video that seems to corroborate the CVR.  They can't find the memory card of the FDR, but they can find a cellphone memory chip (much smaller).   Were any others found?  

OK, I know this all sounds conspiratorial, but it's the last thing I want to do.  The history of Lubitz as portrayed gives him a motive and if the CVR has actually been found and the representations are accurate, it's not hard to imagine the scenario. Pilot's world is crashing down, he thinks he's losing his sight (and career) and everybody calls him "Tomato Andy" or the "Trolley Dolly", which suggests he might have been struggling with homosexuality.

That is, while he wasn't getting his live-in girlfriend pregnant while having an affair with a Flight Attendant named "Maria".

Then again maybe he put the oxygen mask on to pretend the plane crashed due to mechanical issues, hoping his left behind GF and future child would benefit.   If so, he must have never read an NTSB report.  He would have to know that if they found a body with a mask on they would also find other clues that showed he did it.

In other words, still some loose ends still here. But would--or could--any country go to the length of covering up a terrorist suicide attack or some embarrassing cause with such an elaborate cover story?  Seems implausible.  But the circle of knowledge of those who've heard the CVR is actually pretty small. And let's face it--without an FDR everything we know or think about this story hinges on that CVR tape.  Maybe they could let some reporters listen.

MORE  4/2/15

Some questions answered.   Today's Daily Mail news is less conspiratorial.   FDR now reported to be found.  And searchers say they've found 40 cell phones in very damaged conditions.   No cell phone video inside the aircraft showing the last seconds should EVER be released to the public in my opinion, if nothing else but out of respect for the deceased, but it will be eventually.  Some horrors that used to be relegated to the imagination or Hollywood are now available to anyone, not sure that's necessarily a good thing. 

Still some loose ends here--they can largely be cleared up by either the BEA releasing the CVR transcript and now FDR data logs for independent analysis.  Meanwhile, as Lubitz' guilt becomes more clear the main topics will become, 1) how much medical privacy pilots should have and, 2) how to change cockpit security now that the press has released a lot of formerly unknown information and Lubitz has apparently shown terrorists how to crash a modern passenger jet from the cockpit.     

MORE WEIRD   4/3/15

They released pictures of the FDR and it looks nothing like its been shown to look on the web, ie, painted bright orange and in a bracket like the CVR (mounted beside it).  However, there's not a flint of orange paint on the part they showed (in pictures, not live in the room) but they explained it had been ejected from the plane and flung into the ground and scorched due to the impact fire, which presumably explains the lack of orange. 

So why was the entire thing scorched by fire if part of it was embedded underground?  Embedding would have happened seconds or microseconds after impact, not really enough time to be completely charred on its way to becoming embedded.  This doesn't seem to make sense.

Unlike some conspiracy theorists I'll give them the benefit of perhaps a language translation error or other miscommunication going from French or German to English.   Indeed, this revelation could line up with the initial story on day two attributed to French President Hollande that the FDR was found but the "memory card" was not there.  It's possible they found the bracket but not the case, and that's what Hollande meant by saying memory card (he meant to case holding it).

Also per the tablet PC found in Lubitz' apartment, why would a professional pilot have to surf the web looking up info on cockpit door locking systems?   That doesn't make much sense either.

Still haven't heard any confirmation of the Paris Match story that he had donned an oxygen mask.   That seems important to me.  It's almost as if there might be some kind of Batman-like switch in the cabin that puts green smoke in the cockpit to incapacitate the cockpit crew.  Why else would a suicidal pilot be wearing an oxygen mask, especially if we are now being told he accelerated the aircraft into the mountain, meaning he almost certainly knew he would be in little pieces shortly?

MORE  4/4/15

Every piece of new information coming out makes the initial leaked CVR info about the lock-out look more plausible.  Still, wondering about 1) what was in the cargo hold of that aircraft and 2) the list of the passengers.  I don't recall seeing either point of data released yet.  I do recall a question from the initial BEA press conference on March 25th about lithium batteries in the cargo hold, which was brushed off.   Again, why was Lubitz supposedly wearing an oxygen mask as he suicided into a mountain?

That same BEA press conference also contains a question about the FDR, with a reporter asking for confirmation as to why French President Hollande said the FDR had been found without its memory card.  The answer was that no FDR had been found.

So who told the president of France such a thing, and why?   Yes, there can be misinformation during such times and people sometimes confuse one item of detail for another in the haste to provide answers, but we also have this CNN report (that has now 404'd on their own site) mentioning the French "Interior Ministry" was "reconstructing" some details from the CVR, which, according to this report, had been found only hours after the crash:
"A black box that we found a few hours after the crash will immediately be examined to help the investigation move forward quickly," French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters Tuesday.
Emphasis added. The BEA guy in the presser, which occurred approximately 20+ hours after the CVR was found, said they had only received it 'minutes ago', although he didn't specify whether he meant the box itself or the "usable" audio.  Later that evening a leak came to the NY Times from a senior military official close to the investigation about the Lubitz lock out.   More questions.  Who was that person?  Are they in trouble for breaching the security of the investigation or did someone want them to leak to the NY Times?  If so, why?  

As to the FDR, the first report of it being found seems to be on March 25th when French President Hollande was on site with Angela Merkel and other dignitaries and gave statements to the press:
17:11 - Hollande confirms casing of second black box recovered French President Francois Hollande said Wednesday the casing for the second black box from the Germanwings Airbus crash had been found in the French Alps, but not the box itself. "We're looking for a second black box. Its casing has been found, but not yet, unfortunately, the box itself," he said at a news conference near the crash site, alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Emphasis added again.  This may not be conspiratorial insofar as the FDR was later found in the ground without its main frame. There was confusion though, as other reports initially claimed he said the memory card had been dislodged from the box:
Confusion surrounded the fate of the second black box. French President Francois Hollande said the casing of the flight data recorder had been found in the scattered debris, but was missing the memory card that captures 25 hours' worth of information on the position and condition of almost every major part in a plane. Jouty refused to confirm the discovery. French officials said terrorism appeared unlikely and Germany's top security official said there was no evidence of foul play.
Again the emphasis to point out that the NY Times, posting an AP story, was saying the actual casing of the FDR was found but the memory card inside wasn't there--which is not the same as the casing being separated from the frame holding it.  The BEA official made a point to mention the strength of the casing of the FDR and expected to get good data from it.  Again, who told the President of France to say this?   Was it Inspector Clouseau? 

Ah well,  We can hope for a truly factual investigation of this tragedy sans any politics, which by all accounts appears to be a suicide if the released information is accurate (a cause itself that brings enough trouble regardless of other possible scenarios). But with such high stakes riding on aviation in a world of Islamic terrorism.....
In addition, according to classified U.S. intelligence assessments, the Khorasan militants have been working with bomb-makers from al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate to test new ways to slip explosives past airport security. The fear is that the Khorasan militants will provide these sophisticated explosives to their Western recruits who could sneak them onto U.S.-bound flights.
...(remember they were bombed in Syria specifically due to the threat to aviation) it's just hard to know for sure anymore. Whatever happened to the Khorasan Group anyway?   Well, about 15 days before Germanwings the US once again bombed them in Syria, again stating their threat to aviation as justification.  After-action analysis was not clear as to how much the attacks had crippled their operations.  Also keep in mind that one of the master bomb-makers in KG is one David Drugeon, a French national. 

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