It has been nearly two years since the catastrophic loss of an Air France airliner over the Atlantic. Our only information about the possible cause of the crash came from automated radio messages as the airplane’s flight data recorder has never been found… until now, that is. Astonishingly, after the empty (!) housing of the flight data recorder was located a few days ago, it appears now that its contents, namely its memory module, was also found in good condition.
My first thought was that if we’re capable of finding an item smaller than a briefcase under a couple of miles of ocean in an area larger than most countries, we truly own this planet. And now, perhaps, we’ll find out once and for all what happened to that poor airplane and the over 200 souls on board.
My initial guess was lightning (the possibility is real that a lightning strike could do significantly more damage to a carbon composite airplane than an all metal airframe) but that was before I learned about a possible failure of the airspeed indicator. At high altitude, this can be a problem: if the speed is too low, the airplane stalls, if it is too high, the airplane is overstressed, and the higher the altitude, the smaller the difference between these two speeds, and the more important it is to have an accurate airspeed reading.