Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Air France crash: A monumental tragedy

The recent crash of an Air France plane with 228 people on board into the Atlantic Ocean, during a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, is a tragedy of immense proportions. The Airbus reportedly flew into stormy weather four hours into the journey from the Brazilian city.

Later, it sent an automatic message reporting electrical faults. A spokesman of Air France, Francois Brouse, was reported as saying that several of the plane’s mechanisms had thereafter malfunctioned, preventing it from making further contact with air traffic controllers.
Those on board the plane were mostly Brazilians, French, German and other nationals.

According to reports, Flight AF 447 left Rio de Janeiro on Sunday at 7pm(11 pm British time) and was expected to land at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport on Monday at 11:15 am (10:15 British time). Following the crash, search teams were dispatched from Brazil and France to track the ill-fated plane.

The crash, in which no survivors have been found, was described as the worst involving an Air France plane in the firm’s 75-year history. The jet’s last known location before the crash was unclear. Brazil’s Air Force said that it had no contact with the plane after 2:33am British time. French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has ruled out the prospects of finding survivors. To Sarkozy, the incident is a catastrophe the likes of which Air France has never seen.

Brazil’s Air Force reported that when the plane left its radar area at 2:48 am (British time), it had been flying normally at an altitude of 35,000 ft and at 453 km per hour. The report also said that the plane failed to make contact at the next attempt half an hour later at 0220.

The plane was an Airbus 330-200 powered with General Electric engines. The crash would be the first time an A330 has been lost during an operational flight. Air France said that the plane had 18,870 flight hours on the dock and went into service in April 2005.

It last underwent maintenance in a hangar in April this year.
The last major incident involving an Air France plane occurred in July 2000 when one of its Concorde Supersonic airliners crashed just after take-off from Charles de Gualle Airport, Paris, enroute New York.
We call on the French authorities to investigate and determine the immediate and remote causes of the crash. It is important to determine wether it is turbulence that brought the plane down, or thunder destroyed its electrical parts. Determination of these will not only be helpful to aircraft manufacturers, it might lead to a review of current aviation practices with regard to flights in stormy weather.

In addition, the latest revelation that the airline had received a bomb threat concerning an earlier flight out of Buenos Aires to Paris, on May 27, which led to an initial evacuation of the flight and its delay, should be investigated to effectively rule out terrorism as a likely cause of the crash. A thorough investigation will help to avert a recurrence.

This is, indeed, one of the monumental air tragedies in aviation history. It is a tragedy that can badly shake the confidence of people in air travel, and seriously worsen the diminishing fortunes of many airline companies across the world. The crash could also negatively affect Brazil’s fortunes as a popular tourism destination.

We commend the seriousness of the search for the crashed jet which led to the prompt location of its debris. The effort to access the aircraft in the very difficult conditions of the Atlantic Ocean is commendable.
We sympathise with the families of those that lost their loved ones in this tragic incident and pray God to give them the strength to bear the irreparable loss. We also commiserate with the governments and people of France, Brazil and Germany, and other nations that lost their nationals in this tragic incident, at this moment of great grief. May almighty God spare humanity such great cataclysm.