Did the Airbus A330 of Flight AF447 have rudder problems?

Did the Airbus A330 of Flight AF447 have rudder problems?

There has been some speculation (including myself from day 1) that the rudder was a key element to the investigation of the air crash of Flight AF447. The tail was found last week and investigators are now reviewing whether or not the Airbus rudder was an issue. They are focusing on the part of the rudder which controls how much the rudder can move.  Normally, a limiter prevents the rudder from swinging or moving too far – at high speeds an incorrectly positioned rudder could sheer off.  There has been some speculation in the media that this Airbus had some issues regarding the rudder – I find this hard to believe, as any aircraft snag list which highlighted a rudder problem, you can be guaranteed that Air France would have brought the aircraft in for immediate repair.

Part of the Airbus Rudder / Vertical Stabiliser of Flight AF447

Part of the Airbus Rudder / Vertical Stabiliser of Flight AF447

Technicians will be able to review the metal structure, looking for corrosion or metal sheer and may be able to deduce if the rudder failed on its own or if air speed was a factor.  There are many large bolts in the area of the vertical stabiliser and perhaps one of these failed – however if you look at the amount of the tail fin was recovered it actually is only the fin part and does not come near the area where the structure is housed and secured.

Other air crashes which had rudder problems include on famous case in Japan where a JAL Boeing 747SR lost part of its rudder and crashed into a mountain. Other cases include SilkAir Flight 185, American Airlines Flight 587.

There are now many vessels, including some from USA and France covering hundreds of square kilometers every day listening for the pingers on the black boxes and flight data recorders which will stop working in about 2 weeks.

The next 2 weeks will be vital in the search for clues to why this modern airliner crashed.
I am going to remain quiet on this subject until the next major update from Brazil.

Terror Names linked to AF447

Two passengers who are known to authorities to be linked to Islamic terrorism were on board the Air France flight 447 which crashed last week. The French secret service established the highly significant terror connection (names of passengers who are radical Muslims considered a threat to the French Republic) while reviewing the AF447 passenger list.

It is almost certain that there were computer malfunctions possibly caused by a frozen pitot tube which resulted in slow transit into the story – terrorism has still not been ruled out in this case. One source has said that the names of these passengers could simply be a coincidence and that they are not terrorists at all.

France has received a few threats from radical Islamic terrorists groups since the French troops were sent to fight in Afghanistan in the “War on Terror”. French Security chiefs have been worried similar suicide attacks to September 11th. It is improbable that a terror organisation would want to do anything at such a remote location, in the past they have used highly populated cities and buildings to carry out their actions – unless perhaps any bomb or device was triggered prematurely with disastrous consequences.

A French nuclear submarine is now in the area listening for the Black Box pingers which will cease to operate in about 3 weeks. So far 41 bodies have been recovered, as well as the tail & rudder and some smaller pieces of Af447s debris about 1,100 kms off the coast of Brazil.

Air France Flight AF 447 – What could have happened?

Air France Flight AF 447 – What could have happened?

It is a very sad event but something strange but very sudden must have happened on board Flight 447.

Flight 447 left Rio de Janeiro carrying 228 people, en route to Paris, but about 4 hours after take off an automated alert was sent to Air France HQ from the plane. Initially this was reporting an electrical issue, perhaps a short circuit but there are rumours of a second alert to do with pressure in the cabin, which could be true if there was an explosive decompression (nothing to do with bomb explosions) but when the pressurised air quickly escapes from the plane. There was no further contact. Was it lightning, a bomb, or did turbulance rip off the rudder?
The plane is reported to have come down 360 miles northeast of Natal, Brazil.

Lighting?

The plane was in an area of thunderstorms, however, I find it difficult to believe that lightning could take down such a large, complex and sophisticated Airbus – afterall, the plane that landed on the Hudson was an Airbus. There are between 1 and 3 reported lightning strikes each year yet the last recorded crash from a lightning strike was way back in 1967 when the fuel tank exploded.

I think perhaps more likely is that lightning struck the plane and interrupted the computers and electrical systems. The Airbus is constructed so that the aircraft and also data communication associated with the fly by wire system is protected against overvoltages the indirect effects of lightning.
An overload could have caused anything to occur e.g. the wrong signals sent to the rudder might have caused a rudder hardover flipping the aircraft about and at that speed the plane would have been destroyed or the rudder ripped off due to the speed and turbulence.

A Bomb?

It is possible, especially in an era of hightened terrorism. However with increased airport security is this as likely was it was during the era of Air India or even Locherbie. Why time it for when it is over the sea if you are a bomber – surely they would schedule detonation for a more populated area to bring attention to their ’cause’. The reason I don’t think it was a bomb is that the debris field is so small – a bomb at that height would cause a huge debris field easily seen by spotter planes.
This would also rule out a fuel tank explosion as happened to TWA-800. However, that crash was caused by a short circuit when increased current was sent from systems to the fuel tank control system, which eventually caused a spark igniting the fuel.

Plausable Occurrance

The only reason I can think of (these are only my observations and thoughts on what could have happened based on past cases and facts which we have to hand at present) for very little debris being found is that the aircraft hit the water 90% intact. Why 90% – the tail may have been ripped off by the turbulence. Wake turbulence caused the crash of American Airways 587 in 2001, when it encountered wake turbulence, the pilot applied incorrect pressure to the rudder which was too much and the rudder ripped off – 268 people died. Without the rudder a plane cannot under any circumstances or any pilot skill, be controlled. In the case of Flight 447 , this  would explain (a) the pressure warning from the plane  ;  (b) possibly the electrical warnng     ; and   (c) The lack of further contact and limited debris field.

We won’t know until the Black Box – CVR and FDR (Cockpit Voice Recorder and Flight Data Recorder) are recovered. This will be an absolutely mammoth task as the plane is possibly thousands of feet below the surface. The Black Boxes have a battery life of about 30 days after which the pinging devide will cease. Also the longer they are in the water the more potential for damage there is. We will have to wait and see what happens and see if a cause can be deduced from this terrible accident.

There are lots of reports circulating the web at the moment, some stating that the location beacons have not been triggered, others claiming that this is a new bermuda triangle – this I believe is hype. Something happened, something catastrophic as there was no Mayday – that we do know.
Some of the headlines in the news are frightening to holiday makers who are worried about getting on board a flight. If it was me, I would have no problem boarding an A330. The airbus is a great aircraft.

Lets wait and see and leave these people rest in peace without writing silly stories about (some of these are in the tabloids) bermuda triangles, black holes, UFOs and others targetting certain aircraft with being unsafe.

Flight plan for Flight 447 with approximate location of debris field.

Flight plan for Flight 447 with approximate location of debris field.