BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

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BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Dalton » 2015-03-24 07:37am

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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by AniThyng » 2015-03-24 07:43am

:( not again! My condolences.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Broomstick » 2015-03-24 07:52am

A distress called was made, which means it's probably not Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) but rather something mechanical. Apparently the crash site is remote/difficult to get to, no survivors expected.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Broomstick » 2015-03-24 08:04am

Um... somewhat a tangent... it's a German airline/subsidiary of Lufthansa but the name "Germanwings" is in English? Is it just me, or does it strike anyone else as odd that a German airline has an English name? Or do modern Germans like to name stuff in English and I didn't get the memo?
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Metahive » 2015-03-24 08:07am

Broomstick wrote:Um... somewhat a tangent... it's a German airline/subsidiary of Lufthansa but the name "Germanwings" is in English? Is it just me, or does it strike anyone else as odd that a German airline has an English name? Or do modern Germans like to name stuff in English and I didn't get the memo?
Korean Air, Air China, Nippon Airways...etc. It's not unusual for companies operating internationally to adopt english names. I mean, do you think it would increase Korean Air's notability on the market if it went by 대한항공 instead? Lufthansa is just operating by grandfather clause.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by salm » 2015-03-24 08:08am

Broomstick wrote:Um... somewhat a tangent... it's a German airline/subsidiary of Lufthansa but the name "Germanwings" is in English? Is it just me, or does it strike anyone else as odd that a German airline has an English name? Or do modern Germans like to name stuff in English and I didn't get the memo?
Germans love English. The funniest/dumbest thing is when they "translate" English names with other English names. My favorite example is the movie "Roadracers" which in German is titled "Bad boys never die".

As for brand names, slogans and similar stuff, I´d say about 50% are in English.

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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Beowulf » 2015-03-24 08:37am

There are no current SIGMETs for the area, and there's nothing on meteorological satellite imagery that would indicate it being weather related.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Thanas » 2015-03-24 09:45am

Just two weeks ago the computer on another airbus malfunctioned and steered the plane almost into the ground with a rapid descent. Problem was faulty sensors because the supplier to airbus had cut costs, result was two sensors freezing, the plane thinking it was in a stall and trying to dive to recover airflow. The pilots could not recover the plane until they had manually shut down the computer by pulling switches. Scary thing.

Not saying that is what happened, only that people on German TV can't stop comparing the two situations right now.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Thanas » 2015-03-24 10:07am

No distress call was made by the pilot, according to french authorities.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Thanas » 2015-03-24 12:29pm

Pictures of the crash site: http://www.ledauphine.com/haute-provenc ... celonnette

Small debris scattered over large area.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2015-03-24 12:56pm

Thanas wrote: Not saying that is what happened, only that people on German TV can't stop comparing the two situations right now.
Was it another A320?

Probably less likely anyway then the widespread and borderline magical A320 cockpit power failure problem which has so far caused 50+ in flight incidents and numerous near crashes but which the Airlines still have several years running in the US and EU to actually fix. They started happening as soon as the damn thing went into service, and somehow even this fix was only mandated a few years ago on a six year schedule so it could be done in normal overhauls. Nobody dead, regulators don't feel like pushing the specific topic harder when they've got plenty else on the plate to worry about.

On its own this loss of cockpit power shouldn't cause a crash, a couple very basic backup instruments and the controls still work on special backups, but it rather vastly increases the chances of say, hitting a mountain, while the crew tries to troubleshoot it and it kills all radio power too. Fix is automatic switch to the backup power bus for all systems instead of a manual one crews have trouble finding in the dark, but nobody has ever been able to figure out the root cause or causes why main power will randomly fail, and sometimes to only part of the systems which are all on the same master circuit without tripping intermediate breakers.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Thanas » 2015-03-24 01:05pm

Sea Skimmer wrote:
Thanas wrote: Not saying that is what happened, only that people on German TV can't stop comparing the two situations right now.
Was it another A320?
A 321, stretch version of A320.
Probably less likely anyway then the widespread and borderline magical A320 cockpit power failure problem which has so far caused 50+ in flight incidents and numerous near crashes but which the Airlines still have several years running in the US and EU to actually fix. They started happening as soon as the damn thing went into service, and somehow even this fix was only mandated a few years ago on a six year schedule so it could be done in normal overhauls. Nobody dead, regulators don't feel like pushing the specific topic harder when they've got plenty else on the plate to worry about.

On its own this loss of cockpit power shouldn't cause a crash, a couple very basic backup instruments and the controls still work on special backups, but it rather vastly increases the chances of say, hitting a mountain, while the crew tries to troubleshoot it and it kills all radio power too. Fix is automatic switch to the backup power bus for all systems instead of a manual one crews have trouble finding in the dark, but nobody has ever been able to figure out the root cause or causes why main power will randomly fail, and sometimes to only part of the systems which are all on the same master circuit without tripping intermediate breakers.
Well, Germanwings said that the plane had just underwent maintenance and the very latest Airbus upgrades. Might be faulty maintenance, but I very much doubt that the power problem fix was not taught/implemented there. Lufthansa takes this very seriously (so serious that they will usually force Airbus to deliver higher grade sensors and components than usual customers get).
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2015-03-24 02:05pm

Violently steep descent lasting eight minutes was monitored by radar. There was never a distress signal from the aircraft according to that source; it was issued by air traffic control based on what they were witnessing on radar after they lost contact with the aircraft. The context is not clear on whether or not the loss of contact was a loss of communications with the pilots, loss of the transponder, or both. Sounds exactly the same as the AirAsia 8501 crash, but that happened in extremely severe weather, this crash did not.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by TimothyC » 2015-03-24 04:23pm

Fight Aware has the ADS-B data for the flight online: link.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Thanas » 2015-03-24 04:55pm

Info about plane and crew, from the guardian live coverage:
The Airbus A-320-211 named “Mannheim” with the registration D-AIPX, was at the end of its commercial flying life, according to La Provence newspaper. Its first flight was on 29 November 1990 and it had been flown commercially by Lufthansa/Germanwings since 1991.

The Germanwings chief said: “The last checkup for the plane was in March at Düsseldorf by our technical teams. The last major checkup laid down by Airbus procedure was in summer 2013.”

He said the captain of the plane had more than 10 years’ experience with Lufthansa and Germanwings, and 6,000 hours of flight on the Airbus.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Broomstick » 2015-03-24 08:22pm

Thanas wrote:Just two weeks ago the computer on another airbus malfunctioned and steered the plane almost into the ground with a rapid descent. Problem was faulty sensors because the supplier to airbus had cut costs, result was two sensors freezing, the plane thinking it was in a stall and trying to dive to recover airflow. The pilots could not recover the plane until they had manually shut down the computer by pulling switches. Scary thing.
By “freezing” do they mean “ceased functioning” or “literally covered with ice”? Also wonder if it had something to do with the pitot-static system, a known issue with the A-330 and part of what brought down Air France 447. I thought all of those were supposed to be updated by now... but maybe it was something else?

It's also an illustration of why human pilots are still useful, especially in emergencies.
Thanas wrote:No distress call was made by the pilot, according to french authorities.
Ah, I see – that's not quite how we would convey it in the US when ATC reports a plane missing/dropped off radar. Possible issues of language/wording but thanks for clearing that up.
Sea Skimmer wrote:On its own this loss of cockpit power shouldn't cause a crash, a couple very basic backup instruments and the controls still work on special backups, but it rather vastly increases the chances of say, hitting a mountain, while the crew tries to troubleshoot it and it kills all radio power too. Fix is automatic switch to the backup power bus for all systems instead of a manual one crews have trouble finding in the dark, but nobody has ever been able to figure out the root cause or causes why main power will randomly fail, and sometimes to only part of the systems which are all on the same master circuit without tripping intermediate breakers.
Both the modern Airbus and Boeing airliners have had complete power failures that nonetheless managed to land safely. While such failures are not a good thing, it is good that such airliners can survive such situations. Pilots do train for such a scenario (and they do complain about the poor positioning of the “steam gauge” backups and position locations) but it means that a power failure by itself does not automatically doom an airplane.

I'm still leaning towards machine failure here (which, yes, would include weird computer stuff)

Yes, finding the reason for an intermittent fault/failure can be a pain in the ass for something as complex as a modern airliner.
The Duchess of Zeon wrote:Violently steep descent lasting eight minutes was monitored by radar. There was never a distress signal from the aircraft according to that source; it was issued by air traffic control based on what they were witnessing on radar after they lost contact with the aircraft. The context is not clear on whether or not the loss of contact was a loss of communications with the pilots, loss of the transponder, or both. Sounds exactly the same as the AirAsia 8501 crash, but that happened in extremely severe weather, this crash did not.
Given the link and that information I'm actually not surprised the pilots said nothing during those 8 minutes – they were probably too busy trying to fly the airplane/get it under control/solve the problem.

As context: the standard rate of descent for an airplane (any airplane) is 500 per minute. During most of that 8 minute descent the airplane's rate of descent was between 3000 and 4000 feet per minute, 6-8 times the normal rate. No wonder ATC noticed something was wrong and declared an emergency.

On the other hand, that's not a free-fall totally out of control descent. 4000 feet/minute is about 73 kph. It's faster than you want to hit the ground, but nowhere near totally out of control. Airliners are capable of even faster descents than that if necessary and recovery from same as long as all the controls are working properly. The data on the link indicates that the peak rate of descent had occurred and the descent rate was decreasing, which again, makes me think the pilots had some sort of control though, obviously, not enough to prevent this crash.

Needless to say, that is speculation and subject very much to change with new information.

I assume they'll be able to recover the black boxes shortly and they will shed more light on the situation.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Thanas » 2015-03-24 08:51pm

Broomstick wrote:By “freezing” do they mean “ceased functioning” or “literally covered with ice”?
The latter.
Also wonder if it had something to do with the pitot-static system, a known issue with the A-330 and part of what brought down Air France 447. I thought all of those were supposed to be updated by now... but maybe it was something else?

It's also an illustration of why human pilots are still useful, especially in emergencies.
Well, what happened was that two of the three airflow sensors froze and the computer then falsely assumed the majority of sensors were correct and the plane was indeed in a stall due to registering little to no airflow. Allegedly better sensors would have prevented this but Airbus cheaped out. Lufthansa then forced Airbus to supply new sensors by threatening to take them to court and/or cancel orders. According to Germanwings (which is a daughter of Lufthansa and thus gets the same parts), the Airbus had already been equipped with software/hardware upgrades to stop this from happening again.
Ah, I see – that's not quite how we would convey it in the US when ATC reports a plane missing/dropped off radar. Possible issues of language/wording but thanks for clearing that up.
I think the confusion probably caused some reporters to misread "Air traffic controllers made a distress call to emergency" or some variation thereof.
I assume they'll be able to recover the black boxes shortly and they will shed more light on the situation.
They've recovered one already, no mention if it is the CVR of FDR.

EDIT: Guardian states it is the CVR, cites Reuters.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Broomstick » 2015-03-24 11:23pm

Thanas wrote:Well, what happened was that two of the three airflow sensors froze and the computer then falsely assumed the majority of sensors were correct and the plane was indeed in a stall due to registering little to no airflow. Allegedly better sensors would have prevented this but Airbus cheaped out. Lufthansa then forced Airbus to supply new sensors by threatening to take them to court and/or cancel orders. According to Germanwings (which is a daughter of Lufthansa and thus gets the same parts), the Airbus had already been equipped with software/hardware upgrades to stop this from happening again.
That is, indeed, a pitot-static system failure. ALL the Airbus pitot and static pressure sensors were supposed to be swapped out, and this was supposed to be speeded up after the Air France accident where frozen pitot tubes were very much involved in that airplane going down in the Atlantic.

It's possible for the even most sophisticated such systems to fail... but that's usually associated with extreme weather (like the Air France 447 flight) and during the Germanwings crash the weather was fine...

Even if such a failure was the immediate cause of the crash the important thing is to know why the failure occurred. It's important to know if this is a one-time occurrence or part of a pattern.

There other possibilities - if the cabin depressurized you might also see such a descent profile to reach an air density sufficient for human life. Pilots aren't supposed to lose consciousness during such a maneuver (they have access to much more sophisticated air supply than the passengers, and above certain altitudes at least one must actually wear an emergency air supply mask even without an emergency) but things don't always work out as planned. Less likely possibilities include ... >sigh<... some sort of terrorism though I think it highly unlikely.
Ah, I see – that's not quite how we would convey it in the US when ATC reports a plane missing/dropped off radar. Possible issues of language/wording but thanks for clearing that up.
I think the confusion probably caused some reporters to misread "Air traffic controllers made a distress call to emergency" or some variation thereof.
I made the same error when I read the French reports - although granted I'm not nearly as adept in French as you are in English. Not sure if the impression occurred from a French reporter or in the translation from French to English. In any case, the French sources are going into more detail about the ATC side of this so it's pretty clear that the airplane didn't respond, which caused the first alarm, then dropped off radar. Kind of wish I'd kept a copy of the early news releases so I could revisit what was said exactly but I didn't. In any case, we all know the initial reports in these accidents are frequently somewhat confused.
I assume they'll be able to recover the black boxes shortly and they will shed more light on the situation.
They've recovered one already, no mention if it is the CVR of FDR.

EDIT: Guardian states it is the CVR, cites Reuters.
Good. I expect the other one will turn up, too

The wreck site is pretty ugly. They may have been able to reduce their downward speed but clearly their forward speed was undiminished from cruising. Over mountains is not a good place to have a sudden unplanned descent. I don't know if a few more thousand meters of altitude would have enabled them to survive or not, but you can't help but wonder.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Thanas » 2015-03-25 09:34am

First, a good graphic:
Image


Second, Guardian reports the CVR data is usable and that they have started recovering it.

No word on the FDR.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Broomstick » 2015-03-25 11:38am

I keep hearing reports that the CVR was "severely damaged" which I find puzzling, and I'm wondering if they're referring to the external/recording bits which really don't matter. It's the data that's important, and that part is extremely difficult to damage. Like, you have to have a crash AND an intense fire AND drop one of the world's tallest buildings on top of the mess to destroy one. As odd as it sounds, crashing into the side of a mountain shouldn't be a problem for the data container.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Thanas » 2015-03-25 11:46am

Yes, from reading the news reports it is clear they mean the casing. The data is just fine as reported on french news.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by SpottedKitty » 2015-03-25 12:44pm

Pictures of the CVR in the latest BBC News report. It does look pretty well battered, but the bit with the actual storage hardware seems to be intact, so fingers crossed. No word yet on the FDR.

An odd bit of data on the same BBC page; altitude and speed graphs. It looks like the plane came down smoothly then slowed a bit in the last few minutes while keeping its heading and descent rate steady. Looks like a controlled flight, whether by the crew or the autopilot. I don't like to think CFIT at this stage, but I remember what happened to that Air France flight over the Atlantic a few years ago.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Broomstick » 2015-03-25 04:16pm

I'm not sure I'd describe what happened to Air France 447 as controlled flight into terrain (or ocean). Last information I saw indicated they might have been in a "falling leaf" stall, which is just a fancy way to say falling out of the sky.

CFIT is usually meant as such a loss of awareness of surroundings that those on board proceed on course as if nothing is wrong. It is certainly more likely at night what with greatly diminished visual capability for humans but that's not what happened here. It looks more like either an incipient or actual stall situation - my airline pilot friends told me quite some time ago it takes about 9,000 to 10,000 feet (around 3,000 meters) to recover from a stall in an airliner which would be about right for this incident based on data. Looks to me like they might have been towards the bottom of the stall and heading for recovery. If that's the case it's not so much CFIT as they ran out of altitude to make a stall recovery, hence my speculation that if they hadn't been over a mountain they might have survived the maneuver. Or, if something on the airplane caused a dive, but again, that's not a normal maneuver in cruise and I wouldn't call that CFIT, either.

Really, what I want to see is the information from the FDR, although the CVR can supply information on things like stall warnings and so forth.

It has been a long time since an airliner crash was part of a pattern of problems involving something other than crappy maintenance, for a couple decades now they've been one-off things, not repeating problems. If this is part of a pattern it is extremely important to identify it and find a remedy.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by Broomstick » 2015-03-25 05:35pm

Update:

Apparently there was a "struggle" to get the data from the CVR - I'm assuming that's because the input/output machinery was mangled and they needed to install something to get the data. The French say they've recovered "usable" information but nothing further - which is sort of typical of French plan crash investigations, the agency involved is very tight-lipped until they are ready to make an official announcement. No doubt the file retrieved is being analyzed, maybe the audio cleaned up as necessary for better clarity, and so forth.

The did find the casing for the FDR... but the memory card was missing. Apparently it was even more mangled than the CVR. It's still unlikely the data container was destroyed or the information compromised, but there is now the problem of finding the damn thing among all the other tiny debris on a mountain side. Well, that's why the "black" boxes are painted bright orange, to make them easier to see.
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Re: BREAKING: Airbus A320 crashes in Alps

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2015-03-25 11:57pm

Well, we don't need the FDR anyway, as it's come out that the CVR contains enough data to confirm that the pilot was locked out of the cockpit as the copilot steered the plane into the ground. Now the only thing that remains to be seen is if it was normal suicide, or a recent convert or ethnic Turk shouting Tawakkal-ala-Allah.
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