Former CNN aerospace reporter and American Morning host Miles O’Brien looks at the missing Air France Rio-Paris flight from yesterday in his new blog.
(God, I miss Miles on CNN; after John Holliman passed, Miles was one of the best media voices on NASA and other aerospace subjects. His blog will be a God-send for stuff like this)
The plane, an Airbus A330, went missing over the ocean about four hours out from Rio with more than 200 people on board. French officials fear the worst.
Speculation seems to be centering on tropical thunderstorms in the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), the area around the Equator, which can spawn massive, powerful thunderstorms that tower more than 50,000 feet above the surface or more at this time of year.
It is quite likely the airplane was struck by lightning – or it could have triggered lightning by the mere act of flying at Mach .8 through storm clouds. It is not impossible that could have sparked a fuel fire – but that is highly unlikely.
Will we ever know what happened? This one will be hard. The wreckage will be likely strewn over a wide area – and locating the Flight Data and Cockpit Voice Recorders won’t be easy since they are likely at the bottom of the sea – possibly 24,ooo feet below the surface. Even if they are transmitting their homing signals, you would need a lot of luck and a pretty stout submersible to retrieve them.
Coverage of the crash is all over the place, but there is decent online streaming coverage in English from Paris-based news network France 24.