Article by Joe Quinn
Sun, 29 Mar 2015 17:09 UTC
When I heard about the crash of Germanwings Flight GWI9525 in the French Alps on the morning of March 24th, I was shocked, but to be honest, not that shocked. It’s not that I expected it to happen, but this was the fifth such incident in the last year. If that frequency is maintained, the statistically-very-low chances of meeting an untimely end on a commercial flight will have to be recalculated.
In the immediate aftermath of the crash I, like many others around the world, waited patiently for the details. What could possibly cause a modern, albeit a little aged, first-generation Airbus A320 to suddenly drop out of the sky and slam into a mountain side? I had a few theories, among them the incapacitating effects of an ‘EMP’ from an exploding overhead space rock. The shocking rise in fireball/meteorite sightings over the past 10 years makes this plausible, and might well have been the cause of the crash of AF447 into the Pacific ocean in 2009. But I waited, and I expected to wait because investigations of this sort can, and should, take quite a while to complete.
When dealing with airplane crashes, the most important information, even more important than the cockpit voice recordings, is the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) or ADR (Accident Data Recorder). The FDR records instructions sent to all electronic systems on an aircraft, including the auto-pilot and the security system for the entry to the cockpit.
Whatever information might be provided by the conversation between the pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit would have to be corroborated or confirmed by the hard data from the FDR. Analyzing this data naturally takes several days or weeks, so it was surprising that, within 24 hours of the crash, the New York Times had cited an unnamed “senior French military official” as saying that one of the pilots was locked out of the cockpit by the other and that was what caused the crash. The NY Times quotes the military official:
“The guy outside is knocking lightly on the door, and there is no answer,” the investigator said. “And then he hits the door stronger, and no answer. There is never an answer. You can hear he is trying to smash the door down. […] what is sure is that at the very end of the flight, the other pilot is alone and does not open the door.”
The precipitous release of this information appears to have undermined the official investigation that is being conducted by the French ‘Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety’ (BEA) a civilian, not military, agency of the French government responsible for investigating aviation accidents, and established a narrative that has become the official truth of what happened to the plane – it was deliberately crashed by co-pilot Andreas Lubitz.
As the NY Times went to print on Wednesday, the head of the BEA was giving a press conference that was rightly cautious. BEA head Remi Jouty told reporters that while the CVR had yielded sounds and voices, there was not the “slightest explanation” of why the plane crashed and that days or weeks would be needed to decipher them. “There’s work of understanding voices, sounds, alarms, attribution of different voices,” he said.
Despite this, one day after the premature conclusions of the military official as revealed by the NY Times and the cautious comments of the BEA chief, public prosecutor Brice Robin agreed with the military official’s conclusion and decided to open a criminal prosecution case, saying: “the intention was to destroy the plane”. This is a disturbingly premature approach for a public prosecutor to take and it makes us wonder if someone wanted to quickly establish a narrative that would become the official story rather than wait for the results of a thorough investigation. Indeed, the act of declaring the crash a criminal case means that the investigation will no longer be primarily conducted by the BEA.
Whether or not a full investigation by anyone can even take place has, however, been thrown into doubt with the revelation that the all-important data card from the FDR is apparently missing. Given that the FDR itself has been found, the missing card is hard to explain unless someone deliberately confiscated it. <continue reading>