Alps plane crash: Black box has usable data

Alps-25-3-14.-pixFrench investigators say usable data has been extracted from the cockpit voice recorder of Germanwings 4U 9525 but it has so far yielded no clues as to the cause of the plane’s crash.

They said the plane hit the ground in the French Alps at great velocity, suggesting no explosion in flight.

Flight 4U 9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf crashed after an eight-minute rapid descent on Tuesday.

The French, German and Spanish leaders visited the crash site on yesterday.

Remi Jouty, the director of the French aviation investigative agency, said there were sounds and voices on the cockpit voice recorder but that it was too early to draw any conclusions.

He said he hoped investigators would have the “first rough ideas in a matter of days” but that the full analysis could take weeks or even months.

There had been earlier reports that the second black box – the flight data recorder – had been found. But Mr Jouty said this was not the case.

Mr Jouty said the plane’s last communication was a routine one with air traffic control.

The plane confirmed instructions to continue on its planned flight path but then began its descent a minute later.

The critical question now is, were the pilots speaking during those lost eight minutes when the aircraft dropped from 38,000ft to the ground?

If they’re quiet, investigators will know they were unconscious, and that suggests a major decompression took place on board. That’s when a hole in the fuselage lets all the air out. It’s not necessarily fatal, if the pilots can get their oxygen masks on in time, something they train for, but if they were knocked out, it would explain the lack of a mayday call or any obvious attempt to steer the stricken aircraft to the nearest runway.

Earlier, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gave a press conference after visiting the site of the crash.

Mr Hollande told his counterparts: The French people are here shoulder to shoulder with you during this ordeal. Everything will be done to find, identify and hand back to the families the bodies of their loved ones.”

Both he and Mrs Merkel said they would do everything they could to find the cause of the crash.

Mrs Merkel added: “Francois, I would like to thank you on behalf of millions of Germans for this example of German-French friendship.”

In a press briefing later, Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, said this was “the darkest hour of 60 years of Lufthansa”.

He added: “We cannot understand how an airplane in perfect technical condition with two such trained pilots was involved in such a terrible accident.”

-BBC

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