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Mystery Air Crash Black Box Found Sans Memory Part 205

Posted by Soulskill
from the curiouser-and-curiouser dept.
coondoggie writes "The ongoing undersea search of the Air France Flight 447 wreckage had yielded one of the key items investigators were looking for this week: the flight data recorder. Unfortunately, their hopes for more information about the crash were set back, as the robot subs scouring the ocean floor retrieved the box only to find its memory part missing."
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Mystery Air Crash Black Box Found Sans Memory Part

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  • Missing (Score:2, Funny)

    by Widowwolf (779548)
    Sorry i need to upgrade for Diablo 3 coming out soon
  • Memory Part? Is that a technical term? Also is a missing 'memory part' all that common or uncommon? Could there have been any sort of sabotage?
    • Re:Memory Part? (Score:5, Informative)

      by 0123456 (636235) on Friday April 29, 2011 @05:30PM (#35980366)

      There is a technical term for it, but basically it's the actual box on the recorder chasis which stores the data; I'm not sure whether it's magnetic storage or flash memory in this case.

      And separation is certainly not unknown, there was a crash a few years back where it also separated and was later found. Odds are this one will be too, but that could take some time if it's buried under other debris.

      • by Gordonjcp (186804)

        From the article, it sounds like the flight data recorder has basically been smashed to pieces. This is usually what happens to them; they're really only useful in relatively low-speed accidents.

        • Re:Memory Part? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by 0123456 (636235) on Friday April 29, 2011 @05:40PM (#35980460)

          From the picture I've seen, it looks like the chassis was bent by the impact and that probably caused the memory unit's mounting to break. So the memory unit itself is probably still intact somewhere.

        • Re:Memory Part? (Score:5, Informative)

          by cmdahler (1428601) on Friday April 29, 2011 @06:00PM (#35980670)

          From the article, it sounds like the flight data recorder has basically been smashed to pieces. This is usually what happens to them; they're really only useful in relatively low-speed accidents.

          That's not the case at all. FDRs commonly survive catastrophic high speed accidents. For example, USAir 427 in 1994 crashed in a near vertical nose-down attitude, and pretty much all that was left of that accident was small bits and pieces. The FDR was recovered and was usable. They rolled and went nose down from 6,000 feet, and the last data on the recorder indicated an airspeed of 261 knots (300 mph, or about 135 meters per second), at a 80 nose-down attitude, virtually straight into the ground. If an FDR can survive that, it can survive damn near anything.

          • by geekoid (135745)

            No. Impact direction, spin and position are all factors as well.

            Many are damaged. Hey, I say a guy survive a 150MPH impacts once, so I guess anyone can?

            • by cmdahler (1428601)
              Yes. These devices are made to withstand very high forces. You clearly have zero knowledge of anything related to aviation. There are very few aviation accidents, no matter how catastrophic, in which the FDR and CVR do not contain usable data.
            • by ryanov (193048)

              Many are damaged. I can't think of more than maybe one case where the data wasn't still extremely helpful.

          • by igny (716218)
            If an FDR can survive that, it can survive damn near anything.

            But can it survive millennia under water?
          • by jd (1658)

            It's hard to tell whether that's a freak case or not. The hard drive that survived the Columbia space shuttle explosion, ploughed into the ground at speeds definitely higher than its warranty permitted and yet was readable is probably more a testament to the sheer randomness of life than to good manufacturing practices. Having said that, FDRs are padded multiple times over and it would not surprise anyone if it had survived just fine. Certainly the salvage people are saying the shedding of the outer casing

        • by ryanov (193048)

          Where do you get this? I can't think of hardly any cases where the recording was completely unusable, except a few times where the recording was later overwritten.

          • The main ones I can think of are a few cases of heat damage, where fires have been allowed to burn in more or less direct contact with them for several hours (one of the recorders on Comair had this happen, and there have been a few others).
      • Re:Memory Part? (Score:4, Informative)

        by MichaelSmith (789609) on Friday April 29, 2011 @07:40PM (#35981390) Homepage Journal

        Not sure if this is relevant but I once worked on a recording device for FA/18s. The module which stores the data plugs into a slot in the aircraft or an external reader. It is approximately 80*80*30mm and grooved so it can only slide into its slot one way. On the 30*80mm side which sits flush with the surface of the reader there is a hinged lever and a locking catch. To insert the cartridge you push it say 60mm into the slot, then engage the lever with a bar on the reader surface and use leverage to push it the rest of the way. On the opposite side of the cartridge from the lever there is a 25 pin D plug which mates with a socket on the reader (or aircraft). The recording mechanism is hidden though at the time I did this work it must have been streaming tape like a TK50.

        I could imagine a cartridge like this popping out of the box which writes the data to it on impact. The cartridge is extremely robust and will be probably sitting on the bottom around there somewhere. Of course the system on the airbus could be totally different from the one I saw.

        • Re:Memory Part? (Score:4, Informative)

          by mikelieman (35628) on Friday April 29, 2011 @09:37PM (#35982014) Homepage

          From: http://www51.honeywell.com/aero/common/documents/Flight_Data_Recorder_(SSFDR).pdf [honeywell.com]

          The SSFDR's crash survivable memory unit (CSMU) provides for complete data recovery when subjected
          to the crash conditions stipulated in ED-55 and ED-56a:

          Impact Shock 3400G, 6.5 milliseconds
          Penetration Resistance 500 lb. weight from 10 feet
          Static Crush 5000 lbs., 5 minutes
          High Temperature Fire 1100C, 30 minutes
          Low Temperature Fire 260C, 10 hours (per ED-56a)
          Deep Sea Pressure and Sea Water/Fluids Immersion 20,000 feet, 30 days

          • Deep Sea Pressure and Sea Water/Fluids Immersion 20,000 feet, 30 days

            Still. They could be lucky. Its not too hard to build a storage device to survive longer times and higher pressure.

            • by ryanov (193048)

              My understanding is that it is not this deep. The other thing about that number is that that was the test. Ditto on the pingers lasting for 30 days (they ordinarily last longer but they must last at least 30).

    • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Friday April 29, 2011 @05:31PM (#35980372)

      "Could there have been any sort of sabotage?"

      Mischievous squids?

      • by H0p313ss (811249)

        "Could there have been any sort of sabotage?"

        Mischievous squids?

        I smiled.

        Our family has a cottage in the middle of nowhere and all the neighbours are nice, but that doesn't stop my urban dwelling brother from obsessively locking his car. I keep asking him if he's worried about the raccoons taking midnight joyrides.

        • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Friday April 29, 2011 @06:52PM (#35981074)

          Our family has a cottage in the middle of nowhere and all the neighbours are nice, but that doesn't stop my urban dwelling brother from obsessively locking his car. I keep asking him if he's worried about the raccoons taking midnight joyrides.

          Haven't you seen raccoons washing their hands in a stream? It's not about being sanitary, it's a guilty conscience combined with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

          • Haven't you seen raccoons washing their hands in a stream? It's not about being sanitary, it's a guilty conscience combined with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

            Aren't they just washing the grease off their hands so they won't leave any fingerprints?

        • by gknoy (899301)

          Habits are most effective when maintained, and insurance companies are less likely to reimburse you if your car wasn't locked.

          • by Surt (22457)

            Honest people are nice and all, but in reality, does anyone ever not get reimbursed for this reason? I mean, who blurts out 'well, I left my car unlocked, and it got stolen', rather than just 'my car got stolen'.

        • by jamesh (87723)

          Our family has a cottage in the middle of nowhere and all the neighbours are nice, but that doesn't stop my urban dwelling brother from obsessively locking his car. I keep asking him if he's worried about the raccoons taking midnight joyrides.

          I always lock my car too. I basically promised the insurance company I would, so I do. Your neighbors might be nice, and your neighbors teenage kids might be nice too, but even nice teenage kids with a bit of booze in them can suddenly think that taking an unlocked car for a joy ride is a good idea. And most crimes would be done by non-locals anyway... your nice neighbors might notice them and take a description so you can catch them later, but that doesn't necessarily get your car back. Your brother might

        • by ryanov (193048)

          Beyond that -- if someone wants your car, locked doors are not going to stop them. I lock it to keep mischief out/keep people from taking shit that's not worth breaking in for (though I have had my cassette adapter stolen via broken windows -- I guess when you want one, you want one).

        • "Our family has a cottage in the middle of nowhere and all the neighbours are nice, but that doesn't stop my urban dwelling brother from obsessively locking his car. I keep asking him if he's worried about the raccoons taking midnight joyrides."

          Habits die hard. And I'd rather be in the habit of always locking my car, than getting into the habit of leaving it unlocked, and someday having it bite me in the ass when I move back into an urban setting.

          Yes, door locks won't prevent a dedicated thief from entering

        • that doesn't stop my urban dwelling brother from obsessively locking his car

          It's a good habit to be in and a bad habit to have lost, once you're back in the big smoke. Moreover, if you want to prevent opportunistic searches during traffic stops ("you don't mind if I search your car? You don't have anything to hide, do you?") Locking your doors once you get out is a great way to short circuit the officers smoothly choreographed and often practiced routine. He has to ask for your key or ask you to unlock the car at which point refusing to consent to the search is a lot simpler than

    • No, how on earth can the "memory part" go missing? They clearly don't want everybody to know what was on that memory. If, after close examination, they find out it is nothing that could remotely incriminate a politician, then it will magically "appear".
      • It is perhaps a sign of the times that I cannot tell if you are being sarcastic, trolling, or sincerely believe what you posted.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          I thought the same thing, so I look at some of his other posts..and I STILL don't know.

    • by bughunter (10093)

      Is that a technical term?

      TFA is Michael Cooney's Layer 8 blog. I'll give Cooney the benefit of the doubt and assume he did the 30 seconds of research [google.com] necessary to find out [honeywell.com] the correct term [l-3com.com] and just assume he misplaced a key memory part.

    • by ryanov (193048)

      The same thing happened for the crash of Ethiopian flight 409. The memory was found 6 days later, only partially damaged. From avherald.com:

      The cockpit voice recorder was recovered from the sea on Feb 10th 2010 however the memory part was missing. The memory was recovered on Feb 16th 2010, however one of the 16 memory chips was found cracked resulting in about 10 seconds of recordings missing every 4 minutes. The chip is likely to be unreadable, however additional attempts to restore the chip's contents are

  • Oh, no! They forgot to pay the 20$ extra fee to install memory card in the flight data recorder? Bummer!
  • by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 29, 2011 @05:24PM (#35980302)
    Obviously, Barack Obama's birth certificate stating he was born in Kenya was on this plane. When the Jooz realized this, they called up the Illuminati and had them have Gaddafi plant a bomb on the plane. This was a Majestic-12 orchestrated conspiracy to get us involved with Libya to protect our rebellious young people interest, something which has been declining in the past decades because of rainbows in sprinklers and the chem-trails in the sky.

    The missing memory chip only confirms that the Greys were there to teleport the chip to their holographic dimension before the passengers disappeared in the Bermuda triangle, only to be transported to Layer-7 in Dulce.

    This then confirms that Kennedy was shot by the mafia to protect the Illuminati-Majestic-12 conspiracy. Also, the chip had the location of the nuclear weapons in Iraq.

    Obviously.
    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Oh, c'mon. Certainly Gaddafi would have outsourced the bomb part. What kind of fools do you take us for?

    • by sgt_doom (655561)
      Geez, I was just about to fill in everyone about this, but there's always some wise ass who beats me to it. What a compleat downer, dood!

      Now, if only they make it mandatory for those governors of the states (Texas, Georgia, Alabama, et al.) requesting emergency federal aid to fork over THEIR birth certificates.

      Of course, I'm sure Donald Trump has already forged an American birth certificate for his hairpiece, who recently announced it, too, is running for the presidency (should be some serious competit

      • Geez, I was just about to fill in everyone about this, but there's always some wise ass who beats me to it. What a compleat downer, dood!

        Now, if only they make it mandatory for those governors of the states (Texas, Georgia, Alabama, et al.) requesting emergency federal aid to fork over THEIR birth certificates.

        Of course, I'm sure Donald Trump has already forged an American birth certificate for his hairpiece, who recently announced it, too, is running for the presidency (should be some serious competition for Bachmannmeister).

        forgive me if I'm wrong, but there is no law that says you have to be born a us citizen to be a governator. As much as I would love to think that Obama is Kenyan I find it pretty hard to believe that not even the donald has turned up proof otherwise. I mean if we can elect a Kenyan to president, then austria can't be far behind.

        Though the thought of "I'll be back" as a presidential slogan scares the bajesus out of me. That would be proof that the machines are coming and I don't like that thought a whole l

    • You've got it all wrong. They sent in the North Korean sub to retrieve the "memory part". You know, the sub that torpedoed the Deepwater Horizon.
  • very bad summary (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fermion (181285) on Friday April 29, 2011 @05:37PM (#35980440) Homepage Journal
    I was going to create some conspiracy theory about how the UN, who is pushed the Obama Presidency on the America people to subjugate the good and wholesome light of legitimate americans to the international jewish conspiracy, crashed the plane because people on board were in possession of personal knowledge of the illegitimacy of his presidency, and subsequently had to push a secret meeting to disintegrate the data from the black box using well known but secret technology that was stolen from the allien space ship that crashed in Tunguska in 1947.

    But that all went away when it the article made it clear that all that found was the chasis for the data recorder, and none of the actual black boxes, i.e. crash survivable memory units, have in fact been seen or recovered.

  • I'm confused. Was the flight data recorder was found, brought to the surface, opened and the memory module was missing (ie not installed), or was the memory module a separate piece of equipment that connects to the flight data recorder and could simply be covered up by other wreckage in the debris field. If the memory module is contained within the flight data recorder, how is this not flagged by the avionics as a problem? If it is a separate piece of equipment, then what is the point of the flight data
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      I'm confused. Was the flight data recorder was found, brought to the surface, opened and the memory module was missing (ie not installed), or was the memory module a separate piece of equipment that connects to the flight data recorder and could simply be covered up by other wreckage in the debris field.

      The memory module is a unit mounted in the flight recorder and it's clearly missing in the pictures sent back from the sea bed. As I mentioned above, the flight data recorder chassis looks to have bent enough to break the memory unit away from its mounting points, mostly likely when the plane hit the sea. In that case it should be somewhere in the debris field, but probably some distance from the rest of the unit due to differences in shape and density.

      I believe it's basically an orange cylinder, so it shou

    • Nobody was monitoring the robot (externally, that is) to see whether or not IT had something to do with the removal of the "memory part" (not to be confused with those other parts??)? This is truly thought-provoking....I mean, could the 'bots be in on this, or something????

      On a more serious note, though, recall that it was malware which brought down a Spanish airliner around that same timeframe. The malware interfered with the diagostic warning systems of the avionics systems (occupired same memory vec

  • The space aliens that shot it down got to it first.

    • by tsa (15680)

      They weren't shot down, they crashed into the alien's flying saucer. Because the aliens didn't want their presence to be known they pried the memory thingy out of the black box. The saucer was unharmed BTW.

  • I've wondered for some time why planes don't decentralise this a bit.
    For example, stick a 1cc little cube with an accelerometer, gyro, and some flash memory into all of the electrically operated emergency lights.
    All it does issit there and log accelleration, gyro readings, and temperature to flash, and rewrites after a few weeks.
    This nowadays takes truly modest amounts of power and volume.
    Engines generally survive - stick a few dozen in there.

    • by Dunbal (464142) *
      Better yet, why don't they just stream the information continuously to a satellite... yeah it costs money - now how much does an Airbus at the bottom of the ocean cost again?
      • by Tiger4 (840741)

        Better yet, why don't they just stream the information continuously to a satellite... yeah it costs money - now how much does an Airbus at the bottom of the ocean cost again?

        It isn't just the cost. It is:

        Cost(of crash) x Probability(of crash) + Value(of crash data) x Probability(of crash)
        + Cost(of normal Ops) x (1-Probability(of crash)) + Value(of normal data) x (1-Probability(of crash))

        That is almost certainly a negative number most of the time. Airlines hate to lose money therefore it isn't done

    • Engines survive because they aren't composed of soft materials, like a bunch of 1cc cubes of electronic devices. Also, the engines are made of resistant materials because one of them disintegrating in-flight would be a major hazard.

      But you could choose another part of the plane to put those sensors. I guess the reasons they aren't used are historical (electronics was expensive just a while ago) and because you can deduce the acceleration and temperature of most of the debris of an accident just by looking a

  • by Solandri (704621) on Friday April 29, 2011 @06:22PM (#35980844)
    To answer everyone's question, all they found is the chassis [aviationweek.com] housing the FDR. It connects to the plane's avionics and does the actual flight data recording, which it then writes to flash memory in a separate memory module. It is only important before the crash. The memory module plugs into this chassis and screws on (you can see the 4 screws on the chassis and the screw holes on the memory module's feet if you click on the pic in the link). During the crash, the two got separated. The memory module itself [bbc.co.uk] is the part that's designed to be crash/fire/water-proof, and the locater beacon they were listening for immediately after the crash is attached to the memory module.
  • by Sir_Eptishous (873977) on Friday April 29, 2011 @06:24PM (#35980860) Homepage
    All flight data should be backed up on Cloud Storage.
    • by Tiger4 (840741)

      EC2 [amazon.com] ?

    • While probably meant as a joke, this is a work in progress and this flight in fact as far as I know did send some messages home before the crash.

      But we are forgetting that aircraft are VERY old things. Some of the aircraft you fly in are themselves older then the modern internet and might well have been designed before even the foundations of the internet were laid down.

      Even so called modern aircraft are quite old and the aviation industry is not for one for rapid chance. See McDonald Douglas building the D

  • So some sea critter ate the memory chips, specifically? This reminds me of a story about the fish kids in ocean schools: "I can't turn in my homework... I put it on a memory stick and the octopus ate it!"

    • by ryanov (193048)

      The thought is that it is too large/sturdy to be of interest. It also sounds like it must be pretty heavy.

We don't know who it was that discovered water, but we're pretty sure that it wasn't a fish. -- Marshall McLuhan

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