BB Video: Miles O’Brien on Technology Questions in The Air France Disaster


(Download MP4)


In today’s episode of Boing Boing Video, space/aviation/tech reporter Miles O’Brien speaks with me about the role of technology in the recent Air France crash.

He answers a number of questions posed here on Boing Boing by commenters on our previous episodes: how “black boxes” work, why they’re not built to float, whether they would be more effective if they streamed data constantly while in use, and whether better training in the “lower-tech” aspects of piloting could have helped.

Since we taped this two-way conversation on Friday, recovery teams off the coast of Brazil have recovered some 16 bodies, and wreckage from the crash.

Here’s a snip from his latest blog post about the disaster, over at True Slant.

The Air France 447 mystery may never be solved beyond a shadow of doubt, but there are some telling, tragic clues to consider based on what we know about the airplane systems and the extreme weather and aerodynamic conditions it encountered before it went down a week ago.

First, a bit of aerodynamics: The doomed Airbus A-330-200 was flying ever so close to its maximum altitude – in a zone pilots call the “Coffin Corner”. It refers to the edge of so-called “flight envelope” of an aircraft. At this altitude, the air is much thinner and that significantly narrows the swath of speed at which the airplane can safely operate.

Read the whole post: “The ‘Coffin Corner’ and a ‘Mesoscale’ Maw.” And speaking of True Slant, check out these two articles about the recently-launched site, a rare refuge for hardcore journalism in these hard times: Washington Post, and Associated Press.

If you’re interested in this story — or in aviation and space news in general — you really should also follow Miles on Twitter to see his thought-stream unfold in real time.


Sponsor shout-out: This week’s Boing Boing Video episodes are brought to you in part by WEPC.com, in partnership with Intel and Asus. WePC.com is a site where users come together to “share ideas, images and inspiration about the ideal PC.” Participants’ designs, feature ideas and community feedback will be evaluated by ASUS and “will influence the blueprint for an actual notebook PC built by ASUS with Intel inside.”

About Xeni Jardin

Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: xeni@boingboing.net.
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One Response to BB Video: Miles O’Brien on Technology Questions in The Air France Disaster

  1. Brasil says:

    I don’t think that we have the means or technology to stream real-time data from planes flying into thunderstorms. Even UHF and VHF signals can’t be transmitted properly in those circumstances.
    A better question is: why hasn’t the black box’s EPIRB (ELT) been located?

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