The Alpine crash of the Germanwings flight from Spain to Germany was a tragedy that is just in its initial investigation stage. While most of the jet crash victims were from Europe, several Americans suffered fatal injuries. The “black box” was heavily damaged in the impact, but may reveal information about the doomed Airbus jet’s final moments. Apparently the crew lost radio contact for several minutes before it crashed in the mountains. The Germanwings Airbus 320 crashed into the southern French Alps and the “black box’s” memory card came loose and remains missing, according to a report in The New York Post.
Germanwing is an arm of the international German airline Lufthansa, and the Airbus A320 has been involved in a dozen fatal crashes since 1988, though its track record in relation to the number of flights remains quite good in terms of flying safety. The jet in question began flying in 1990, had flown 583,000 hours over 46,700 flights. Most crashes tend to occur in takeoff and landing situations, not cruising as was the case here.
All 144 passengers and 6 crew members were killed. The flight data recorder, retains 25 hours of information on the position and condition of the key components of the aircraft. This other vital “black box” has not been retrieved as of this time. It is also unclear whether the jet, which had been grounded the day before for mechanical issues, was still in need of service and safe to fly. According to the Daily Mail, there are
German reports that the aircraft had been grounded just 24 hours before it departed Barcelona for Dusseldorf. These technical issues included a landing gear problem.
According to The Washington Post coverage two of the plane crash victims were American. Our hearts go out to the Nokesville, Virginia family that lost a wife and daughter in this tragedy. French investigators opened the “black box” and recovered some audio information from the cockpit voice recorder in order to glean important evidence as to the crash. In a prior post we wrote about the fact that these “black boxes” are not in fact black, but orange, and that they are evaluated nearby in Washington, D.C. While the “black box” technology has provided evidence in other plane crashes, when a jet crashes into the ocean or is not recovered, investigators are without the information to improve safety in the future. Does not the technology exits to transmit, in real time, information as to a jet’s course, altitude, etc. so that the data can be picked up securely on the ground or by satellite ? Recent crashes in Asia suggest that the time has come to have a “Plan B” such that destruction or loss of the “black box” would not mean that the evidence of a jet’s final moments are forever lost…
In the next post, we will look at the remedies available to Americans injured in international flights.