Thursday, November 27, 2008

Airbus A320 ferry flight ends in the Mediterranean Sea, off France

A320An Airbus A320 owned by Air New Zealand has been lost in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of France. The accident happened on November 27, 2008, at approximately 17:00 local time. The downed aircraft has been located a little over 3 nautical miles offshore, resting in about 30 meters of water, according to several news reports from France. There were seven people on board. At this writing, the remains of three have been recovered, while the fate of the others is not yet known.

The aircraft, which had been leased for the past two years to XL Airways Germany, had been undergoing maintenance by EAS Industries at Perpignan, France in preparation for its return to Air New Zealand. According to a media release issued a short time ago by Air New Zealand, the aircraft was being flown from Perpignan to Frankfurt "where it was due to be handed back to Air New Zealand for a ferry flight back to New Zealand."

One news article about the accident suggests that the crew may have been attempting to ditch, reporting, "The spokesman for XL said the plane tried to make an emergency landing on the sea."

Reports say that the aircraft was being flown by two XL Airways pilots. Also on board were a senior captain and three engineers from Air New Zealand, and an official of the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority. Names of those on board have not been released.

UPDATE Nov. 28, 2008: Today, Air New Zealand officially identified the five New Zealanders who were on board the accident aircraft. The names of the two XL Airways pilots have not yet been made public.

French authorities have identified locator signals from both the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) from the downed A320, but have not yet been able to retrieve them due to poor weather conditions at the accident sit.

UPDATE Dec. 1, 2008: The Air New Zealand Public Affairs Office reports that both the DFDR and the CVR have now been recovered from the sea, however they add that "it is now clear both it and the cockpit voice recorder have been badly damaged. These will be sent to manufacturer Honeywell in North America to determine what data can be extracted."

UPDATE Jan. 12, 2009: is reporting today that investigators have succeeded in retrieving data from the aircraft's flight recorders. After the French Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses (BEA) was unable to access data from either device, they were sent to Honeywell, the manufacturer. Honeywell was able to recover data from both recorders, and the BEA are beginning analysis.