Information from "black boxes" and other sources could help prevent future accidents.
As each day passes and another theory emerges to explain the disappearance of Air France Flight 447, the urgency increases to find the flight data recorders -- or black boxes -- which hold critical and concrete clues to the mystery.
First speculation centered on lightning or turbulence as the cause. The latest centers on small speed sensors that may have iced up, causing the plane to register incorrect speeds. French investigators today confirmed that Air France had not replaced those sensors, called pitot tubes, despite a recommendation from the manufacturer.
But Paul-Louis Arslanian, who heads the French investigative agency, cautioned against jumping to conclusions. The A330-200 is designed to fly with multiple component failures, he says. And there were 24 error messages sent automatically from the plane to Air France headquarters in the flight’s last few minutes, including references to the aircraft's speed readings and autopilot.
Not enough information
Aviation experts say those messages do provide clues and may have relevance, but they have to be put into larger a context and there is nowhere near enough information to do that.
“The consensus among the true experts is that speculation at this point is unwarranted and dangerous in the sense that it can be misleading,” says Richard Healing, an aviation safety consultant and former member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).