Was Air France flight 447 brought down by a 100 m.p.h. updraft?
Or were its two jet engines snuffed out by hail or heavy rains?
In the absence of a black box, the leading theory now is that the Airbus 330-200 was brought down by a 300-mile-wide band of tropical thunderstorms that it could fly neither around nor over.
Brazil’s defense minister confirmed Tuesday afternoon that military planes found a three-mile path of wreckage in the Atlantic, hundreds of miles from Fernando de Noronha, a Brazilian archipelago.
Professional pilots and meteorologists are digging through the available data – flight routes, satellite images, aircraft specifications, and weather reports – and spinning out several likely causes.
One of the most detailed and cogent pieces of analysis of Flight 447’s last minutes – winning the praise of pilots around the world – is a blog by Tim Vasquez.
Here's one of Mr. Vasquez's more intriguing speculations:
Due to the high cloud tops and freezing level at 16,000 ft, there was extensive precipitation by cold rain process and it is likely the MCS was electrified. Lightning of course being considered with good reason since the A330 is one of the most computerized and automated airliners in service.
From my neophyte's perch observing weather patterns, it seems they've become more severe and unpredictable partly as a result of global warming. Are modern airliners like the Airbus A330 at a disadvantage under such conditions because the advanced computerized and automated avionics might be susceptible to lightning?
Perhaps we should bring the reliable old DC-3's back into commercial service.