Wednesday, 29 May, 2002, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
Taiwan crash's 'black boxes' located
Wreckage lined up at an air force hanger
Little wreckage has been recovered so far
Taiwanese rescue teams have pinpointed the location of the "black boxes" of a China Airlines airplane which crashed into the sea on Saturday with 225 people on board, officials said.

The cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder are thought to be in waters off Taiwan's Penghu island, said Transport Minister Lin Ling-san.

"After searches throughout the morning, we are certain about the site of the black boxes," he said.

He said a large piece of wreckage had also been located at the site.

Rescue workers have so far recovered little wreckage and still have no idea what caused the airplane to break apart in mid-air.

The Boeing 747-200 crashed into the Taiwan Strait on Saturday about 20 minutes after taking off from Taipei on a flight to Hong Kong. No survivors have been found and so far about 90 bodies have been recovered.

Taiwan said earlier on Wednesday that it planned to ask the US and China for satellite and radar data which could help locate wreckage and give a better indication of how the debris fell.

Specialist help

The lack of answers prompted angry relatives to complain about China Airlines' response to the disaster, and there have been calls from Taiwanese politicians for the state-controlled airline to be privatised.

A hat, positively identified by coast guards, belongs to Yi Ching-feng, the captain of the China Airlines
The flight captain's hat has been recovered

US air safety experts are helping in the investigation.

Taiwanese officials said the US team was involved because of its experience with two other crashes which appear to have similarities with the China Airlines crash, and which also needed deep-sea salvage skills.

The two crashes were a mid-air explosion of a TWA Boeing jet in 1996 off the New York coast, and a SwissAir MD11 which crashed into the sea off Canada after leaving New York in 1998.

China Airlines accidents
1999 - MD11 airliner crash lands in Hong Kong, killing three people
1998 - A300-600 airliner crashes near Taipei killing all 197 on board and at least seven on ground
1994 - A300-600 crashes in Nagoya, Japan, killing 264 people
1989 - 737-200 hits mountain near Hualien, Taiwan, killing 56 people

Investigators later attributed the TWA crash to an explosion in the plane's fuel tank.

Aviation specialists have put forward several theories about the causes of the China Airlines crash - an internal explosion, sudden cabin depressurisation, a mid-air collision, or a military accident.

Officials have ruled out bad weather or an air traffic control mistake as causes of the crash.

Saturday's accident was China Airlines' fourth major crash in less than 10 years. The company said the plane was built in 1979 and was the last of its kind in the airline's fleet.

The crash of China Airlines flight 611 follows two major accidents in the region involving mainland Chinese airlines in the last six weeks.


Looking for some 747 Classic Input

Most probably a TWA800 replay however,
There have been a few other theories put forward hereabouts

In a Classic, how easy would it be for this climb scenario

a. a depressurisation problem to go unnoticed in the climb?

alternately (and much more likely)

b. circa 15,000ft in climb, Pilots/FE stuff around trying to rectify a pressurisation -problem and forgetting to go on oxygen/descend, pass out (with cockpit door locked) due to a T.U.C. in the climb of about 2.5 minutes (only)


c. FE accidentally opens outflow valve(s) at height in climb whilst trouble-shooting (possibly trouble-shooting systematically a failure to pressurize that's actually due to a hull rupture). Pilots/FE pass out and aircraft enters powered spiral and breaks up. Does the Classic FE have exclusive access to pressurisation controls, cabin altimeter and outflow valve?

If the aircraft had not pressurised, crew passed out - and the aircraft continued climb on autopilot, what would happen at top of climb? Would the aircraft accelerate into a Mach comp encounter (FL330 to FL350, about M0.89 I'd guess) and then lose it laterally (Classic autopilot unable to cope with the non-symmetric lift, enters spiral and breaks up at about 30,000ft).
Just interested in this as a poss scenario because airline crews receive very little hypoxia or altitude chamber training (if any).


It's equally possible that it was an altitude-triggered bomb in the cargo area (or a cargo-hold fire that could rage there undetected in an old 747). For Al Qaeda to get a bomb into some air-freighted shipment - too easy by far. If they wanted to throw international commerce into total disarray, what better way? How many pax would then be happy to travel on an airplane with unchecked airfreight containers? We know that no more than a few percent of all air-freight is ever checked and then go on to be held in secure areas. So what happens when airlines cannot make up for the lack of passengers by jamming holds full of opportunity air-freight? They go broke that much quicker. If I was advising Al Qaeda, that's what I'd be telling them to go for. They can get away with it about four or five times before public outrage would force a change in air-freighting security procedure. Imagine by how much air-freight costs would zoom if all air-freight had to be secured and guaranteed world-wide?

Cargo door blow-out??

Why Would Al Qaeda Bomb a Taiwanese Airliner?
a. When you air-freight something you've no real control over where it goes enroute to its final destination and/or on which carrier/platform - it could have been transhipping from who knows where (with a time-lock on the baro device to make it that much harder to back-track it). It was then, post time-unlock, the baro device that ensured that it went off in the climb. You can set a baro device to go off in the descent (or on landing for that matter).

b. Taiwan is a US supported and sponsored ally

c. Al Qaeda want to disrupt international commerce - which impacts greatly, although indirectly, upon the US economy.

d. They had about a 50% chance of getting it onto a US built hull and scoring some US citizens to boot.

e. They cause international concern about airline security (average pax doesn't stop to think about the finer detail - just the fact that an airliner was downed)

f. It's an easy target, utilising minimal resources and defeats post 911 measures. It's eminently repeatable.

g. The new style of terrorism is NOT to claim responsibility (and that continuing unknown just adds to the terror factors). After a while it becomes SOP for all air-crashes to be assumed prima facie to be Al Qaeda accomplishments - nice force multiplier effect.

h. It exploits known deficiencies in the World's airfreight system. That's a known strategy of Al Qaeda's.

The true hallmark of terrorism is in its indifference to the who or what of its victims. They just set out to show that they can exercise their will with impunity and seek to convert more mindless Muslims to the justice of their cause via the kudos of success and showing up the hapless nature of authorities forced to take very costly (cripplingly so?) wide-sweeping measures to counter them. At that point they just switch to a new strategy (eg Doubt that we will see another shoe-bomber; next one will be toting his explosives internally with a gastric acid activated fusing).

Even if it was only diversionary, it would have made sense in a terrorist's mind. Not saying that this is what might have happened - but you did ask the question. Smarter people than I could probably come up with many more "reasons why".[/color]

However, despite my post above, still think that it was a TWA800 replay however. Arcing in a fuel tank probe is all that's required to give you a TWA800 - if there's no tank inerting (N2) and the tanks are full of fuel fumes (courtesy of high ambient temperatures and underlying airconditioning packs heat-soaking the Centre Wing Tanks up to the fuel's flash-point).
However the question that's still extant is the role that silver sulfide deposits play in facilitating such arcs. It's one thing to inductively create an unintentional path for a current into a fuel tank, it's quite another for it to create an arc for ignition of those ullage fumes. It has been quietly acknowledged by Smiths Industries (makers of Fuel Tank Quantity Indicating Systems) that silver sulfide is a bad thing to have accumulate on electrical system components within tanks. It is formed from the sulfur that's naturally in the fuel and the silver that's in the silver solder used in wiring and connectors. Trials have indicated that a 9VDC transistor battery will create an arc across any such deposit. Get the idea?
If they don't inert tanks, then the recurrence of TWA800 and (possibly) CI611 type accidents is guaranteed. That's freely admitted by the FAA/NTSB in the TWA800 Report - but they didn't expect the next one quite so soon. If they don't want to set up the infrastructure for onboard generation or single-shot (on the ground) Nitrogen inerting, then maybe they should be investigating an immiscible thin layer of distillate that will float overlay the heated fuel in the CWT and either remain in there (via a filtration process) or get pumped out inflight and be assimilated with the engine-supplied fuel. The purpose? It would totally dampen the ullage vapours, much as oil laying on top of water stops evaporation.
That process I've named " EUPHEMIST "
Euphemism:  The act of substituting a mild, indirect or vague atmosphere (or proposition or compromise) for one considered harsh, blunt or offensive.
I think the name fits the bill ideally. Maybe we'll hear more about it (under some name or other) - as solutions may well be sought more urgently now. Inerting of fuel tanks is #1 on the NTSB's most wanted Hit Parade. The biggest obstacle to EUPHEMIST is the posturing by the fuel suppliers and the makers of fuel system components regarding testing and purity of aviation fuel. They are 100% against any adulteration of fuel by other than necessary additives (or so I am told). The additives that are presently used are FSII and its variants (for fuel pump lubrication and anti-icing effect on the water held in suspension in the fuel). Some military aircraft have other additives for lubrication of high-speed afterburner pumps etc. But don't let anybody kid you that AVTUR is pure. It is nowhere near pure and an additive such as the one that I have suggested as a solution is technically feasible (and the minimal 50 or 60 gals required in the CWT would contribute its own share of BTU's to the fuel burn). It's just that technical people get as emotive about their fuel quality assurance as you do about the food you give your kids. For that reason it would be as difficult to get it accepted as it will be for the aviation industry to accept the extra infra-structural costs of nitrogen inerting. But bite the bullet time is fast approaching - methinks.

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