FVCOM model estimate of the location of Air France 447
On June 1, 2009, Air France AF447 disappeared in the Equatorial Atlantic Ocean en route from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Paris, France. On June 6–19, 2009, bodies and debris from the aircraft were recovered floating in the equatorial ocean. This paper describes efforts on using the global–local nested finite volume community ocean model (FVCOM) to model reversely the tracks of bodies and debris back to the time of the crash and to help searchers locate the cockpit voice and flight data recorders and learn why this tragic accident occurred. To validate the reliability and reality of FVCOM, eight surface drifters were deployed by the French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la sécurité de l’aviation civile (BEA) near the last known position in early June 2010 for a period of 3 weeks. These drifter data were used to optimize the spatial and temporal correlation scales of the adaptive sampling data assimilation method of FVCOM. Applying an optimized FVCOM system to assimilate all available drifter- and float-tracking-derived currents in May–June 2009 under three different wind conditions, we reproduced the June 2009 current fields in the area near the LKP and used these fields to reversely track bodies and debris from locations where they were found to the time when the crash occurred. Possible locations for the crashed plane were suggested based on our model results and were made available to the French investigators and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution REMUS autonomous underwater vehicle Operations Group who successfully located the aircraft debris field in April 2011 on the seafloor at a depth of 3,900 m.
KeywordsAir France 447 AF447 FVCOM Global–regional nested FVCOM system FVCOM unstructured grid finite volume coastal ocean model UMASS-D SMAST WHOI BEA Airbus 330
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