Twenty-eight days after the accident, both flight records of EgyptAir flight 804 were recovered from the Mediterranean Sea this week. How does this compare to recorder recovery operations of other commercial aircraft accidents at sea?
According to ASN data the longest period before recovery of a flight recorder was just over eleven years. An Itavia DC-9 passenger plane crashed into the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the Italian island of Ustica on June 27, 1980, killing all 81 on board. Several investigations failed to conclusively establish the cause of the accident. In 1987 the government appropriated funds for the recovery of the wreckage of the DC-9. Two distinct recovery campaigns, in 1987 and in 1991 , made it possible to bring to the surface some 96% of the wreckage, including both flight recorders. Data was succesfully retrieved from both recorders.
Current flight recorders are tested to specifications as stated in EUROCAE document ED-112A, Minimum Operational Performance Specification for Crash Protected Airborne Recorder Systems. ED-112A states that a flight recorder must be able to withstand sea water immersion for at least 30 days, and a deep sea pressure of 21000 feet / 6100 meters.
ASN data show that there were at least six accidents in which the flight recorders were recovered after this period of 30 days.
|days||accident||accident date||retrieval date||depth (m)|
|[FDR] Itavia flight 870
|27 June 1980||18 July 1991
6 June 1987
|700||Air France flight 447||1 June 2009||2 May 2011||-3900|
|415||South African Airways flight 495||28 Nov. 1987||6 Jan. 1989||-4500|
|238||Adam Air flight 574||1 Jan. 2007||27 Aug. 2007||-2000|
|59||Yemenia flight 626||30 June 2009||28 Aug. 2009||-670|
|ca 36||Korean Air flight 007||1 Sept. 1983||ca 7 Oct 1983||-200|
|28||EgyptAir flight 804||19 May 2016||16 June 2016||-3000|
|25||China Airlines flight 611||25 May 2002||19 June 2002||-70|
|24||Tuninter flight 1153||6 Aug. 2005||30 Aug. 2005||-1500|
|22||Birgenair flight 301||6 Feb. 1996||28 Feb. 1996||-2140|
|21||Air Moorea flight 1121||9 Aug. 2007||30 Aug. 2007||-670|
|19||Armavia flight 967||3 May 2006||22 May 2006||-700|
|18||AeruPeru flight 603||2 Oct. 1996||20 Oct. 1996||-183|
|17||Air India flight 182||23 June 1985||10 July 1985||-2040|
|13||Flash Airlines flight 604||3 Jan. 2004||16 Jan. 2004||-900|
|12||EgyptAir flight 990||1 Nov. 1999||13 Nov. 1999||-70|
Note: on 11 November 2015 the flight recorders of an IAI 1124 Westwind ambulance jet aircraft were recovered from depth of 48 m near Norfolk Island, almost six years after the accident (18 Nov. 2009). The recorders were successfully decoded.