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Communications of the ACM


In Search of Bayesian Inference

Air France A330-203 aircraft

An Air France A330-203 aircraft was destroyed during flight AF 447 in 2009 while carrying 228 passengers and crew.


In the early morning of June 1, 2009, Air France flight AF 447, carrying 228 passengers and crew, disappeared over a remote section of the Atlantic Ocean. French authorities organized an international search; after about six days, aircraft and ships started finding debris and bodies from the crash, but could not find the airplane itself. A month-long search along the intended flight path to try to pick up signals from the airplane's underwater locator beacons turned up nothing; neither did a side-scan sonar search in August.

The French Bureau d'Enquêtes et d Analyses pour la securité de l'aviation civile (in English, "Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety," or BEA for short) turned to oceanographic experts to estimate the location of the wreckage based on how the recovered bodies and debris might have drifted along the surface currents. Yet side-scan sonar searches in April and May 2010 based on the predictions of the drift model failed to find the airplane.


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