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General: Sonardyne helps Russian team recover Airbus flight recorders from Black Sea

Posted on 27.06.2006 - 15:57 EDT in GENERAL NEWS by Rons_ROV_Links

Sonardyne helps Russian team recover Airbus flight recorders from Black SeaUnderwater acoustics specialist, Sonardyne International Ltd, UK, was recently called-upon in a race to recover the flight recorders from a crashed Airbus A320. The Armavia airliner was lost with 113 lives on a flight between Yerevan and Sochi on the Black Sea coast at the beginning of May. It disappeared into water over 2,000 ft deep where the vital “black box” flight recorders proved impossible to locate visually. Strong currents and heavy sediment had quickly covered the wreckage removing all traces of the flight recorders.

The Russian State Scientific Centre, YMG (Yuzhmoregeologiya) had the job of locating the flight recorders and consequently turned to Sonardyne, based in Yateley, Hampshire. The company is well known in the offshore industry as a leading supplier of acoustic positioning and communications technology. It supplied a ROV-Homer which enables underwater vehicles to home into the signals transmitted from beacons attached to divers, seabed equipment, or in this particular case, flight data recorders.

The device was rushed to the Black Sea where it was fitted to the search team’s own RT-1000 ROV, which had been designed and built by YMG. The light work/observation class vehicle is rated to 1,000 metres and was equipped with three video-cameras, six lights and a hydraulic manipulator.

The ROV Homer system consists of an ROV mounted range and direction unit and PC control software. Once the pilot has selected the target he wishes to 'home' into, the ROV unit begins interrogating the designated beacon to determine its range and direction. The information is communicated back to the surface, via the ROV's umbilical, and is displayed on the user's PC. It indicates the range to the target and in which direction to turn in order to fly the ROV directly towards the selected beacon.

ROV recovery of Airbus 'Black Box'

Emergency locator beacons on the flight recorders have a limited transmission life so it was vital to recover them as soon as possible. Failure to do so would have seriously hampered investigations into the cause of the Armavia A320 crash. With the Sonardyne ROV-Homer fitted to the Russian-built ROV, the first black box was found quickly on the first day as its approximate location was already known. The second black box was recovered the next day despite being buried in sediment without any traces being visible on the seabed. Recovery took place the day after enabling the entire operation to be completed in four days and within the deadline.

The successful collaboration between Sonardyne and YMG was praised as having been a key element in the success of the operation. Tanya Kalatch, spokeswoman for YMG said; “We were amazed with the level of service from Sonardyne as they managed in a couple of hours to prepare the necessary equipment for delivery to the crash site. The attitude of the Sonardyne people was superb as they were extremely helpful and understanding. We worked like one international team.”

June 2006


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