Extremely high winds may have set off a chain reaction of mechanical problems that took down Air France Flight 447, the Wall Street Journal reports. The series of automated messages sent by the plane, typically intended to alert maintenance crews to mundane issues, reveal a cascade of failing systems—flight-control computers, speed senors—and, ultimately, cabin depressurization indicative of a structural failure, that could be either symptom or cause of the crash.
Flight 447 appears to have endured extreme turbulence in up to 100mph winds for 15 minutes, likely longer than the jet’s systems could withstand. Sources caution that without recovering the black boxes or large amounts of debris we’ll never know for sure what happened, and that uncertainty has prompted investigators and Airbus officials to consider alternatives to the famous flight recorders. Some in the industry want to develop a broadcasting system that would stream data automatically.