Coast Guard assists in search for Air France Flight 447

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – Coast Guard watchstanders at the Rescue Coordination Center in Portsmouth assisted officials at the Rescue Coordination Center in Gris Nez, France, with the search for Air France Flight 447 by providing information to help locate the plane’s fuselage Tuesday night.

The Coast Guard uses a “reverse drift” program, called the Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System, that generates a simulation based on the location where floating wreckage is found. This enables Coast Guard search planners to develop optimal search plans, maximizing the probability of successfully locating a search object.

By entering information – when and where debris is found – the SAROPS works backward using the weather, wind and sea conditions over a specified period of time to estimate the probable location of the plane. Based on this position, underwater efforts can be targeted to find the plane’s flight data recorder, commonly known as the “black box.”

“This is cutting-edge technology that the Coast Guard recently developed,” said Geoff Pagels, the Search and Rescue Specialist for the Fifth Coast Guard District in Portsmouth. “We know it’s a crucial element to determine historical positions where distress may have occurred.”

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