Did the Air France 447 pilots endanger the passengers by not diverting around but flying straight through the weather system encountered and pictured below ? Or was this a defendable, unproblematic choice ?
scope (judging from some answers, I'm obliged to clarify this): I'm NOT asking why AF447 crashed – this BEYOND the scope of this question, which solely asks about the meteorological conditions. What went wrong, went wrong INSIDE the storm cell. On the contrary, my question is about the decision BEFOREHAND whether or not to enter this particular storm cell pictured below. This question is entirely independent from the outcome (crash) and would have merit even if AF447 had not crashed.
meteorological and other background information:
Other flights on the same route chose to divert:
« Three other flights (IB6024 [A343, Rio De Janeiro GIG-Madrid MAD 12 minutes behind AF-447], LH507 [B744, Sao Paulo GRU-Frankfurt FRA] 20 minutes behind AF-447, AF459 [A332, Sao Paulo GRU-Paris CDG 37 minutes behind AF-447]) tracked the same route to TASIL between FL350 and FL370 around the time of the crash. They all had to avoid storm cells and diverted from the airway between 11 and 80nm. They experienced moderate turbulence. All three flights had problems to establish communication with Dakar. » (source)
The french newspaper "Le Figaro" asked why AF447 flew through the thunderstorm when other flights diverted around it:
« I note Figaro's graphic borrows from the BEA interactive where one could see the routings of other planes that night. However, for reasons known only to the BEA, the BEA no longer references LH507 which preceded AF447 along the UN873 airway by 20 minutes, nor (if I recall correctly) does the interactive include IB6024 which followed AF447 on UN873 by 12 minutes. Instead, the BEA interactive mostly plots flights on a parallel airway over a 100 NM distant. Both the LH and IB deviated off the track because of the weather, and one would think their deviations would be the most relevant to what AF447 did not do. » (source)
The weather encountered by AF447 is analyzed in detail here, here and here.
Weather infrared satellite image Meteosat-9:
Weather Satellite Infrared Image 02:45Z Jun 1st:
View of AF447 track using GOES imagery:
Figure 12. Probable radar depiction (green/yellow/red shading) based on thermal signatures and conceptual MCS models. Units are arbitrary approximations of radar strength ranging from green (weak) to red (strong). This is based on careful enhancement of cloud temperature information. This is just an assumption of course but this is the best guess based on my own experience and the satellite signatures available.
note: I don't understand why the question gets downvoted. I'm neither claiming nor assuming or guessing that the choice to fly straight through the storm cell was problematic. I'm only asking because I honestly don't know. I'm neither a meteorologist nor a pilot, so forgive me for asking, because I am really curious about this aspect. I'll happily accept either conclusion.