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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Bodies, debris from Air France plane recovered

Posted: 07 June 2009 0107 hrs

090606-0107hrs1 Brazilian air force spokesman Col. Jorge Amaral speaks to the press

FERNANDO DE NORONHA, Brazil - Brazilian search teams on Saturday recovered two male bodies, a plane seat and other remains from an Air France jetliner that went down over the Atlantic nearly a week ago with 228 people on board, officials said.

The finds -- the first from the crash -- were to be taken to the Fernando de Noronha archipelago, the closest inhabited spot to the zone they were found, for initial inspection by five Brazilian forensic police.

From there, they were to be flown to the mainland city of Recife for further analysis by French officials leading the investigation into what brought down the Air France flight 447 on June 1.

Relatives of those aboard the Air France flight have already given DNA samples to help identify their loved ones.

Although the black boxes containing vital data on the flight's final minutes have not yet been located, early suspicions are focusing on a possible malfunction of the Airbus A330's airspeed sensors as it flew into a fierce storm.

090606-0107hrs2 Air France employees stand outside a cathedral in Paris during an ecumenical church service for relatives and families of the passengers of Air France's flight 447.

French investigators said Saturday the plane, four hours into a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, suffered multiple systems failures in its final moments and that speed monitors had failed on other Airbus planes.

Airbus on Friday issued a notice urging all pilots of its jets to review a 2001 warning on the procedures to follow if speed indicators give conflicting readings and force the autopilot to cut out.

French submarines were on their way to help with the hunt for the black boxes, as experts scrutinized the debris found so far searching for clues.

"We confirm the recovery from the water of debris and bodies from the Air France plane," Colonel Jorge Amaral told reporters in the northeastern city of Recife.

He said the two bodies, the first recovered from the downed flight, were those of men.

A blue plane seat, a nylon backpack containing a computer and vaccination card, and a leather briefcase with an Air France ticket inside were the first objects plucked from the sea, according to Amaral and an official statement.

The discoveries took place 450 kilometers (300 miles) northeast of the Fernando de Noronha islands, themselves 370 kilometers from the mainland.

The precise spot was 70 kilometers northeast of the point of last communication with the plane, a series of automatically sent messages signaling multiple shutdowns of onboard systems.

Air France was trying to confirm that the recovered seat came from the flight by checking the serial number, which Amaral gave as 23701103B331-0.

French investigators said the Air France airliner sent 24 automatic error messages just before the crash, and its autopilot was disengaged immediately after ones showing conflicting speed readings given by sensors.

The head of France's BEA air investigation agency, Paul-Louis Arslanian, confirmed to reporters in Paris that the downed jet had a problem calculating its speed and that other Airbus jets have reported similar problems.

"There is a programme of replacement, of improvement," he said.

He added that planes that have not yet replaced speed monitors were not necessarily dangerous, and that in the other cases pilots had regained control.

Arslanian said it was impossible to tell from the signals whether the doomed crew had shut off the autopilot or whether it cut out.

He also said the storm the plane flew into was not exceptional.

- AFP /ls

From ChannelNewsAsia.com; see the source article here.


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