Brazilian officials said they have recovered sea "trash" from the Air France crash zone in the Atlantic, and not aircraft debris as initially thought. French investigation agency says there were inconsistencies in the speeds measured.
AFP - Crash investigators revealed on Friday the first electronic clues about what might have caused an Air France A330 jet to have plunged into the Atlantic as salvage crews raced to find the wreckage.
"Time is against us," said French transport minister Dominique Bussereau, four days after flight AF 447 from Rio to Paris crashed in foul weather over the Atlantic with the loss of all 228 passengers and crew aboard.
"We must do everything we can to find the flight recorders and certainly enlarge the search zone," he said, after Brazilian officials admitted that debris they had found in the water was not from the missing plane.
With the crucial flight recorders still missing, investigators are focusing on the automated messages sent out by the plane just before it vanished as it flew through a violent thunderstorm en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.
The French air safety investigation agency said that "based on the analysis of the automatic messages broadcast by the plane, there are inconsistencies between the various speeds measured."
The plane has several devices that measure speed but the data sent by them differed, added a spokeswoman from the Office of Inquiries and Analysis (BEA).
In October 2008 a Qantas Airbus 330 went into a brief nosedive, injuring passengers and forcing an emergency landing, that was blamed on automatic systems overriding each other and radically altering the aircraft's course.
But Airbus has so far said the systems that caused the malfunction on the Qantas jet were not the same models as the ones on flight AF 477 and that therefore no comparison should be made.
Brazilian officials had on Thursday raised hopes that the plane had been found when they said a palette and two buoys plucked from the Atlantic by navy salvage crews were pieces of the Air France plane.
But hours later they backtracked, saying the items were not debris from the flight but simply sea trash, probably from a ship, as was an oil patch first said to be a fuel slick from the doomed French jet.
Several Brazilian navy vessels, and French and Brazilian planes, are continuing the hunt for wreckage, including a seat and a big chunk of what appeared to be fuselage, sighted by air force jets Tuesday and Wednesday.
The French government has sent investigators to Brazil to inspect any debris that could be recovered from the zone, around 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) off-shore, and take them back to France.
Speculation over what caused the accident has ranged from a massive, lightning-packed storm in the area at the time, to turbulence, to pilot error or a combination of factors.
No mayday call was received from the plane, just a series of automatic data transmissions signalling that its systems were shutting down one by one, after which it had presumably either broken up or gone into a fatal dive.
Memorial services were held Wednesday in Paris and Thursday in Rio for those on board the plane, which included 72 French and 58 Brazilians, though no bodies have been spotted at sea.
Many relatives of the passengers attended, but others declined, refusing to give up hope that somehow, despite the evidence, their loved ones had survived.
Air France bosses have met with families waiting at Charles de Gaulle airport for news of the missing flight and told them that there is no hope anyone on board was still alive, a victims' help group said Thursday.
Brazil's air force has invited the Brazilian relatives to its centre of operations in the northeastern city of Recife to observe developments.
Some relatives are to go to Fernando de Noronha, a Brazilian archipelago 400 kilometers (250 miles) into the Atlantic that serves as a base for the search and initial collection point for any debris or bodies that might be recovered.
Recife has prepared a morgue and debris inspection area for anything found.
Officials have said that the air force may organize an overflight of the search zone for the families.
Date created : 2009-06-05