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Three more bodies retrieved from doomed Air France flight

Video by Luke SHRAGO


Latest update : 2009-06-07

Brazil's air force has retrieved three more bodies from the AF 447 flight that disappeared on Monday with 228 people on board. Meanwhile, investigators are probing a possible link between faulty speed measurements and the crash.

AFP - The Brazilian navy recovered three more bodies from the Air France flight that crashed last week in the Atlantic, raising the total recovered so far to five, a spokesman said Sunday.


Other bodies were also spotted in the area where Air France flight AF 447 came down on June 1 as it was flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris with 228 people on board, the spokesman for Brazil's air force told reporters here.


Six days after AF 447 from Rio to Paris disappeared while flying through violent storms in the middle of the night with 228 passengers and crew on board, speculation is focusing on its airspeed monitors.


Brazilian naval and air force crews also found two bodies on Saturday and were continuing to come across wreckage, including part of the twin-engined Airbus A330's wing as well as floating luggage, on Sunday.

"As well as the bodies there are various remains of the aircraft. Plane seats, part of the wing and various other items were localized," air force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Henry Munhoz told reporters in Recife.

The doomed jet broadcast a series of 24 automatic error messages as its systems shut down one-by-one in its final minutes, and French accident investigators say the cockpit was receiving conflicting speed data.

Following Monday's crash, planemaker Airbus warned pilots to review their methods to cope with this problem and Air France said on Saturday that it had accelerated existing plans to replace the monitoring units in its jets.

In a statement, the airline said it began noticing "incidents of loss of airspeed information during cruise flight" on its twin-engine A330s and four-engine A340s in May last year, and informed Airbus of the problem.

The device in question is the pitot probe, usually on the leading edge of a wing, which measures the force of the air through which an aircraft passes.

France's transport minister Dominique Bussereau said it was too early for investigators to say what was the most likely cause of the crash, but confirmed that Airbus jets had experienced problems with speed monitors.

"There have been situations on Airbus planes, and perhaps on others, where these probes ice up in a very wet area, a deep depression, an area of storms, and no longer give the correct speed reading," Bussereau told RTL radio.

"It's obvious that if the pilots in the cockpit no longer have the correct speed in front of that can lead to two bad consequences for the survival of the plane," he explained.

"Too low a speed, which can cause it to stall, or too high a speed, which can lead to the plane ripping up as it approached the speed of sound, as the outer skin is not designed to resist such speed."

A French nuclear submarine has been dispatched to the zone to help in the search, a race against time to find the black box flight data recorders in deep waters before they stop emitting a locator signal in a month's time.

Other evidence found in the seas is being brought to the Fernando de Noronha archipelago, the closest inhabited spot to the zone where 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. Two male bodies the Brazilian navy recovered in the zone will also flown to Recife, Munhoz said.

"Recife will be the final destination for the bodies as well as the debris from the aircraft," he said, adding that "details of the items collected will be divulged to the relatives and only to the relatives."

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

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 kilometres (300 miles) northeast of the Fernando de Noronha islands, themselves 370 kilometres from the mainland.

The precise spot was 70 kilometres 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.


Date created : 2009-06-07