Brazil finds key piece from downed Air France jet

9th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

Brazil's navy has recovered the tail fin from the downed Air France jet. Officials are hoping this discovery will help narrow the search for the black boxes.

Fernando De Noronha – Brazil's navy on Monday recovered the tail fin from an Air France jet that plunged into the Atlantic a week ago, and was transporting 16 bodies to shore for identification.

The recovery of the fin was seen as important to the search for answers as to what knocked the Airbus A330, flight AF 447, out of the sky on 1 June as it was flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris with 228 people on board.

The plane's black boxes were mounted in the tail section, and the fin's location could narrow the underwater search for those devices by a French submarine expected to arrive in the zone on Wednesday.

Brazilian officials meanwhile were preparing to receive the 16 bodies plucked from amid the floating debris over the weekend.

Those remains, and dozens of the plane's structural components which have also been picked up, were expected to arrive in the Brazilian archipelago Fernando de Noronha early on Tuesday.

From there the bodies would be flown to the mainland coastal city of Recife, a navy spokesman in Recife, Captain Guicemar Tabosa told reporters.

Brazilian police forensic teams have been set up to identify the bodies using dental records and DNA from relatives.

Tabosa said navy crews had not yet confirmed information given by families on the doomed flight that it appeared two more bodies had been spotted on Monday.

Brazilian and French officials said there was no hope of finding survivors from the downed plane.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said in his weekly radio address on Monday that "everything was being done... so that we can find, if possible, all the bodies, because we know how much it means for a family to receive their lost loved one."

Brazilian and French teams continued to scour the crash zone 1,100 kilometers (700 miles) off Brazil's northeast coast for more bodies and pieces of wreckage.

The clock is ticking for finding the black boxes, believed to lie on the sea floor at a depth of up to 6,000 meters (19,700 feet). Their homing beacons will cease to operate in three weeks.

The US Navy said on Sunday it would send two towable pinger locators and a crew of around 20 to the scene later this week to join the hunt for the devices.

"The first ship should head to the scene on the 10th of June," Pentagon spokesman and US navy commander Jeffrey Gordon told AFP. "They can be used for locating submarines or anything under the water that can emit a sound."

If the voice and data recorders are found, a French research sub -- the same one that has explored the wreck of the Titanic -- will be deployed to recover them. That small sub, the Nautile, is also expected to arrive within days.

The disaster is the worst aviation accident since 2001, and unprecedented in Air France's 75-year history.

No distress call was received from the flight crew of the doomed plane.

Early suspicions are focusing on the Airbus A330's airspeed sensors, which appear to have malfunctioned in the minutes before the catastrophe according to some of the 24 automatic data warnings sent by the plane.

Investigators are looking at whether the sensors, known as 'pitots', could have iced over, possibly leading the Air France pilots to fly into a storm in the zone that day without knowing their airspeed.

Such a scenario could have resulted in "two bad consequences for the survival of the plane," France's transport minister Dominique Bussereau told French radio over the weekend.

They were, he said: "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."

An internal Air France memo dated November 2008 and seen by AFP mentions "a significant number of incidents" related to the pitots.

A US airline, US Airways, said Monday it was replacing the pitots on its nine Airbus A330-300s.

AFP / Expatica

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