Air France CEO meets with families of crash victims

2nd July 2009, Comments 0 comments

One month after the Flight AF 447 plunged into the Atlantic the head of Air France-KLM met with the families of victims.

Rio de Janiero – The head of Air France-KLM met Wednesday with the families of victims of Flight AF 447, one month after the jet plunged into the Atlantic, killing all 228 people onboard.

The airline's chief executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon attended mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Rio's Botafogo neighborhood, and met for an hour and a half with some 70 families, most of them Brazilian.

He was also set to thank the Brazilian authorities for their help in a 26-day search operation that recovered 51 bodies and over 600 pieces from the doomed aircraft.

People from 32 different countries -- including 72 French citizens and 59 Brazilians -- were aboard the Airbus A330 that came down on the night of 31 May to June 1, in the worst crash in Air France's 75-year history.

"We shared with them what we know, which is limited, and especially wanted to answer their questions" on the recovered bodies, Gourgeon told AFP of his meeting with the families.

"The identification process is moving smoothly and a total of 30 victims have now been identified."

Among those whose identities have been confirmed were Brazilian, French, British and German nationals.

Families were also concerned with compensation measures, Gourgeon said, adding that emergency funds of EUR 17,500 (EUR 24,754) had been provided to each family.

After each case is examined, the insurance provider was then set to propose further compensation that families can accept, reject or negotiate.

The first report by the French air accident agency BEA is due out Thursday and will provide "a list of all the facts that have been established on the plane, the crew, the trajectory, contacts with staff on the ground, recovered debris and weather forecasts," Gourgeon said.

Although the report will represent "a significant step," it "does not answer the question about exactly what happened, or the sequence of events that led to the accident," added the Air France chief, noting that it was "essential" to recover the downed craft's black boxes.

Despite Brazil having called off the search for more bodies and debris last week, a French-led effort has continued to locate the cockpit and flight data recorders.

Gourgeon noted that the black boxes -- which are in fact bright orange -- were designed to emit signals for at least a month and could thus continue to operate beyond Friday. "Operators believe that all hope is not lost," he said.

"In the two, three even four weeks to come, all of our hopes are based on the fact that we can retrieve the black boxes."

The boxes would help investigators piece together the final minutes of the ill-fated flight that went down during a storm as it was flying through turbulence.

French investigators probing the crash have said that the airspeed sensors, or pitot probes, had been feeding inconsistent readings to the cockpit.

Conflicting airspeed data can cause the autopilot to shut down and in extreme cases lead the plane to stall or fly dangerously fast, possibly causing a high-altitude breakup.

Air France has upgraded all sensors on its long-haul fleet as a precautionary measure after protests from pilots.

But Gourgeon warned "there is no certainty today" that the new sensors are more efficient than their predecessors, although "there are indications this could be the case."

The BEA, along with Airbus and Air France, have said there is as yet no firm evidence linking the speed monitors and the crash of the jetliner.

AFP / Expatica

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