Atlantic salvage of doomed Rio-Paris flight begins
A salvage ship in the south Atlantic on Tuesday began the delicate task of bringing up from the ocean floor the bodies of passengers and wreckage from an Air France plane that crashed in 2009.
The ship will also deploy remote Remora submarines to find the Airbus A330's black box data recorders and determine why it plunged into the Atlantic en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in June 2009 with the loss of 228 lives.
"A first operational dive by the Remora 6000 began this morning," France's Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (BEA) that is in charge of probing the causes of the crash said in a statement.
The main wreckage of Flight 447 was announced found early April on the fourth and final attempt.
French Transport Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet has said some bodies had been seen in the remains of the cabin, photographed by robot submarines.
Previous searches had recovered a limited amount of wreckage and about 50 bodies.
BEA said those aboard the Ile de Sein cable vessel, which sailed via Dakar, had been split into two working groups.
The first will continue analysis of around 15,000 photographs taken of the wreck during the previous phase "in particular of the aft elements of the wreckage so as to be able to localise the flight recorders."
The second will "study the operational procedures aimed at recovering the plane's flight recorders, computers and parts," the statement said.
BEA has said the team will face particular challenges working at a depth of 4,000 metres (13,000 feet).
If the flight recorders are found, there is also the problem of analysing the data they contained, particularly if they are damaged.
The Ile de Sein is also equipped with a massive crane to bring up parts of the plane weighing several tonnes, such as the engines.
The official cause remains uncertain, but the crash has been partly blamed on malfunctioning speed sensors used by Airbus, with Air France accused of not responding quickly enough to reports that they might be faulty.
But investigators and Airbus remain cautious, stressing that without the black boxes the riddle of the plane's last moments may never be solved.
Air France and Airbus -- which are being probed for alleged manslaughter in connection with the crash, the deadliest in the carrier's history -- are paying the estimated $12.7 million (nine million euro) cost of the search.
© 2011 AFP