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French robot dives for crash black boxes

Published on 14/01/2004

CAIRO, Jan 14 (AFP) - A French submarine robot on Wednesday launched a 10-hour search for the flight recorders of an Egyptian plane which crashed into the Red Sea on January 3, killing all 148 people on board, an official said.

The Scorpio made its plunge at dawn following two dives on Tuesday, one to test the apparatus and the other to observe underwater conditions, said Alain Suard, president of France Telecom Marine, which owns the robot.

The robot’s search in the waters off Egypt’s resort at Sharm el-Sheikh will last for 10 hours before it is loaded back onto the cable ship Ile de Batz for a check-up, Suard told AFP by telephone.

A second search will be launched soon after, he added.

The main target will be the black box flight recorders located last week, from the signals emitted, by French experts working with Egyptian teams at a depth of up to 800 meters (2,600 feet).One black box records the movements of the plane’s controls and the other the voices of the pilot and co-pilot.

The information is expected to reveal the exact cause of the disaster, although Egyptian and French experts believe it was a technical fault or other accident and have ruled out terrorism.

On Tuesday the Scorpio dived first to 300 meters (1,000 feet) below the surface to expel air bubbles from the hydraulic circuits and then descended to 1,000 meters (3,280 feet), officials said.

Suard said the deeper dive allowed operators to see that “visibility there is good .. the bottom is flat and .. that there are no currents.”

The Scorpio arrived in the Egyptian resort on Monday and will be joined on Thursday by another underwater search vehicle, the Super Achille.

The robots will boost the efforts of diving teams at the scene of the crash which killed 134 French tourists and a Moroccan as well as 13 Egyptian crew members shortly after the plane took off for Paris.Only 60 body parts have so far been recovered and little of the fuselage.


                                Subject: France news