New search for downed Rio-to-Paris flight

25th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

A new search for the wreckage of an Air France flight that crashed over the Atlantic in June 2009 was set to begin after the arrival Friday of an American exploration vessel, French officials said.

It is the fourth attempt to find wreckage of Air France Flight 447, in hopes of discovering what caused the Airbus A330 to crash enroute from a Rio de Janeiro to Paris, killing all 228 people on board.

The plane went down roughly midway between Brazil and Senegal on June 1, 2009, in the deadliest crash in Air France's history.

The official cause remains undetermined, but it 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.

The Alucia came from Seattle in the northwest coast of the United States carrying three Remus submarines that will search the ocean floor.

Air France and Airbus -- who are being probed for alleged manslaughter in connection with the crash -- are paying the estimated $12.7 million cost of the search.

Jean-Paul Troadec, director of France's Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (BEA), told AFP that the approach is different this time. They will try to find the wreckage, rather than searching specifically for the flight recorders, or "black boxes."

This time, he explained, the search area is larger. They will search a 46-mile (75-kilometer) radius around the last known position of Flight 447.

The last search was concentrated on a smaller zone, based on calculations of currents.

"Success is not guaranteed," Troadec said, noting the wreckage probably is between 10,000-13,000 feet deep but likely not covered by sediment or affected by currents.

A third search of the ocean floor to try to locate the black boxes ended in failure last May.

So far only three percent of the plane and around 50 bodies have been found from the wreckage.

No charges have yet been brought in the criminal case, which had been suspended until the plane's black box flight recorders were found.

© 2011 AFP

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