Ocean search for missing Air France plane

2nd June 2009, Comments 0 comments

A sensor equipped aircraft have been deployed to search the area where Air France mysteriously disappeared.

Rio De Janeiro- Brazilian aircraft equipped with sensors to peer through the night were early Tuesday sweeping a remote part of the Atlantic Ocean where an Air France plane mysteriously disappeared, officials said.

An air force Hercules C130, searching for a signal from the Air France plane's emergency beacon, and an Embraer P-99 AWAC jet with onboard radar and infrared gear able to spot bodies in water were flying over an area 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) off Brazil's northeastern coast.

Monday Brazil's air force had help as two French planes and a Spanish jet joined in the search from Senegal, while a US plane also was due to help.

Later, Air Force spokesman Colonel Jorge Amaral said the search with radar and infrared sensors was under way through the night, weather permitting.

A Hercules C-130 sweeping for radio frequencies -- which earlier found no trace of the missing jet -- was due to take off with two more C-130s and an Amazonas SC-105 from Natal in the northeast at 0600 GMT to bolster the effort.

Aeronatics Command staff said the planes had boats and survival equipent aboard able to to be dropped at sea, as well as parachutists and specialized emergency search teams.

Visual reconnaissance would resume at first light, authorities said; a first jet was taking off from Rio to arrive in the huge search area at sunrise. Searchers were to follow the plane's course up to the point it lost contact with Brazilian controlers.

That zone -- located deep in the Atlantic Ocean almost halfway between the South American and African continents -- was determined by the last signal received from Air France flight AF 447: an automatic data signal telling of multiple electric and pressurization failures.

The Air France Airbus A330 was carrying 216 passengers and 12 crew when it vanished at 0220 GMT Monday, four hours into an 11-hour flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. No distress message was sent.

Just over half the passengers were either French or Brazilian. The remainder came from 30 other countries, mostly in Europe.

The accident sent a shudder through France and Brazil, which Tuesday were sharing the grief of what appeared to be the worst aviation disaster in a decade, and the worst in Air France's 70-year history.

Finding the remains of the aircraft was key to determining what caused it to come down out in a stretch of water beyond the reach of land-based radar.

The lack of answers has given rise to several hypotheses, including Air France's suggestion that its plane was hit by lightning that somehow knocked out its systems -- despite modern aircraft being built to survive such a relatively common phenomenon.

The Airbus A330, previously considered a safe transatlantic workhorse, was under scrutiny. The theories of pilot error or extreme turbulence were also raised.

One possible lead earlier came from a pilot on board a Brazilian TAM Airlines flight who passed through the zone half an hour after the ill-fated French jet.

According to Amaral, the TAM pilot thought he saw orange marks in the ocean, in an area under the responsibility of Senegalese air traffic control.

However, the pilot was unable to make out whether the marks were buoys or flames.

AFP / Expatica

0 Comments To This Article