Airbus crash: latest sea search fails to find black boxes

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French crash investigators have failed to find the black boxes from an Air France jet that plunged into the Atlantic and do not yet know whether their hunt will continue, their agency said Tuesday.

Flight AF447 between Rio and Paris was lost almost exactly one year ago when it plunged into the ocean with the loss of all 228 people on board.

The French air accident investigation agency BEA said the latest phase of its undersea search for the Airbus 330-200 jet's flight data recorders had drawn a blank and that the search would halt for at least a month.

"The search came to an end yesterday," said BEA chairman Jean-Paul Troadec.

"We have decided to perform a review of all the search operations, which began almost a year ago. We'll bring in our partners. It'll take at least a month or two to do this review and decide whether to continue the hunt."

Many relatives of victims of the crash allege that the BEA, Airbus and Air France are dragging out the enquiry to avoid admitting that the disaster was caused by a known problem with the jet's air speed monitors.

A series of automatic error messages were emitted by the onboard flight computer shortly before it disappeared from radar, and the BEA has confirmed the plane was receiving faulty speed readings from the Pitot probes.

So far, however, the agency has only said that the Pitots, which are thought to have iced up at high altitude, were a contributing factor and are not thought to be the sole cause of the tragedy.

Air France has since replaced the Pitots on its fleet of Airbus jets with a newer model, without saying that the older one was responsible, as some pilots and lawyers acting for the families have alleged.

Troadec insisted the BEA had not yet any clear scenario in mind as to what caused the crash, and warned that without finding the black boxes -- which now seems extremely unlikely -- the precise cause would be difficult to confirm.

© 2010 AFP

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