Air France Jet Missing Over Atlantic ..
By DANIEL MICHAELS and ANTONIO REGALADO
An Air France Airbus jetliner bound for Paris has disappeared off the coast of Brazil Monday, the French President said in a statement.
The Airbus A330 twin-engine jetliner had 228 people onboard, according to various press reports. The Brazilian air force has initiated search operations around the island of Fernando de Noronha, which lies about 210 miles off of Brazil's north east coast, according the Brazilian television.
Air France, a unit of Air France-KLM SA, declined to comment before a planned press conference at 1:30 Paris time.
In his statement French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed "extreme worry" for the flight.
The Associated Press reported that the plane, Air France flight AF 447, with 216 passengers and 12 crew, left Rio de Janeiro at 7 p.m. local time on Sunday. It disappeared from Brazilian radar not long after, the AP said.
Write to Daniel Michaels at firstname.lastname@example.org and Antonio Regalado at email@example.com
This certainly brings back some horrific memories. My sorrow goes out to the family members who have no information on their loved ones. I hope this has a better outcome than Swissair 111.
Air France plane lost: officials say 'no hope' of finding airliner
More than 200 people are believed dead after an Air France passenger jet disappeared over the Atlantic on a flight from Brazil.
By John Bingham and Andrew Downie in Sao Paulo
Last Updated: 1:40PM BST 01 Jun 2009
Officials said they had "no hope" for Air France Flight 447 which dropped off the radar three hours and less than 200 miles into a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.
As the Brazilian air force mounted a search and rescue operation for the Airbus 330-200k in the waters around the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, families of passengers gathered at a crisis centre in Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport awaiting news.
Air France said that the aircraft had sent a message reporting an electrical "short circuit" after strong turbulence.
The company said the plane had probably been struck by lightning.
An Airbus source described the failure as "catastrophic" suggesting a sudden and unexplained systems failure.
The flight left Rio at 7pm local time (11pm British time) and was due in Paris at 11.15am (10.15am BST).
It was 190 miles north east of the coastal Brazilian city of Natal when it was lost contact three hours and 20 minutes later.
Authorities began the operation around Fernando de Noronha, an idyllic holiday destination but they cautioned that the search area could be three times the size of Europe.
Air France said that it "shares the emotion and worry of the families concerned."
A source at the airline told Le Monde: "The plane disappeared from the screens several hours ago.
"It could be a transponder problem, but this kind of fault is very rare and the plane did not land when expected."
President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said he had been informed of the crisis and ordered all relevant government agencies to hunt "for any sign of the plane".
The country's transport minister, Jean-Louis Borloo, said there was "real pessimism at this hour".
"We can fear the worst," he said.
Media in Italy reported that five Italian nationals were among the 216 passengers and 12 crew on board.
Brazil's air traffic control system has been in crisis since 2006, when a Gol passenger jet collided with a private plane above the Amazon killing all 154 people on board.
That disaster was followed just 10 months later by the worst crash in Brazil's history when a TAM jet slid off the runway at São Paulo's city airport and crashed into a warehouse. Some 199 people died.
Although the two crashes were not directly related, Brazil's air traffic control system and oversight of it were implicated in both. The Gol crash caused nationwide turmoil after air traffic controllers launched strikes and go slows at what they said were poor working conditions.
The system is run by the military but questions were raised about the capacity, training and above all, the English language abilities, of the controllers.
The Gol crash reflected "systematic shortcomings in emphasis on positive air traffic control concepts," the US's National Transportation Safety Board said in its final report on the disaster.
Hey Barb, as you know I follow the aviation news and just wanted to stop by and let you know I was thinkin about you after I heard this happened.
I'm sure you've noticed as I have the eerie similarities to SR111, which I imagine makes it even more difficult to hear this news, I hope that you're doin ok.
"Those Who Don't Learn From The Past Are Doomed To Repeat It."
Murray, this newest tragedy certainly does sound like swissair. I feel so badly for the families of the victims. It's something you never forget.
How are you doing?
PARIS, France (CNN) -- Air France Flight 447 sent out 24 automated error messages -- including one saying the aircraft's autopilot had disengaged -- before it vanished with 228 people on board, aviation investigators said Saturday.
But even as they analyzed the error messages and satellite images of the doomed flight's path, investigators said they still have a lot of work to determine what caused the plane to go down.
"I would just like to ask you to bear in mind that all of this is dynamic and there are a lot of question marks," Paul-Louis Arslanian, head of France's accident investigation bureau told reporters.
"We don't know how the aircraft entered the water. We don't know how these pieces of debris entered into the water and that you have to take into account the current ... and the shape of the ocean floor."
The error messages suggest that the plane may have been flying too fast or too slow through the stormy weather it encountered before the crash, officials said.
In addition, investigators have said the plane's autopilot disengaged, cabin pressure was lost and there was an electrical failure before the disaster.
The jet's manufacturer, Airbus, sent a Telex to operators of Airbus models reminding them of what to do when speed indicators give conflicting readings.
The spokesman said the notice does not mean there is any major flaw in the aircraft, but is simply a reminder to pilots of what to do in the cockpit if they get conflicting information about air speed.
All 228 passengers and crew aboard the Airbus 330 are presumed to have died when the plane disappeared northeast of the Fernando de Noronha Islands, an archipelago 355 kilometers (220 miles) off the northeast coast of Brazil.
The flight originated in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and was en route to Paris, France.
Search teams were still trying to find debris from the jet Saturday, two days after a Brazilian Air Force official said debris plucked from the ocean was not from the Air France jet.
PARIS – Air France had not acted on a recommendation to change airspeed-detecting instruments on Flight 447 before the plane crashed in turbulent weather, the French agency investigating the disaster said Saturday.
The French accident investigation agency, BEA, found the doomed plane received inconsistent airspeed readings by different instruments as it struggled in a massive thunderstorm on its flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris with 228 people aboard.
No debris from the aircraft has been found and without the aircraft's black box recorders, aviation investigators have little information to help them determine what caused the crash.
Airbus had recommended to all its airline customers that they replace speed-measuring instruments known as Pitot tubes on the A330, the model that crashed, said Paul-Louis Arslanian, the head of the agency.
"They hadn't yet been replaced" on the plane that crashed, said Alain Bouillard, head of the French investigation. Air France declined immediate comment.
Arslanian cautioned that it is too early to draw conclusions about the role of Pitot tubes in the crash, saying Airbus had made the recommendation for "a number of reasons."
Investigators are relying on 24 messages the plane sent automatically during the last minutes of the flight to try to locate the wreckage.
The signals show the plane's autopilot was not on, officials said, but it was not clear if the autopilot had been switched off by the pilots or had stopped working because it received conflicting airspeed readings.
In Brazil, visibility and weather conditions improved Saturday in the area searchers are focusing on but debris earlier spotted on the ocean's surface may have sunk by now.
"Debris doesn't indefinitely float, and when it sinks we will not have the means of finding them," Air Force Brig. Gen. Ramon Cardoso told reporters late Friday.
Earlier, Cardoso insisted that the debris spotted — an airplane seat, a slick of kerosene and other pieces — was from the plane. But he confirmed that Brazilian searchers had yet to recovered any of the material.
He said searchers did not pursue the reports of debris — the first sighting was reported on Tuesday — because priority was given to the hunt for survivors or the remains of victims.
Meanwhile, a German government-owned satellite spotted debris in the Atlantic on Wednesday, a German Aerospace Center spokesman said, but he added it was unclear whether the material came from the plane.
BEA chief Arslanian said the crash of Flight 447 does not mean similar plane models are unsafe, he said, adding that he told family members not to worry about flying.
"My sister and her son are going to take an A330 next week," he told a news conference at the agency's headquarters, near Paris.
He says planes can be flown safely "with damaged systems."
The flight disappeared nearly four hours after takeoff, killing all on board. It was Air France's deadliest plane crash and the world's worst commercial air accident since 2001.
The investigation is increasingly focused on whether external instruments may have iced over, confusing speed sensors and leading computers to set the plane's speed too fast or slow — a potentially deadly mistake in severe turbulence.
An Air France memo to its pilots Friday about the crash said the airline is replacing the Pitot tubes on all its medium- and long-haul Airbus jets.
Pitot tubes protrude from the wing or fuselage of a plane and help measure the speed and angle of the flight, along with less vital information like outside air temperature.
They feed airspeed sensors and are heated to prevent icing.
A blocked or malfunctioning Pitot tube could cause an airspeed sensor to work incorrectly and cause the computer controlling the plane to accelerate or decelerate in a potentially dangerous fashion.
On Thursday, European plane maker Airbus sent an advisory to all operators of the A330 reminding them of how to handle the plane in conditions similar to those experienced by Flight 447.
Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board, said that advisory and the Air France memo about replacing flight-speed instruments "certainly raises questions about whether the Pitot tubes, which are critical to the pilot's understanding of what's going on, were operating effectively."
But questions about speed sensors are only one of many factors investigators are considering. Automatic transmissions from the plane showed a chain of computer system failures that indicate the plane broke apart in midair.
President Barack Obama said at a news conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy Saturday that the United States had authorized all of the U.S. government's resources to help investigate the crash.
Arslanian said investigators are searching a zone of several hundred square miles (square kilometers) for the debris.
An intensive international effort so far has failed to recover any confirmed wreckage, and concern has grown about whether searchers were even looking in the right place.
It is vital to locate a beacon called a "pinger" that should be attached to the cockpit voice and data recorders, now presumed to be deep in the Atlantic, Arslanian said.
"We have no guarantee that the pinger is attached to the recorders," he said.
Holding up a pinger in the palm of his hand, he said: "This is what we are looking for in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean."
Investigators are trying to determine the location of the debris in the ocean based on the height and speed of the plane at the time the last message was received. Currents could also have scattered debris far along the ocean floor, he said.
"You see the complexity of the problem," he said.
Laurent Kerleguer, an engineer specialized in the ocean floor working with the investigation team, said the zone seen as the most likely site of the debris was 15,112 feet (4,606 meters) at its deepest point and 2,835 feet (864 meters) at its shallowest.
France is sending a submarine to the area to try to detect signals from the black boxes, said military spokesman Christophe Prazuck. The Emeraude will arrive next week, he said.
Interesting- and swissair didn't eliminate the mylar insulation on the MD-11 jet when McDonnell Douglas warned them to do so. Same tragic outcome.
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