MISSING AIR FRANCE PLANE IN ATLANTIC

Brazilian aircraft searching for an Air France jet which went missing with 228 people aboard in an Atlantic storm have spotted debris on the ocean.Ships and planes from many nations are continuing to scour the sea. France’s defense minister said the search would go on for as long as necessary. The Air France Airbus was heading from Brazil to Paris when it disappeared. The cause remains a mystery, and analysts say searchers will be anxious to find the black box flight recorder. The black box, which is crucial to establishing what happened, will emit a signal for 30 days. French Defence Minister Herve Morin said that so far there was “no evidence whatsoever” of the cause of the incident.

France believes there is little or no hope of finding survivors from among the 228 passengers and crew aboard the flight. Vessels from France, Spain, Senegal and Brazil are involved in the search, while the United States is said to be offering help with satellite reconnaissance. But French military spokesman Christophe Prazuck said storms and heavy clouds were severely limiting visibility.

“We didn’t find anything, but the weather was terrible, with what we call a tropical convergence front,” he said, quoted by AFP news agency. He was describing a situation in which weather fronts from the northern and southern hemispheres clash violently. Plane crews have narrowed their search to a zone half-way between Brazil and west Africa, said Pierre-Henry Gourgeon, chief executive of Air France, late on Monday.

Their work may be aided by the Airbus’s Argos beacons, which will emit signals for several days, he added. Up to a dozen reports of electrical failures were sent from the plane before it vanished over the ocean. French officials believe it may have been disabled by a storm. Expert explains how the search is conducted

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what is the reason behind Air France Crash ?

Most of the missing people are Brazilian or French but they include a total of 32 nationalities. Five Britons and three Irish citizens are among them. One of the Brazilians on board was Pedro Luis de Orleans e Braganca, a direct descendent of the last Brazilian emperior, Dom Pedro II, a spokesman for the family said. French President Nicholas Sarkozy said he had told friends and relatives waiting at the Charles de Gaulle “the truth” – that the chances of finding anyone alive were “very small”. If no survivors are found, it will be the worst loss of life involving an Air France plane in the firm’s 75-year history. Cap Prazuck said two French military aircraft were searching the suspected area where the plane was lost. One of them was a surveillance plane which had flown out from the Cape Verde Islands, off the African coast, along the Airbus’ flight path to its last known position.

Brazilian aircraft were involved in an overnight search and more are thought to have joined efforts in the morning. Spain and Senegal have also sent planes to help in the search.

Maria Celina Rodrigues, the Brazilian consul in Paris, said the depth of the ocean would make it difficult for searchers.

“They are hoping they can find debris, pieces, lifejackets that eventually float, but that takes some time,” she told the Associated Press.

The Brazilian authorities have also said they are investigating a possible sighting of wreckage in the area, reported Reuters news agency.

The crew of a TAM Linhas Aereas flight travelling over the area in the other direction shortly after the Airbus’ last signal had reported seeing “bright spots” in the ocean about 1,300 km (800 miles) from the Fernando de Noronha archipelago off Brazil’s north-eastern coast.

The plane’s automatic reports were generated at around 0200 GMT on Monday, about four hours after Flight AF 447 left Rio de Janeiro, and as it was heading through turbulence towards the west African coast.

Missing man Arthur Coakley’s wife, Patricia, and his business partner Ken PearceA succession of a dozen technical messages” showed that “several electrical systems had broken down” which caused a “totally unprecedented situation in the plane”, said Mr Gourgeon. “It is probable that it was shortly after these messages that the impact in the Atlantic came,” he told reporters at Charles de Gaulle airport, where the airliner had been due to land. Flight AF 447 was flying at an altitude of 10,670m (35,000ft) shortly before it went missing.

A meteorologist who spoke to AP said tropical thunderstorms in the Atlantic could tower up to 15,000m (50,000ft). French officials have stressed that the plane’s captain was very experienced, clocking up more than 11,000 hours of flight.

Crisis centres have been set up at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and Rio’s Tom Jobim international airport. The Airbus sent an automatic message at 0214 GMT, four hours after leaving Rio de Janeiro, reporting a short circuit. It may have been damaged by lightning. It was well over the ocean when it was lost, making Brazilian and French search planes’ task more difficult. “It is a catastrophe the likes of which Air France has never seen,” Nicolas Sarkozy said after meeting relatives and friends of passengers at a crisis centre at Charles de Gaulle airport.

Earlier, Air France chief executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon told reporters: “We are without a doubt faced with an air disaster.”

He added: “The entire company is thinking of the families and shares their pain.” Flight AF 447 left Rio at 1900 local time (2200 GMT) on Sunday. It had 216 passengers and 12 crew on board, including three pilots. The passengers included one infant, seven children, 82 women and 126 men.

Date 1 June 2009
Type Unknown
Passengers Atlantic Ocean
Crew 12
Injuries Unknown
Fatalities Unknown
Aircraft type Airbus A330-200
Operator Air France
Tail number F-GZCP
Flight origin Rio de Janeiro-Galeão International Airport
Destination Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport

Air France confirmed that there had been 61 French and 58 Brazilians on board. Among the other passengers were 26 Germans, nine Chinese, nine Italians, six Swiss, five Britons, five Lebanese, four Hungarians, three Irish, three Norwegians and three Slovaks.

The Airbus 330-200 had been expected to arrive in Paris at 1110 local time (0910 GMT). controllers at 0133 GMT (2233 Brazilian time) when it was 565km (360m) off Brazil’s north-eastern coast, Brazil’s air force said.

The crew said they were planning to enter Senegalese airspace at 0220 GMT and that the plane was flying normally at an altitude of 10,670m (35,000ft). At about 0200 GMT, the captain reported entering heavy turbulence caused by Atlantic storms, French media report. At 0220, when Brazilian air traffic controllers saw the plane had not made its required radio call from Senegalese airspace, air traffic control in the Senegalese capital was contacted. At 0530 GMT, Brazil’s air force launched a search-and-rescue mission, sending out a coast guard patrol plane and a specialised air force rescue aircraft.

France is despatching three search planes based in Dakar, Senegal, and has asked the US to help with satellite technology.

“The plane might have been struck by lightning – it’s a possibility,” Francois Brousse, head of communications at Air France, told reporters in Paris. David Gleave, from Aviation Safety Investigations, told the BBC that planes were routinely struck by lightning, and the cause of the crash remained a mystery.

Missing man Arthur Coakley’s wife, Patricia, and his business partner Ken Pearce”Aeroplanes get hit by lightning on quite a routine basis without generally any problems occurring at all,” he told BBC Radio Five Live. “Whether it’s related to this electrical storm and the electrical failure on the aeroplane, or whether it’s another reason, we have to find the aeroplane first.” France’s minister responsible for transportation, Jean-Louis Borloo, ruled out hijacking as a cause of the plane’s loss.

‘No information’

Mr Sarkozy said he had met “a mother who lost her son, a fiancee who lost her future husband”. “I told them the truth,” he said afterwards. “The prospects of finding survivors are very small.” Finding the plane would be “very difficult” because the search zone was “immense”, he added. About 20 relatives of passengers on board the flight arrived at Rio’s Jobim international airport on Monday morning seeking information. Bernardo Souza, who said his brother and sister-in-law were on the flight, complained he had received no details from Air France.

“I had to come to the airport but when I arrived I just found an empty counter,” he was quoted as saying Air France has opened a telephone hotline for friends and relatives of people on the plane – 00 33 157021055 for callers outside France and 0800 800812 for inside France. This is the first major incident in Brazilian air space since a Tam flight crashed in Sao Paulo in July 2007 killing 199 people. RIO DE JANEIRO – An Air France jet with 228 people on a flight to Paris vanished over the Atlantic Ocean after flying into towering thunderstorms and sending an automated message that the electrical system had failed. A vast search began Monday, but all aboard were feared killed.

Military aircraft scrambled out to the center of the Atlantic, far from the coasts of Brazil and West Africa, and France sought U.S. satellite help to find the wreckage. The first military ship wasn’t expected to reach the area where the plane disappeared until Wednesday. If there are no survivors, it would be the world’s worst aviation disaster since 2001. The official Agencies Brazil news agency on Monday quoted Brazilian Air Force spokesman Col. Jorge Admiral as saying that a commercial airplane pilot saw what appeared to be fire on the ocean near the route taken by the Air France plane.

“There is information that the pilot of a TAM aircraft saw several orange points on the ocean while flying over the region … where the Air France plane disappeared,” Amaral said, referring to the Brazilian airline TAM. “After arriving in Brazil, the pilot found out about the disappearance (of the Air France plane) and said that he thought those points on the ocean were fire.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the cause remains unclear and that “no hypothesis” is being excluded. Some experts dismissed speculation that lightning might have brought the plane down. But violent thunderheads reaching more than 50,000 feet high can pound planes with hail and high winds, causing structural damage if pilots can’t maneuver around them. Sarkozy said he told family members of passengers on Air France Flight 447 that prospects of finding survivors are “very small.”

Brazil’s president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, expressed hope that “the worst hasn’t happened,” and said “we have to ask God” to help find survivors. The four-year-old Airbus A330 left Rio Sunday night with 216 passengers and 12 crew members on board, said company spokeswoman Brigitte Barrand. Most of the passengers were Brazilian and French, but 32 nations in all were represented, including two Americans. The plane was cruising normally at 35,000 feet and 522 mph just before it disappeared nearly four hours into the flight. No trouble was reported as the plane left radar contact, beyond Brazil’s Fernando de Noronha archipelago, at 10:48 local time

Nationality Passengers Crew Total
France 61 11 72
Brazil 58 1 59
Germany 26 26
Italy 9 9
People’s Republic of China 9 9
Switzerland 6 6
United Kingdom 5 5
Hungary 4 4
Ireland 4 4
Norway 3 3
Slovakia 3 3
Morocco 3 3
Poland 2 2
Spain 2 2
United States 2 2
Argentina 2 2
Austria 1 1
others *** ** ***
Total 216 12 228

But just north of the equator, a line of towering thunderstorms loomed. Bands oextremely turbulent weather stretched across the Atlantic toward Africa, as they often do in the area this time of year. The plane “crossed through a thunderous zone with strong turbulence,” Air France said. About 14 minutes later, at 11:14 p.m. local time, an automatic message was sent reporting electrical system failure and a loss of cabin pressure. Air France said the message was the last it heard from Flight 447. While what happened to the plane has not been determined, a Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he’d seen no indication of terrorism or foul play. Chief Air France spokesman Francois Brousse said a lightning strike could have damaged the plane. Henry Margusity, a senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.com, noted that the thunderstorms towered up to 50,000 feet in the area, so it was possible that the plane flew directly into the most charged part of the storm. Other experts doubted a bolt of lightning would be enough to bring the jet down. Some pointed to turbulence as a more dangerous factor. “Lightning issues have been considered since the beginning of aviation. They were far more prevalent when aircraft operated at low altitudes. They are less common now since it’s easier to avoid thunderstorms,” said Bill Voss, president and CEO of Flight Safety Foundation, Alexandria, Va. Voss said planes are built to dissipate electricity along the aircraft’s skin, and are tested for resistance to big electromagnetic shocks.

No radar coverage
The plane disappeared in an area of the mid-Atlantic ocean not covered by radar. Brazilian, African, Spanish and French air traffic controllers tried in vain to establish contact. Within two hours, two Brazilian Air Force planes began a search mission that grew Monday to seven aircraft and three navy ships. But with nothing more to go on than the last point where Flight 447 made contact — about 745 miles northeast of the coastal city of Natal — they faced an immense area of open ocean, with depths as much as 15,000 feet. A French search plane took off from a military base in Senegal on Monday, to be joined by two more from France, and the Navy was asked to send a craft to help as well, armed forces spokesman Cmdr.

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