Debris, identified as almost certainly that of AF447 has been sighted from the air by Brazilian military search and rescue aircraft, about 600km/400 miles from the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha. These reportedly included fuel stains, white metallic objects, aircraft seats and an orange emergency buoy.
Air France continues to suggest that the crash was the result of bad weather and a probable lightning strike. But the French Defence Minister, Herve Morin, could not resist the temptation to speculate, suggesting that, "we can't rule out a terrorist act, since terrorism is the main threat to western democracies, but at this time we don't have any element whatsoever indicating that such an act could have caused this accident."
The A330 has one of the best safety records of any civil aircraft, although recently a serious incident occurred over Australia, apparently related to the aircraft’s software.
The ocean bed is anything from 4,000m deep in the area indicated and the prospects of finding the aircraft’s voice recorder and flight data recorder are as remote as the region.
Air France’s impeccable recovery programme
Air France's recovery programme has been highly effectively orchestrated. Its attention to detail in response to the tragic accident over the Atlantic had been visible yesterday, as the French home page address of the carrier's website immediately displayed a full page entry to the emergency response information.
Today the site is more or less back to normal, with the “about Air France” page displaying a special message door.
And detail information has also been carefully and sensibly displayed. The captain was a French national, aged 58, who worked with Air France since 1988. He qualified on the A330/340 in 2007 and has 1,700 hours on the types, with a total of 11,000 hours in all. Other flight crew were also French, aged 37 and 32, with 2,600 and 800 hours respectively on the type and 6,600 and 3,000 hours respectively in total. There were also 9 cabin crew.
Meanwhile a 20-strong team of Air France volunteers arrived in Rio de Janeiro yesterday morning on AF442, to support local Air France staff in helping families and friends of those lost.
Some 4,000 Air France volunteers are also part of the recovery programme. This programme, initiated in 1998, has four roles: support for family and close friends, logistic support, helping temporary visitors and telephone support.
The carrier has also arranged a multi-denominational service for families and close friends to be held this afternoon at 1600h at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
An Airbus A330-200 operated by Air France has been lost about 3.5 hours after departure at 1903 local time on 31-May-09 on a scheduled service, Flight AF 447, from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. The aircraft had encountered a storm zone, with heavy turbulence.
On 01-Jun-09, Air France announced that an automatic message was transmitted at that time, indicating an onboard electrical circuit interruption well off the Brazilian coast.
According to Airbus, the missing aircraft involved in the accident, registered F-GZCP, was MSN (Manufacturer Serial Number) 660, delivered to Air France from the production line in Apr-2005. The aircraft had accumulated 18,800 flight hours in some 2,500 flights. It was powered by CF6-80E1 engines. Air France advised that its most recent maintenance activity was on 16-Apr-09.
ICAO Annex 13 provides that an air safety investigation is the responsibility of the relevant board. The aircraft manufacturers and relevant national authorities will normally also participate in the investigation.
According to Brazilian authorities and Air France, those aboard were of the following nationalities: 2 American; 1 Argentine; 1 Austrian; 1 Belgian; 58 Brazilian; 5 British; 1 Canadian; 9 Chinese; 1 Croatian; 1 Danish; 1 Dutch; 1 Estonian; 61 French; 1 Gambian; 26 German; 4 Hungarian; 1 Icelandic; 3 Irish; 9 Italian; 5 Lebanese; 2 Moroccan; 3 Norwegian; 1 Philippine; 2 Polish; 1 Romanian; 1 Russian; 3 Slovakian; 1 South African; 2 Spanish; 1 Swedish; 6 Swiss; 1 Turkish.