Search Fails to Yield Black Box of French Jet

Search Fails to Yield Black Box of French Jet
# 13 May 2010 19:07 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. A weeklong search of a patch of mid-Atlantic seabed has failed to find any trace of an Air France jet that crashed almost a year ago, a spokeswoman for France’s air accident investigation agency said on Thursday, APA reports quoting The New York Times.
Search boats had interrupted their hunt in a different 1,200-square mile zone on May 6 and raced to an area about 40 miles to the southwest that French naval investigators had identified using a new computer analysis of sonar recordings made in the weeks after the crash on June 1, 2009. Recently developed software had picked up what investigators were convinced was the distinctive signal from at least one of the “pingers” attached to the jet’s two flight recorders.
A Norwegian ship equipped with two underwater drones mounted with ultra-high resolution cameras and a remote-controlled minisubmarine scoured an 80-square-mile rectangle centered over the area where naval investigators calculated was the beacon’s most likely point of origin, said Martine Del Bono, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Investigations and Analyses. Investigators said the water there ranged from 8,500 to 12,000 feet deep.
“We have made a thorough search but we have unfortunately been unable to find even the smallest piece of metal, not a trace of the wreckage,” Ms. Del Bono said.
At a briefing on Monday, investigators said that the remains of the plane were likely to be lying in a relatively limited debris field of a few hundred square yards.
All 228 passengers and crew members were killed when Air France Flight 447, an Airbus A330, went down in heavy thunderstorms en route to Paris from Rio de Janeiro. Sea searches last year recovered more than 600 pieces of floating debris and 51 bodies, but the flight recorders and the bulk of the wreckage were not found.
Without the recorders, also known as “black boxes,” investigators have said it might never be possible to determine the cause of the disaster. So far, the main source of information about what happened has been a series of messages sent automatically from the plane to a maintenance base, which indicated there was a malfunction of the plane’s airspeed sensors.
Representatives of the victims’ families said they were devastated by the news. “After all of the hope that was raised by the Ministry of Defense a week ago, this comes as an enormous disappointment,” said Robert Soulas, a spokesman for Entraide et Solidarité AF447, a group representing relatives of 60 of the dead.
In a statement late on Wednesday, the accident investigation bureau said it would continue to work with the navy to “work on the accuracy” of its sonar analysis. But with a May 25 deadline for the completion of the latest search operation approaching, investigators felt it was best for the search boat, with its crew of 50 technicians, resume its work in the initial search zone, which was defined using computer models of currents and wind direction in the days after the crash.
“We do not want to lose any more time,” Ms. Del Bono said.
Stéphanie Prunier, a spokeswoman for the Defense Ministry, conceded that the navy’s data “did not yield the fruits that we had hoped,” but said it was still too early to dismiss its findings. “We are continuing our work on the frequencies,” she said, referring to the sonar analysis. “The information may still prove useful, but it may take some time.”