Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Picture released by the ECPAD (The French Defence communication and audiovisual production agency) on June 2, 2009 shows a French military man operating a radar aboard a French reconnaissance Breguet Atlantic II plane flying over the Atlantic ocean off Cape Verde, to search debris of the Air France Airbus flight 447.
Picture released by the ECPAD (The French Defence communication and audiovisual production agency) on June 2, 2009 shows a French military man operating a radar aboard a French reconnaissance Breguet Atlantic II plane flying over the Atlantic ocean off Cape Verde, to search debris of the Air France Airbus flight 447.

Debris confirms crash of flight 447

An aeroplane seat, a fuel slick and pieces of white debris scattered in the ocean mark the Air France crash site.

An aeroplane seat, a fuel slick and pieces of white debris scattered over three miles of open ocean marked the site in the mid-Atlantic on Tuesday where Air France Flight 447 crashed, Brazil's defence minister said. Brazilian military pilots spotted the wreckage bobbing on waves, in the ocean 640 kilometres north-east of these islands off Brazil's coast. The plane carrying 228 people vanished Sunday about four hours into its flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

"I can confirm that the five kilometres of debris are those of the Air France plane," defence minister Nelson Jobim told reporters at a hushed news conference in Rio. He said no bodies had been found and there was no sign of life. The effort to recover the debris and locate the all-important black box recorders, which emit signals for only 30 days, is expected to be exceedingly challenging. "We are in a race against the clock in extremely difficult weather conditions and in a zone where depths reach up to 7,000 meters," French prime minister Francois Fillon told lawmakers in parliament Tuesday.

Brazilian military pilots first spotted the floating debris early Tuesday in two areas about 60 kilometres apart, said Air Force spokesman Jorge Amaral. The area is not far off the flight path of Flight 447. Mr Jobim said the main debris field was found near where the initial signs were spotted. The cause of the crash will not be known until the black boxes are recovered - which could take days or weeks.

But weather and aviation experts are focusing on the possibility of a collision with a brutal storm that sent winds of 160 kph straight into the airliner's path. "The aeroplane was flying at 800 kph north-east and the air is coming at them at 100mph," said AccuWeather.com senior meteorologist Henry Margusity. "That probably started the process that ended up in some catastrophic failure of the aeroplane."

Towering Atlantic storms are common this time of year near the equator - an area known as the intertropical convergence zone. "That's where the north-east trade winds meet the south-east trade winds - it's the meeting place of the southern hemisphere and the northern hemisphere's weather," Mr Margusity said. But several veteran pilots of big airliners said it was extremely unlikely that Flight 447's crew intended to punch through a potentially deadly storm.

"Nobody in their right mind would ever go through a thunderstorm," said Tim Meldahl, a captain for a major US airline who has flown internationally for 26 years, including more than 3,000 hours on the same A330 aeroplane. Pilots often work their way through bands of storms, watching for lightning flashing through clouds ahead and manoeuvring around them, he said. "They may have been sitting there thinking we can weave our way through this stuff."

"If they were trying to lace their way in and out of these things, they could have been caught by an updraft." The same violent weather that might have led to the crash also could impede recovery efforts. "Anyone who is going there to try to salvage this aeroplane within the next couple of months will have to deal with these big thunderstorms coming through on an almost daily basis," Mr Margusity said.

"You're talking about a monumental salvage effort." Remotely controlled submersible crafts will have to be used to recover wreckage settling so far beneath the ocean's surface. France dispatched a research ship equipped with unmanned submarines that can explore as deeply as 6,000 meters. * AP

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greeted by university students as he leaves Sistan University in Sistan and Baluchestan’s provincial capital of Zahedan on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

In Iran’s most troubled province, Rouhani hears pleas for change

Hassan Rounani aims to connect with residents of far-flung Sistan and Baluchestan province.

 Prince Bandar bin Sultan in Riyadh on March 3, 2007. Hassan Ammar / AFP Photo

Saudi Prince Bandar promised a victory he could not deliver

Saudi Arabia's controversial intelligence chief stepped down this week after rumours that his policies on Syria had fallen out of favour.

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish spiritual leader Fethullah Gulen. AFP Photo

The inner workings of Gulen’s ‘parallel state’

Fethullah Gulen's followers are accused of trying to push Turkey's prime minister from power.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National