14 June 2009
As the investigation into the crash enters its third week, ships, planes, and submarines continue to search the Atlantic Ocean for wreckage, for the bodies of the victims, and especially the black boxes. Ships, planes, and submarines from Brazil, France, the US, and other countries have searched for clues to the crash in a large area of the Atlantic ocean between Brazil and Africa. So far, a wide variety of wreckage, and the remains of about 50 of the 228 occupants, have been recovered. At least two ships with detection equipment from the US Navy are on their way to the search area, as is a French submarine. Smaller French submersibles will be used to explore the bottom of the ocean once wreckage from the aircraft is located.
Evidence Points to In-flight Breakup
Initial evaluation of 16 of the recovered bodies by the Brazilian authorities suggests that the aircraft had some sort of catastrophic event while in flight. Bodies were recovered in two areas of the ocean about 50 miles (80 km) apart. Given the amount of time that the bodies were in the water, it is unlikely that this distance was due to the actions sea currents and winds. Also, there was no indication of burns, inhaled smoke, or the effects of an explosion on the examined bodies. No water was found in the lungs, which suggests that none these 16 victims drowned, and there were extensive fractures in many of the bodies. These findings are consistent with the bodies experiencing the kind of trauma associated with impacting water at high speed.
Previous Air France Airbus Incidents
According to a report in the Times of London, there were six previous Air France incidents on Airbus aircraft since 2008 that involved “a rather incoherent cocktail of alarms” and “severe breakdowns”. These appear to have originated with malfunctioning pitot tubes in stormy weather.
In one reported incident, the crew on a flight between Paris and Tokyo issued a mayday call in turbulent weather after a loss of speed indication information resulted in the disengagement of the automatic pilot and set off several alarms. In these previous six incidents, the pilots regained control of the aircraft.
Le Monde newspaper of France estimates that the estimated insurance related costs of the accident will range between $330 and $750 million. The estimated value of the aircraft was 67.4 million euros ($94.4 million).
In a bizarre and tragic turn of events, the ANSA news agency reported that a married couple from Italy who missed the accident flight after arriving late to the airport were involved in a car accident in Austria, killing the wife and seriously injuring the husband.
Additional Accident Information
Other Air France Plane Crashes
Other Airbus A330 Plane Crashes
AirSafe.com Audio and Video Podcast About the Accident