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Brazilian forces scouring the Atlantic Ocean for Air France 447 have spotted the plane’s wreckage 400 miles north-east of Brazil’s Fernando de Noronha islands, UPI reports.
Plane seats and other items were discovered in the ocean near the islands, which are 220 miles off the coast of Brazil. It was recently confirmed that the debris is in fact from Air France 447, the airliner that mysteriously went missing just a few hours after its departure from Rio de Janeiro early Monday.
Brazil Air Force spokesman Col. Jorge Amaral previously told BBC search crews spotted the seats, white debris and metallic remnants of what could be kerosene and oil early Tuesday along the flight path the airliner would have taken.
“The search is continuing because it’s very little material in relation to the size [of the Airbus A330],” he said.
Last night crews narrowed their search to an area halfway between Brazil and west Africa. They are hoping to pick up faint signals from the plane’s beacons, though the signals could be neutralized because of the plane’s suspected location – at the bottom of the ocean.
French Defense Minister Herve Morin believes it is necessary to keep all possibilities of what caused the crash open. “We cannot, by definition, exclude a terrorist attack, because terrorism is the main threat for all Western democracies,” he said.
The ambitious search may yield no definite discovery since the exact location of the flight at the time of its crash is unknown. Also, the Atlantic, the average depth of which is about two miles, could easily have already engulfed the plane in its icy waters for good.
Still, the recent findings do provide some hope of finding out what happened to Air France 447.
Brazil’s Defense Minister has confirmed the debris found is from Air France flight 447, CBC reports. At a press conference he said the wreckage was “without a doubt” from the Airbus A330.
French Transportation Minister Jean-Louis Borloo says it is now a “race against the clock” to find the black boxes, which transmit underwater beacon signals for only 30 days.
Authorities are getting ready to take DNA from passengers’ relatives to be able to identify any found remains. No lifeboats, bodies or remains have been found as of now, and French officials say there is a very minimal chance of finding an survivors.
The first debris was found in the early morning, before light. After the sun rose, another aircraft said it spotted plane debris about 37 miles away from the first site, which was about 50 miles from the flight path.
Ten Brazilian aircraft, along with Spanish, French, Senegalese and American planes are conducting the sweep of the perceived crash site.
Two cargo ships are expected to arrive at the site where the major debris was found. France has sent a research ship with two mini-submarines to search the area as well.
The mini-subs, BBC reports, can operate as deep as 6,000 feet. The area being searched has a maximum depth of 4,700 feet so the subs should be able to search the ocean floor with ease. The size of the debris field, CBC reports, will help to indicate whether the plane plunged into the Atlantic in one piece or broke apart before hitting the ocean.
Col. Amaral said planes spotted‚ an orange buoy, a plane seat, white debris, an airplane turbine and oil, which we now know belonged to Flight 447.
“The locations where the objects were found are towards the right of the point where the last signal of the plane was emitted,” the BBC reports he told reporters in Rio. “That suggests that it might have tried to make a turn, maybe to return to Fernando de Noronha, but that is just a hypothesis.”
Accident workers say they need to recover parts of the plane and the flight and cockpit voice recorders if they are to have any definite idea of how the plane went down. Right now, those materials could be at the bottom of the Atlantic, but the plane had underwater homing beacons attached to its recorders that can transmit signals from up to 14,000 feet underwater, CNN reports.
“They’re water-activated, so if they’re sitting at the bottom of the ocean, of course, then the military assets will have to go in there with listening devices and try and home in on those particular signals,” said Greg Feith, a former U.S. National Transportation Safety Board investigator, CNN reports.
Still, authorities say it could take more than a week to find beacon signals and they only transmit for 30 days.
Still a Mystery
Pilots flying a commercial airliner from Paris to Rio yesterday said they saw what they thought was fire in the ocean along 447’s flight path, the Daily Mail reports.
Two Lufthansa planes that were in the same suspected area as Air France 447 half an hour before the disappearance could provide helpful insight into weather conditions as well, BBC reports the UN weather agency said.
The two airliners recorded information on prevailing wind patterns and temperatures in the area. Because the exact location of the plane at the time of its crash is still unknown, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) official Herbet Puempel told Reuters it is “extremely difficult to say how close they [the Lufthansa jets] were. But the observations will certainly be used by the investigating group.”
The exact cause of the plane’s disappearance and suspected crash is a mystery. The flight transmitted no distress calls, just a succession ten automated error messages‚ starting around 10:14 p.m. EST, showing that several electrical systems had broken down.
A BBC corespondent and several experts are reporting that the plane would have had to have undergone several “traumas” to have fallen from the sky. The absence of a distress signal from the experienced pilot suggests that whatever happened to the plane happened very, very quickly.
BBC reports that it is possible the “fury of an equatorial storm” brought down the airliner. Some pilots believe that the type of storm that is being reported would not have been strong enough to bring the Airbus down by itself.
Air France CEO says the plane most likely plunged into the Atlantic shortly after the automated signals were sent out, Bangkok Post reports.
If no survivors are found it would be the deadliest plane crash since the American Airlines disaster in 2001 and the worst in Air France’s 75-year history.
In an effort to perhaps underscore the seriousness of the tragedy and label the search mission as not a rescue but a fact-finding one, Air France has announced a memorial service will take place at Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral Wednesday for the victims of the plane crash. All family and friends are welcome.
Past investigations into ocean plane crashes have taken years. CNN reports that due to the amount of unknown information surrounding the disappearance and the fact that is plunged into an ocean that is on average two miles deep, finding out exactly what happened to this airliner and the people on board could take a similar amount of time.