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French investigators say they are not optimistic the black box recorders from Air France Flight 447, now buried deep in the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean, may ever be found, CBC reports.
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday Paul-Louis Arslanian, head of France’s accident investigation agency, told reporters that planes in the area had not yet picked up any signals from the beacons attached to the recorders. The beacons can only transmit electronic indicators for 30 days.
“We may be unable to find the black boxes due to circumstance and logistics,” said Arslanian, citing the underwater area’s mountainous landscape.
“This catastrophe – which is the worst that our country has witnessed in terms of aviation, took place in a very difficult region… so the investigation will not be easy… but we are not giving up” he added later, CBC reports. Experts say the underwater terrain could make this one of the most difficult recovery missions cine the Titanic.
French and Brazilian forces have deployed ships to survey the area. France has sent a research ship equipped with two mini-submarines that will be used to recover the wreckage from the ocean’s floor, in what is now being called a navy operation. Four Brazilian Navy ships carrying recovery equipment and divers will reach the site today. The ships are traversing rough waters to reach the site.
A U.S. navy surveillance plane is also aiding in the search.
CBC reports the accident agency will submit a report by month’s end, according to Alain Bouillard, who is leading the exploration. The report will be submitted regardless of whether the black boxes are found.
Experts explore possibilities
According to several experts it is highly unlikely the recorders were destroyed, as they are designed to survive high impact and intense underwater pressure and conditions.
Arslanian said the end result of the investigation could however prove to be disappointing. “I cannot rule out the possibility that we might end up with a finding that is relatively unsatisfactory in terms of certainty,” he said.
Understanding exactly what caused the plane to crash will be very difficult without the recorders, which, if found, will hopefully provide some clues as to what happened on board. Without the recorders however it is possible the cause of the crash may never be revealed.
Arslanian also told reporters that a team is currently studying the Airbus’s maintenance records and there are so far no indications that anything was wrong with the jet before it took off.
Investigators are still speculating about the conditions under which the plane plunged into the Atlantic. They have not yet decided whether the plane hit the water intact or broke up in air before impact.
Air France Flight 447 disappeared Monday while on its way from Rio de Janeiro to Paris after sending out a series of automated messages indicating electrical failures. No manual distress signals were sent by the pilot.
On Tuesday it was confirmed the plane crashed in the ocean after investigators spotted a trail of plane debris in the water 400 miles off the coast of the Brazil’s Fernando de Noronha islands. The debris was later confirmed to have belonged to the missing plane.
It is believed that all 228 people on board Flight 447 died in the crash. A memorial service took place Wednesday at Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and First Lady Carla Bruni were in attendance.
Brazilian Air Force spokesman Col. Jorge Amaral says search planes have located more debris, including an approximately 23-foot long piece of the plane, BBC reports.
The site, about 56 miles south of the other field of wreckage, contains 10 metal objects scattered in a three mile radius and an oil slick that has spread about 12 miles, Amaral said.
Soon after that announcement, French officials provided their first update at a press conference that took place at an airport north of Paris. Arslanian said signals from the black boxes have not yet been picked up.
In order to find the capture the low frequency signals he says the team will have to narrow their search to a very limited range. Officials are still not hopeful the recorders will ever be found.
BBC reports Brazil has taken charge of the search for the wreckage, while France will focus on the crash investigation. French and Brazilian ships, struggling to navigate through high seas, have not yet arrived at the site.
Air France has said it received a bomb threat directed towards a flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Paris on May 27, just a few days before Flight 447 went missing, The Economic Times reports. There seems to be no connection between the threat (which was rendered fake after teams searched the plane) and Flight 447’s disappearance.
Experts still speculate that several factors contributed to the plane’s crash, since being struck by lightning alone would not have been enough to bring down the Airbus. Hail, cyclonic weather patterns and severe winds could have all potentially played a part in the disaster.
Some are also wondering whether the chief pilot was flying the plane when the problems arose, since pilots on long-distance flights take turns in order to stay alert and focused.
Memorial service begins
Back in Paris, hundreds of mourners gathered at Notre Dame Cathedral for today’s private memorial service. The cathedral’s bell tolled 228 times, once for each victim of the tragic Flight 447 crash.
The CBC reports French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke with the victims’ family members in private at the ceremony. Sarkozy reportedly said arrangements will be made for the families to fly over the debris and suspected crash site if it is something they feel necessary during the grieving process.
The Pope sent a message of condolence to the mourners. It was played at the memorial service.