The mystery surrounding Air France Flight 447 continued to grow Thursday as conflicting reports from Spanish pilots and Brazilian experts regarding the cause of the plane’s crash emerged, CNN reports.
Two Spanish pilots say they witnessed an “intense flash” in the area where AF447 plunged into the Atlantic, while a Brazilian minister has all but ruled out a mid-air explosion.
Brazil’s defense minister says the oil slick in the ocean is evidence the plane did not break up until it hit the water. That would rule out the possibility that the plane split in half or exploded before crashing.
According to the two pilots who were flying an Air Comet flight from Lima to Lisbon, “”¦we saw in the distance a strong and intense flash of white light, which followed a descending and vertical trajectory and which broke up in six seconds.”
A report in France’s Le Monde newspaper suggests yet another possibility, that the pilots were not flying the correct speed while navigating through the intense storm. Airbus had recently sent out recommendations to pilots of A330 jets with new advice on how to traverse bad weather conditions. The pilots may not have followed this advice.
The number of conflicting reports adds nothing but uncertainty and frustration to an investigation that is already being viewed as hopeless by many officials.
Brazilian ship arrives as search continues
While experts were speculating, the first Brazilian ship arrived on the crash site. Planes still circling the area say they found more, larger debris, but have yet to see any bodies or remains. All 228 passengers and crew are believed to be dead.
The 23-foot piece of plane that was discovered yesterday is believed to be part of the fuselage or tail, BBC reports. CNN reports that because of the distance between debris findings, the search area has been widened to 300 miles.
Officials are still not optimistic that the recorders, which could be buried more than a couple miles below water, will ever be found. Their beacons can only transmit signals for 30 days.
Deep water submarines – key to the discovery and recovery of the black boxes – are not expected at the suspected crash site until next week.
Air France Flight 447 disappeared early Monday on its way from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. Reports came in on Wednesday that a bomb threat was called in on an Air France flight from Buenos Aires to Paris a few days earlier. The threat was deemed fake and, at this time, there seems to be no connection between the AF447 crash and the threat.
French officials have invited the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board to aid in the investigation, CNN reports. The NTSB accepted.
Messages give some clues
The missing plane sent a number of electronic messages before disappearing off radar. According to Air France, the plane first sent a message saying it was entering thick black clouds, which are normally associated with lightning and high winds. According to U.S. transportation experts these conditions are not uncommon off the Brazil coast.
Ten minutes later automatic messages were sent indicating that the autopilot had been disengaged and that a main computer on the plane was switched to alternative power, signaling electric failure.
Next, according to the messages, stabilization controls were damaged, the pilots could no longer see information like altitude or even speed (which could corroborate French testimony) and an alarm sounded, indicating the situation was getting much, much worse.
The flurry of messages ended with one indicating a loss of air pressure throughout the A330 and mass electrical failure.
The plane then crashed.
The Brazilian navy began retrieving pieces of Air France Flight 447 today. CNN reports helicopters were lifting debris and dropping them onto three Brazilian vessels.
“The clock is ticking on finding debris before they spread out and before they sink or disappear,” said French military spokesman Christopher Prazuck, CBC reports. “That’s the priority now, the next step will be to look for the black boxes.”
The Porquoi Pas, a French research ship carrying mini-submarines, won’t arrive until June 12, Prazuck said. One of the subs, the Nautile, was used to explore the underwater wreckage of the Titanic.
Not much is happening today. No remains have been reported as of yet, though CBC reports soldiers at Fernando de Noronha airport were seen unloading body bags and a refrigerator truck from a military helicopter. Any remains, if found, would be taken there.
The biggest development came out of France today, when a report in French newspaper Le Monde reported the plane may have been flying at an improper speed through the storm. This is a possibility since electrical failures reportedly knocked out many of the planes measuring instruments.
Still, experts can only speculate until the black boxes are found. If they ever are.