Sunday, June 14, 2009

Air France Plane Part Is Recovered by Merchant Ship in Atlantic

A merchant ship traveling between Uruguay and the United Kingdom found a “medium size” piece of debris from the Air France plane crash site in the Atlantic Ocean, the Brazilian military said yesterday.

The Gammagas, a ship sailing under the flag of Antigua and Barbuda, recovered the debris, which will be transferred to the Brazilian Navy, Vice Admiral Edison Lawrence told reporters in Recife, northeast Brazil. Lawrence didn’t say from which part of the plane the piece came.

No more bodies or debris were recovered yesterday by the Brazilians, and an air search was called off for most of the day because of bad weather, said Ramon Borges Cardoso, an Air Force brigadier.

Air France Flight 447, en route to Paris from Rio de Janeiro with 228 passengers and crew, went down in the ocean on June 1. A Brazilian Navy ship carrying parts of the plane and personal belongings of the passengers will arrive today in the port of Recife, where they will be handed over to BEA, the French agency in charge of the investigation, Cardoso said.

For the first time, Brazil’s military used the expression “human remains” rather than bodies in yesterday’s briefing.

“The conditions in which the last ones were found do not allow us to say body,” Cardoso said.

Identifying the Bodies

Fifty bodies have been recovered and 37 of them are in Recife for identification by authorities, the military said yesterday. Another seven are on the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha island, nearer the crash site, for “pre- identification” procedures.

Cardoso said he will meet today in Recife with French ambassador Pierre-Jean Vandoorne, a diplomat named by the French government to follow the case and serve as a go-between with the families and authorities.

Vandoorne told relatives of passengers in Rio de Janeiro yesterday that they will be given “certificates of presence” on Flight 447, Brazilian state news service Agencia Brasil reported.

The papers, to be issued by Air France, are equivalent to death certificates, Agencia Brasil cited Vandoorne as saying. An official at the French Consulate in Rio de Janeiro said he couldn’t confirm this when contacted by Bloomberg News.

Black Boxes

Investigators are examining whether ice damage or an obstruction of the plane’s airspeed sensors caused unreliable readings that may have contributed to the crash.

Accurate airspeed readings are crucial because flying too quickly can damage a plane’s airframe, while traveling too slowly produces a stall and loss of control.

The French navy’s nuclear attack submarine Emeraude, equipped with advanced listening equipment, has joined the hunt for the flight recorders, known as black boxes. The devices may provide clues to what caused the crash.

Cardoso said on June 12 the authorities will review on June 19 how long the search will continue.

“Technically, there are possibilities of recovering bodies up to 20 days after the accident,” he said.