Air France ‘black-box’ recovery hopes renewed

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Air France ‘black-box’ recovery hopes renewed

4th April 2011

A specialist in aviation disasters has welcomed news that wreckage from a passenger jet lost over the Atlantic with 228 people on board nearly two years ago has finally been found.

"It is very encouraging that during a fourth attempt to locate the plane's 'black-boxes', French investigators have now confirmed that underwater search teams have located wreckage from the plane," said Katherine Allen, head of Fentons' Travel and International Litigation department.

In the deadliest crash of Air France's history, Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris went down in a high altitude storm roughly midway between Brazil and Senegal on 1 June, 2009. Passengers of more than 30 nationalities were on board, with the majority coming from France, Brazil and Germany. There were no survivors.

France's Bureau of Investigations and Analysis (BEAR) announced that the most recent search had located and confirmed that plane debris found on the ocean floor belonged to the wreck of the A330-203, Flight AF 447.

"The last three previous extensive search efforts, at a cost of £17m so far, each proved fruitless," said Katherine, a partner with the firm. "French investigators apparently remain cautiously hopeful of now finding the plane's flight data and voice recorders, due to the debris area being relatively concentrated.

"This discovery - although no guarantee the black-boxes will ever be found - gives renewed hope to those seeking to uncover the cause of the plane's disappearance."

An initial search after the crash found 50 bodies and hundreds of pieces of debris from the plane, including its torn-off tail. The last search ended in failure in May 2010. The latest search examined a 10,000 sq km (3,900 sq miles) area of ocean floor between Brazil and West Africa and involved dives using specialist robots, to depths of up to 4,000m (13,120ft).

Although the official cause remains undetermined, the crash has been partially blamed on malfunctioning speed sensors used by Airbus. A French judge recently filed preliminary manslaughter charges against Air France, with the company accused of failing to respond quickly enough to reports that sensors might be faulty. Officials believe other factors must have contributed to the accident.

"As the cause of this terrible accident remains unexplained," said Katherine, "it is vital the missing black-box recorders are recovered as soon as possible. Without them, we are unlikely to ever determine what was at fault and as a result ensure that such an accident can never happen again. With the search now continuing, it is hoped investigators will soon be able to ascertain exactly what happened that dreadful night and bring peace of mind to the families and loved ones of all those who sadly died."

Read more at Sky News