Brazil Confirms Air France Jet Crashed

FERNANDO DE NORONHA, Brazil (June 2) – An airplane seat, a fuel slick and pieces of white debris scattered over three miles of open ocean marked the site in the mid-Atlantic on Tuesday where Air France Flight 447 plunged to its doom, Brazil’s defense minister said.
Brazilian military pilots spotted the wreckage, sad reminders bobbing on waves, in the ocean 400 miles northeast of these islands off Brazil’s coast. The plane carrying 228 people vanished Sunday about four hours into its flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

Brazilian Air Force / Reuters

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Brazil said Sunday it had recovered three more bodies from the ocean where an Air France jet is thought to have crashed, bringing the total number to five. Authorities said more bodies were spotted from the air and that ships were on the way to recover them. Here, a Brazilian helicopter works Saturday to recover objects that may be from the doomed jet.

Brazilian military pilots first spotted the floating debris early Tuesday in two areas about 35 miles apart, said Air Force spokesman Jorge Amaral. The area is not far off the flight path of Flight 447.

Jobim said the main debris field was found near where the initial signs were spotted.

The cause of the crash will not be known until the black boxes are recovered — which could take days or weeks. But weather and aviation experts are focusing on the possibility of a collision with a brutal storm that sent winds of 100 mph (160 km/h) straight into the airliner’s path.
“The airplane was flying at 500 mph northeast and the air is coming at them at 100 mph,” said senior meteorologist Henry Margusity. “That probably started the process that ended up in some catastrophic failure of the airplane.”
Towering Atlantic storms are common this time of year near the equator — an area known as the intertropical convergence zone. “That’s where the northeast trade winds meet the southeast trade winds — it’s the meeting place of the southern hemisphere and the northern hemisphere’s weather,” Margusity said.
But several veteran pilots of big airliners said it was extremely unlikely that Flight 447’s crew intended to punch through a killer storm.
“Nobody in their right mind would ever go through a thunderstorm,” said Tim Meldahl, a captain for a major U.S. airline who has flown internationally for 26 years, including more than 3,000 hours on the same A330 jetliner.
Pilots often work their way through bands of storms, watching for lightning flashing through clouds ahead and maneuvering around them, he said.
“They may have been sitting there thinking we can weave our way through this stuff,” Meldahl said. “If they were trying to lace their way in and out of these things, they could have been caught by an updraft.”

“I can confirm that the five kilometers of debris are those of the Air France plane,” Defense Minister Nelson Jobim told reporters at a hushed news conference in Rio. He said no bodies had been found and there was no sign of life.
The effort to recover the debris and locate the all-important black box recorders, which emit signals for only 30 days, is expected to be exceedingly challenging.
“We are in a race against the clock in extremely difficult weather conditions and in a zone where depths reach up to 22,966 feet,” French Prime Minister Francois Fillon told lawmakers in parliament Tuesday.


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