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December 2, 2015

Investigators blame pilot error for AirAsia crash into Java Sea

Investigators blame pilot error for AirAsia crash into Java Sea

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee yesterday declared pilot error to be behind the crash of Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501. All 162 passengers and crew died when the plane crashed into the Java Sea a year ago.

The crashed aircraft, photographed in April 2014.
Image: Oka Sudiatmika.

The Airbus A320-200 was around 40 minutes from Surabaya’s Juanda International Airport to Singapore’s Changi International Airport when it vanished on December 28. Wreckage and bodies were found floating two days later; National Search and Rescue Agency divers led an international recovery effort but over 50 bodies remain lost.

The pilots were facing a fault with the rudder travel limiter, a part involved in rudder control. They repeatedly received warnings on their Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitoring (ECAM) system. The first three times Indonesian Pilot Iriyanto and French co-pilot Remi Emmanuel Plesel followed correct procedure only for the fault to recur. The fourth time, they tried something else — based on Flight Data Recorder readouts, investigators believe they reset power to their Flight Augmentation Computers.

The computers are principally responsible for rudder control and aircraft stability. With both computers switched off, the entire fly-by-wire system of semi-automation disconnected, as did the autopilot and autothrust systems. The pilots were now left to fly entirely manually, without automation that protects the aircraft from entering unusual and dangerous positions.

A miscommunication followed. Iriyanto asked Plesel, who was flying, to “pull down”. Plesel pulled the controls down, which pitched the nose up; Iriyanto had wanted to descend. The flight ascended without permission through 36,000ft with a ground speed of 353knts. The aircraft would normally be travelling faster, with a nearby Emirates jet at a ground speed of 503knts at 36,000ft. The aircraft also banked as the disengagement of automation left the rudder off-centre.

A ship carries the aircraft’s recovered tail.
Image: Antonio P. Turretto Ramos, US Navy.

The AirAsia flight reached 38,000ft and entered a stall. The crew did not manage to regain control. The 155 passengers and seven crew died when the plane hit the sea. Most were Indonesians, but for three South Koreans, one Malaysian, one Brit, and French national Plesel.

The fault was traced to cracked solder on a circuit board. It had repeatedly occurred in the weeks before the crash. The investigation concluded maintenance failings contributed to the disaster, but Muhammad Alwi of the Indonesian Transportation Ministry said “Repeated trouble in maintenance is a normal thing[…] If the trouble is fixed in accordance with the manual maintenance procedures, then it’s alright”.

Investigators believe the solder crack is attributable to extreme temperature changes in the unprotected compartment near the tail that houses the component.

The investigation further found the flight crew were untrained in recovering from extreme events. AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes said yesterday “there is much to be learned here for AirAsia, the manufacturer and the aviation industry… We will not leave any stone unturned to make sure the industry learns from this tragic incident”.

The report also dismisses weather as a contributory factor. The flight was diverting around storms in the area.

Iriyanto and Plessel had over 8,000 hours experience between them. Iriyanto had a decade of experience training other pilots, and previous employers include the air force. They spent three minutes struggling to regain control as the pane fell to the sea. Some bodies were recovered around 1,000km away near Sulawesi.

AFP spoke to Terence Fan, an air industry expert from Singapore Management University, who said “It’s a scenario that has played out in air accidents in the past[…] Pilots are either distracted by a faulty equipment or cannot properly solve the issue and something else is brewing in the background.”

One such accident was the loss of Air France Flight 447 in 2009 into the Atlantic. It was investigated by the BEA of France, which also assisted the AirAsia probe. The BEA issued recommendations on how to train pilots after the Air France crash. Ex-BEA boss Jean-Paul Troadec said to AFP “Several recommendations of the (BEA) on the subject of pilot training were clearly not implemented by [AirAsia].”

Indonesia saw such an accident on New Years’ Day 2007 when Adam Air Flight 574 crashed into the Makasser Strait near Sulawesi. The plane suffered a failure on a navigational instrument. While pilots were troubleshooting for this navigational system they first unintentionally disconnected the autopilot, then lost control and crashed into the sea.



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August 5, 2011

Air France, pilots union, victims group criticise transatlantic disaster probe

Air France, pilots union, victims group criticise transatlantic disaster probe

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Friday, August 5, 2011

The Air France-owned Airbus that crashed. Both airline and manufacturer are at the center of a controversy over responsibility.

More than two years after Air France Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic, killing 228, a French pilots union, a group supporting victims’ families, and Air France have all criticised the ongoing investigation. The Bureau d’enquêtes et d’analyses (BEA) is being accused of trying to blame the pilots in order to absolve Airbus.

The controversy follows the release of the BEA’s latest interim report detailing findings so far. At the last moment, the BEA removed a recommendation added by chief investigator Alain Bouillard which called for alarms on Airbus A330s to be modified.

The National Airline Pilots Union (SNPL) is concerned the investigation is degenerating “into a simple charge sheet against the crew,” and says the latest revelations left them with “seriously damaged” faith in the investigators. The SNPL has withdrawn all support in the probe. Air France claim alarms on the A330-200 were “misleading” and contributed to the disaster. Robert Soulas, president of French victims’ families group Entraide et Solidarité AF447, claims the move proves bias in the BEA.

The dispute surrounds stall warning systems. An aircraft stalls if it no longer has sufficient speed to keep itself airbourne. The warnings cut out at extremely low speeds, meaning if a stall progresses far enough the warning can cease. The correct course of action in a stall is to lower the nose, increasing an aircraft’s speed; if the speed increases, the warnings can sound again. This may confuse pilots into abandoning corrective measures.

The BEA have responded that the last-minute call to remove a recommendation calling for changes to stall warning design was owing to a need to examine the issue further. They say behavioral psychologists and cockpit designers have been teamed up to look into the warnings and how crews respond to them. The BEA intends to make a recommendation on the issue in the future, and a spokesperson expressed “deep regret” at the SNPL’s response.

Friday’s 117-page report did examine the actions and training of the pilots. The report says they were untrained in high-altitude manual flying and in how to identify and react to failures of speed sensors. Neither was a standard part of training at the time.

The speed sensing system failed, causing the autopilot and autothrust to switch off. This was followed by stall warnings, which the interim BEA report say were ignored by pilots during a three-and-a-half minute fall of 38,000 feet into the ocean.

“The haste with which these authorities and these officials accused the pilots without any forethought aroused our suspicions,” said Soulas. “We now have confirmation that the affirmations coming from the BEA were not only premature, (but) lacking any objectivity, partial and very oriented towards the defence of Airbus.” For weeks his organisation has mounted protests against the direction taken by the investigation.

Air France, who are battling legally with Airbus over responsibility (both firms are also under criminal investigation), wrote to the European Aviation Safety Agency asking that they examine the stall warnings and seek that they be changed in need be. Air France previously upgraded the speed sensors on their A330s.

Junior Transport Minister Thierry Mariani defended the BEA. “There has never been such a transparent enquiry: it was filmed, took place under the judiciary’s control, with Brazilian [and] American investigators. These controversies discredit an enquiry that is exemplary.” Airbus also responded. “Can you imagine for an instant that, because of economic interests or links between the BEA and Airbus, we’d put in peril all the other airlines operating this plane? It’s neither conceivable nor admissible,” said a statement. About 180 airlines use the Airbus A330.



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May 5, 2011

Flight recorders from Air France Flight 447 found

Flight recorders from Air France Flight 447 found

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

The cockpit voice recorder of Air France Flight 447.
Image: BEA/ECAPD.

Officials from France’s aviation accident investigation agency, the Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA), announced on Tuesday that they had recovered the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) of Air France Flight 447. It was located and brought to the surface by a Remora 6000 unmanned submarine, then taken aboard the Île de Sein, one of the vessels taking part in the recovery and salvage efforts.

This came two days after an announcement on Sunday that the crash-survivable memory unit of the flight data recorder (FDR) of the aircraft had been located and brought to the surface. The chassis of the FDR was located on April 27, with the memory unit missing. It was found a short distance from the chassis. It was also brought to the surface by the Remora 6000.

With the recovery of both recorders, which are reported to be “in good condition”, French officials hope to determine what caused the Airbus A330-200 to crash into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009, when it departed Rio de Janeiro’s Galeão International Airport before it was lost 600 miles (965 km) off the coast of Brazil en route to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport with 228 passengers and crew on board.

Cquote1.svg If you were to throw a computer into the ocean, imagine how all the parts would eventually split and you have the corrosive effects of seawater and the depths involved. Cquote2.svg

—Phil Seymour, International Bureau of Aviation

The leading theory at the moment is that the crew received incorrect air speed readings from the aircraft’s pitot tubes, devices which measure how fast the aircraft is traveling. Experts say the tubes may have become iced over, causing the crash. The plane’s Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) sent out 24 messages over a four-minute long period stating numerous problems and warnings, including incorrect air speed warnings occurring aboard the aircraft, just prior to it going down.

However, chief operating officer of the International Bureau of Aviation, Phil Seymour, speaking to CNN, believes the memory unit will not be of much use to investigators saying because of the depth it was located at, “If you were to throw a computer into the ocean, imagine how all the parts would eventually split and you have the corrosive effects of seawater and the depths involved.” Seymour believes the wreckage will help reveal what happened as more is recovered.

File photo of the Airbus A330-200 (F-GZCP) involved in the accident
Image: Pawel Kierzkowski.

“It may be that the more wreckage they find will help them to piece it all together, which bit by bit could help them build a picture of what caused the plane to come down,” he added.

A BEA spokesperson had agreed with that possibility a few days earlier when speaking to the Associated Press about the recovery of the flight data recorder. “We can’t say in advance that we’re going to be able to read it until it’s been opened,” the spokesperson said. As

The wreckage of the Airbus A330-200, was found back on April 8 at a depth of 3,800 and 4,000 meters (2,070 to 2,190 fathoms or 12,467 feet and 13,123 feet), by a team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, using a Remus robotic submarine and its side-scan sonar. After the wreckage was found, another Remus robot submarine with cameras was sent down to the site, where it filmed bodies in the wreckage. The location of the recorders were localized within 2 square miles (5 square kilometers) of the flight’s last position last year.

In March, a French judge placed the European aircraft maker Airbus and Air France under investigation for possible involuntary manslaughter charges in the 2009 crash. Both are paying the cost of the search which is estimated to be $12.7 million (nine million euro). The crash is the deadliest in Air France’s history.



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April 8, 2011

Wreckage, victims of Air France Flight 447 found

Wreckage, victims of Air France Flight 447 found

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Friday, April 8, 2011

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File photo of the Airbus A330-200 (F-GZCP) involved in the accident
Image: Pawel Kierzkowski.

After an exhaustive two year, 20 million euro ($28 million) search, the final resting spot of Air France Flight 447 has been located. The location of the wreckage is six miles north of the plane’s last reported position off the coast of Brazil at a depth of 3,800 and 4,000 meters (2,070 to 2,190 fathoms or 12,467 feet and 13,123 feet).

The wreckage of the Airbus A330-200, was found Sunday by a team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, using a Remus robotic submarine and its side-scan sonar. After the wreckage was found, another Remus robot submarine with cameras was sent down to the site, where it filmed bodies in the wreckage.

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, France’s Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Sea, confirmed to reporters: “Bodies were found. They will be recovered and identified.”

“We weren’t prepared for that. We are now confronted with another trauma,” Robert Soulas, vice president of Entraide et Solidarité AF447, a support group for families of victims of the crash, said. Soulas lost his daughter and son-in-law, who were on board the flight when it crashed. “For me, personally I would like to leave the bodies of my children, my two children, on the seabed.”

Cquote1.svg Bodies were found. They will be recovered and identified. Cquote2.svg

—Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, French transport minister

The remains of the plane, which were concentrated in a 600 metres by 200 metres (1,968 feet by 656 feet) area, appear to be relatively intact which leads investigators to believe that the plane hit the water intact and did not explode mid-air. Around 50 bodies of the 228 passengers and crew on board and parts of the plane were found shortly after the crash in 2009.

According to Jean-Paul Troadec, the head of France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA), the accident investigation body for aircraft overseeing the operation and investigation, the wreckage and bodies will be bought to surface and then sent to France for investigation. The salvage operation, which will cost around 5 million euros ($7.1 million) according to estimates, will be financed by the French government. Three salvage companies who are bidding to recover the wreck have until afternoon on Thursday to submit proposals. The operation should take between three weeks to a month.

On raising the remains of the plane Troadec said: “We want to know what happened in this accident, most particularly so it never happens again.” Some family members agreed saying such as Michael Gaignard, whose sister was on board the plane said, “We want to know what happened in that plane.” An attorney for several families said some had yet to come to terms with loss of loved ones, saying “There’s been no burial, no goodbye … just lots and lots of suffering.”

Soulas of Entraide et Solidarité AF447 disagreed. “There’s a very traumatic side to this and it causes problems of identification. We don’t know what state they are in.” He added, “And it risks causing a dispute between families who want to leave the bodies at the bottom of the Atlantic and those who want them brought to the surface.”

Cquote1.svg For me, personally I would like to leave the bodies of my children, my two children, on the seabed. Cquote2.svg

—Robert Soulas, VP of Entraide et Solidarité AF447

The vertical stabilizer of the Airbus being recovered in June 2009.
Image: Agência Brasil.

However, despite the discovery of the wreckage, the plane’s two flight recorders, the flight data recorder (FDR) and the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) have yet to be found at the crash site.

Alain Bouillard, who is in charge of BEA’s recovery effort said, “It’s still a jigsaw puzzle. We do not know where the recorders might be.”

There are concerns that the two-year length the recorders have been submerged in seawater along with enormous pressure located at the depth of the wreck, that the data on the recorders might be unreadable. Bouillard said it is possible the recorders were damaged, but had “great confidence” in their robustness.

Without the recovery of the recorders, investigators may be unable to determine the cause of the crash. The leading theory at the moment is that the crew received incorrect air speed readings from the aircraft’s pitot tubes, devices which measure how fast the aircraft is travelling. Experts say the tubes may have become iced over, causing the crash.

The plane’s Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) sent out 24 messages over a four-minute long period stating numerous problems and warnings, including incorrect air speed warnings occurring aboard the aircraft, just prior to it going down.



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May 6, 2010

Black boxes from Air France Flight 447 localized

Black boxes from Air France Flight 447 localized

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

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Air France A330-200 F-GZCP lands at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport on March 28, 2007. The aircraft was destroyed in Air France Flight 447 when the plane hit and crashed in the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 228 people on board.
Image: Pawel Kierzkowski.

The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, or “black boxes”, from an Air France plane that crashed on June 1 last year in the Atlantic Ocean, have been localized to within about 2 square miles (5 square kilometers), a French official said on Thursday.

The French government and military officials have urged caution, saying there is no guarantee the flight recorders will be found. French navy spokesman Hugues du Plessis d’Argentre commented to AFP, “[I]t’s like trying to find a shoe box in an area the size of Paris, at a depth of 3,000m (9,800ft) and in a terrain as rugged as the Alps.”

The aircraft, an Airbus A330-200, carrying 216 passengers and 12 crew members, for a total of 228 people on board, crashed in the Atlantic Ocean after flying in bad weather. The pitot tubes, which measure airspeed, are considered likely to have been a contributing factor to the crash. However, the actual cause has yet to be determined.

The search is now in its third phase, which started on March 30 – April 1, 2010 and was originally announced to last 30 days. However, on May 4, the search was extended to May 25.



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July 30, 2009

Airbus offers funding to search for black boxes from Air France disaster

Airbus offers funding to search for black boxes from Air France disaster

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

An Air France A330.
Image: Christopher Weyer.

Airbus have announced that they will be willing to contribute between 12 million and €20 million (about US$16 million to $28 million) to fund an extended search for the black boxes from Air France Flight 447. The Airbus A330 jetliner crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in June, killing all 228 people on board.

Chief executive Thomas Enders said in a statement, “We want to know what happened, as improving air safety is our top priority. We are fully committed to support the extension of the search with a significant contribution.” Although airframers normally supply technical assistance to investigations, the required impartiality makes funding rare, with Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath saying the company’s move was unprecedented.

“This is an exceptional accident and an exceptional situation,” Schaffrath explained. France’s investigative agency BEA has requested financial assistance for the search from both Airbus and Air France. Air France have discussed this possibility with the BEA.

Investigators have already given up looking for the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder using the conventional method of tracing audio ‘pingers’, the batteries of which would have expired after 30–40 days. Efforts are ongoing using sensitive equipment under tow from a French naval vessel, but if this search proves fruitless then the BEA will seek money for a further three-month search.

The jet’s Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was able to transmit information regarding problems on board prior to the crash. The ACARS data suggests that the plane had suffered from a loss of valuable readings including airspeed, leading suspicion to fall on the pitot-static system which supplies various measurements.

Airbus had already recommended that one component of this system, the pitot tubes, be replaced on A330s. Air France had not done this on the accident airplane although the entire fleet now features the modified design. Three other incidents have been identified since that may involve similar circumstances. The United States National Transportation Safety Board is probing two over American soil while earlier this month another Air France A330 equipped with the new tubes suffered a similar series of problems enroute from Italy to France.



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June 27, 2009

Brazil ceases hunt for bodies from Air France crash

Brazil ceases hunt for bodies from Air France crash

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

A similar aircraft

Brazil has ceased searching for floating debris and bodies from Air France Flight 447. The Airbus A330 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean 26 days ago, on June 1.

51 bodies from the 228 passengers and crew have been recovered, with most remaining unidentified. 600 pieces of wreckage have also been pulled from the sea. However, the Brazilian Air Force said that the chances of finding anything else was slim as it was nine days since the last corpse was found.

French naval vessels, including a nuclear submarine, are continueing their search for the Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder. The recorders are due to continue to emit locator beacons until at least July 2.

France’s Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la Sécurité de l’Aviation Civile (BEA) is due to release a preliminary report on the same date. Speculation is blaming a failure of the pitot-static tubes, which serve as speed sensors, but the BEA is warning against early conclusions regarding the cause of the accident, the worst in the airline’s history.



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June 18, 2009

Aviation experts suggest Air France Flight 447 broke in midair

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Air France Airbus A330-200 aircraft, similar to the one used for Flight 447
An Air France Airbus A330-200 aircraft, similar to the one used for Flight 447
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Autopsies from casualties of Air France Flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic Ocean earlier this month, reveal fractures in leg bones, suggesting that the jet may have been torn apart in midair.

A Brazilian medical examiners’ spokesman said on Wednesday that autopsies found fractures on an undisclosed fraction of the fifty or so bodies that have been found from the wreck of the plane so far.

“We can say there is a little less uncertainty, so there is a little more optimism,” Paul-Lois Arslanian, the leader of the French aviation accident investigation agency BEA, said. However, he added that “it is premature for the time being to say what happened.”

Frank Ciacco, a former forensic expert for the United States National Transportation Safety Board said that “typically, if you see intact bodies and multiple fractures — arm, leg, hip fractures — it’s a good indicator of a midflight break up. Especially if you’re seeing large pieces of aircraft as well.”

Air France Flight 447 was an Airbus A330 that had departed from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, en route to Paris, France, when it disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean. A search investigation has found several parts of the jet, as well as some bodies of the passengers on board, but the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, which could contain important information as to how exactly the plane crash, are yet to be found.


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Aviation experts suggest Air France Flight 447 broke up in midair

Aviation experts suggest Air France Flight 447 broke up in midair

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Air France Flight 447

Air France Airbus A330-200 aircraft, similar to the one used for Flight 447
An Air France Airbus A330-200 aircraft, similar to the one used for Flight 447
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Autopsies from casualties of Air France Flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic Ocean earlier this month, reveal fractures in leg bones, suggesting that the jet may have been torn apart in midair.

A Brazilian medical examiners’ spokesman said on Wednesday that autopsies found fractures on an undisclosed fraction of the fifty or so bodies that have been found from the wreck of the plane so far.

“We can say there is a little less uncertainty, so there is a little more optimism,” Paul-Lois Arslanian, the leader of the French aviation accident investigation agency BEA, said. However, he added that “it is premature for the time being to say what happened.”

Frank Ciacco, a former forensic expert for the United States National Transportation Safety Board, said that “typically, if you see intact bodies and multiple fractures — arm, leg, hip fractures — it’s a good indicator of a midflight break up. Especially if you’re seeing large pieces of aircraft as well.”

Air France Flight 447 was an Airbus A330 that had departed from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, en route to Paris, France, when it disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean on June 1. A search investigation has found several parts of the jet, as well as some bodies of the passengers on board, but the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, which could contain important information as to how exactly the plane crash occurred, are yet to be found.



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June 8, 2009

Tail from Air France jet recovered from Atlantic Ocean

Tail from Air France jet recovered from Atlantic Ocean

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Air France Flight 447

Air France Airbus A330-200 aircraft, similar to the one used for Flight 447
An Air France Airbus A330-200 aircraft, similar to the one used for Flight 447
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File:Air France Flight 447 Empennage removal 2.jpg

Teams of Brazilian Navy and Air Force members recover wreckage from Air France Flight AF447.
Image: Divulgação Aeronáutica.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

A search team from Brazil has recovered a part of the tail section of Air France Flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic on June 1. The Brazilian armed forces have released pictures of divers near the tail fin, painted with the Air France colours of blue, red, and white.

Meanwhile, France said that it has dispatched a nuclear submarine to search for the airplane’s flight data recorders, which could provide information as to how and why the jet crashed.

Sixteen bodies have been recovered from the waters of the ocean last weekend.

Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said that “everything was being done […] so that we can find, if possible, all the bodies, because we know how much it means for a family to receive their lost loved one.”



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