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Fri, Jul 03, 2009

French Authorities Say Flight 447 Impacted The Water Intact

Plane Struck Belly-First At Very High Speed

The French agency investigating the Air France 447, which crashed in the Atlantic Ocean June 1st, says the aircraft impacted the water intact, belly first, at a very high rate of speed, the World Associated Press reported Thursday.

Alain Bouillard who is leading the probe for the French accident agency BEA said that one month after the crash, "we are very far from establishing the causes of the accident."

While the pitot tubes on the A330 that have been the focus of intense speculation in this incident, and others under investigation by the NTSB, they were not cited as the cause of the disaster. "It is an element but not the cause," Bouillard told a news conference in Le Bourget outside Paris. "The investigation is a big puzzle," he continued. "Today we only have a few pieces of the puzzle which prevents us from even distinguishing the photo of the puzzle."

The heavy storms and lightning in the area of AF447 were also downplayed in Bouillard's presentation. Meteorological data show the presence of storm clouds in the area the jet would have flown through, but nothing out of the ordinary for the equatorial region in June, Bouillard said, eliminating the theory that the plane could have encountered a storm of unprecedented power. Other flights through the area shortly after Flight 447 disappeared didn't report unusual weather, Bouillard said.

The initial report from BEA concluded in part:

  • The meteorological situation was typical of that encountered in the month of June in the inter-tropical convergence zone.
  • There were powerful cumulonimbus clusters on the route of AF447. Some of them could have been the center of some notable turbulence.
  • Several airplanes that were flying before and after AF447, at about the same altitude, altered their routes in order to avoid cloud masses.
  • Twenty-four automatic maintenance messages were received between 2 h 10 and 2 h 15 via the ACARS system. These messages show inconsistency between the measured speeds as well as the associated consequences.
  • Visual examination showed that the airplane was not destroyed in flight. It appears to have struck the surface of the sea in a straight line with high vertical acceleration.

The report does not call for a grounding of all Airbus long haul jets.

The search continues for the voice and cockpit data recorders from the plane, but they are only designed to emit a signal for about a month after being activated.



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