Air France Flight AF 447 Status: Missing (Photos, Video)
UPDATE June 19, 2009 - Air France announced today that they will give $24,000 to each family of the victims of the crash of AF 447. The money is to be considered an advance, according to Air France chief executive Phillipe Gourgeon. He said, "We are going to be very focused on the first advance that is paid for each victim." He stressed that there were no strings attached to accepting the advance.
Gourgeon went on to say that Air France is planning to hold a memorial for all of the victims of the May 31 crash. This comes on the heels of some harsh criticism that the airline has received from some families of victims who have accused Air France of a lack of sympathy and failure to provide timely investigation information.
Air France Airbus A330-200 jet, registration #F-GZCP, bound for Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, disappeared off the radar screen at 1:33 a.m. ET. According to Air France officials, the flight encountered electrical problems in stormy weather.
The flight from Rio de Janeiro, carrying 216 passengers and a crew of 12 crashed into the ocean. The passenger roster lists 126 men, 82 women, seven children and a baby, in addition to the crew of three pilots and 9 flight attendants.
The passenger roster listed the majority of travelers on board AF 477 were from Brazil (58), France (61) and Germany (26). The remaining victims (83) were from 29 other countries.
Two American's on board the downed plane were Michael Harris, 60, and his wife Anne, 54. He was a geologist working in Rio, and heading to Paris for a training session and vacation - photo below.
A massive search has been underway near the island of Fernando de Noronha in the Atlantic Ocean, 226 miles from the Brazilian coast. Brazilian squadrons have been combing the waters in a recovery effort. They are especially intent on recovering the cockpit data and voice recorders, which will give valuable clues as to what occurred to bring the jetliner down. The 'black boxes' are equipped with pinging devices that are designed to emit a signal for 30 days.
The "black box" is actually an orange cylinder--about 13 pounds of metal wrapped around a stack of memory chips and designed to withstand the force of being slammed high-speed into a brick wall. It is believed that the devices are two miles below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.
Searchers are desperately seeking these boxes in order to discover what went on in the cockpit during the final moments of flight. Microphones in the boxes would have picked up conversations between the crew members, even those not broadcast to air traffic controllers. Other vital data about the plane's equipment and systems, crucial to finding the cause of the crash, are contained in those metal boxes.
UPDATE: June 2, 2009 - A Brazilian pilot spotted potential wreckage in the Atlantic Ocean. The debris field included what was believed to be an airplane seat, an orange life vest, a small oil drum, small white bits of material and metal. The site was spotted 447 miles from the target area, the island of Fernando de Noronha, and some 50 miles from the airplanes charted flight path. After further review, the debris was ruled ocean trash, having nothing to do with the downed airliner.
Four work teams have been set up to investigate the crash. The first group will be assigned wreckage and black box recovery. The second group will delve into the plane's maintenance history. Group three will be checking into the operations of the plane. The fourth group will be going over the aircraft's systems & equipment.
UPDATE: June 6, 2009 - Two male bodies were recovered from the ocean, one of them has been identified as a passenger. A backpack containing a laptop and an immunization card, and a briefcase containing an Air France flight 447 plane ticket were also recovered. See video below.
Eleven planes and seven vessels from five countries are involved in the search. The remains to the two men were taken to the medical examiners office in Recife, the capital of Pernambuco.
UPDATE: June 7, 2009 - On Sunday, search crews worked their way through a sea of debris, and have now recovered a total of seventeen bodies. Officials indicate that of that number, at least four are male and four are female. All will be transported to a morgue in Recife. Additionally, a section of the plane wing, at least two seats and a significant amount of luggage had also been removed from the water. Each item is considered forensic evidence and will be thoroughly examined by French investigators. See new video with photos below.
UPDATE: June 9, 2009 - Eight more bodies were recovered on Monday, bringing the total number to 24. The search is now being aided by fourteen aircraft, along with five Brazilian ships and one French frigate. The U.S. Navy is sending two high-tech acoustic devices to listen for the pinging sound of the still missing black boxes.
UPDATE: June 10, 2009 - On Tuesday the 41 recovered bodies were taken by helicopter to Fernando de Noronha for autopsies. Helicopters reportedly hovered over navy ships while they were still moving to offload the victims, whose bodies have been kept in refrigerated units since their recovery.
Forensic pathologists will be looking for evidence of burn marks, trauma injuries, water in the lungs, and other tell-tale signs that might lead investigators to arrive at what really happened to AF 447. Their other prime objective is to identify the remains so that they can be returned to their families for burial. See new video below.
UPDATE: June 17, 2009 - Autopsies have revealed fractures in the legs, hips and arms of Air France disaster victims, injuries that strongly suggest the plane broke up in the air, according to experts. Investigators are beginning to understand what may have happened, after the examination of 50 bodies and 400 bits of debris that have been recovered.
According to a Brazilian medical examiner, "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."
View map, photo and video reporting below. The first video is from Sunday's discoveries, the second is an eight minute compilation of current AF 447 news from various sources.
Telephone numbers have been established to aid families of Flight AF 447 in obtaining passenger list information:
In France: 0800 800 812
In Brazil: 0800 881 20 20
Outside France: 33 1 57 02 10 55