French and Brazilian search teams have now recovered 17 bodies from the Atlantic Ocean where the Air France Airbus A330 crashed Monday.
The discoveries come as French officials have confirmed that the airliner may have lost control after its speed sensors were blocked by ice.
A seat, an air ticket and personal belongings were also recovered in an area about 400 miles northeast of the Fernando de Noronha islands off Brazil’s northern coast.
The debris included a nylon backpack containing a computer and a briefcase containing the Air France Flight 447 ticket inside.
At the time of the accident, Air France was in the process of replacing what it knew to be ice-prone sensors on the A330 series. However it had yet to replace those on the aircraft of Flight 447.
At the weekend, French investigation bureau (BEA) and Air France released information saying that the “pitot tubes”, three narrow inlets under the airliner nose, were blocked as the plane flew through a violent tropical storm.
Dominique Bussreau, the Transport Minister confirmed that the speed readings and their impact on the automated flight system were at the focus of the inquiry.
The sensors are believed to have sent out faulty speed readings to the aircraft’s electronic flight system, giving the pilots no information on its condition and performance.
Experienced pilots said that it would be impossible to control the aircraft in such a situation, as there is little margin between the stalling speed and the excessive “overspeed” both of which can send a plane out of control.
Questions are now being called of Airbus and Air France. The airline said that it had ignored Airbus suggestions to await test results and started a programme replacing the pitot tubes on the A330 after a series of incidents showed that they were prone to ice.