Crash investigators said there were “getting closer” to understanding what brought down Air France Flight 447 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, citing electronic failures leading to faulty speed readings as the likely cause.
Paul-Louis Arslanian, chief of the French accident investigation bureau, BEA, said: “Considering all the work that has been done and all we have at our disposal, I think we may be getting a bit closer to our goal.“He added that “incoherent” speed readings were reported first in a series of alerts that the aircraft transmitted automatically to Paris during its final four minutes. The other alerts “appeared to be linked to this loss of validity of speed information”.
By last night, search teams from Brazil and France had recovered a total of 50 bodies and about 400 pieces of wreckage scattered over hundreds of square miles. However a French nuclear submarine has yet to find the black boxes, which are believed to be lying on the ocean floor. Their beacons have another fortnight before they will fade.
Arslanian’s statement strengthens an emerging consensus among aviation experts that flaws of the electronics of the Airbus led to the loss of control. Flying an aircraft through a tropical storm at night without basic flight information would have proved virtually impossible. Any variation outside the acceptable speed range would have led the aircraft to stall if flying too fly or “overspeed” condition from which it could not recover.
Medical examiners have also revealed that the bodies had multiple fractures of legs, hips and arms, suggesting the airline broke up in the air. Bodies and debris would have been more severely fragmented if the jet crashed intact.
The theory that the plane broke up in the air is also supported by the location of victims’ bodies found more than 70kms apart.
But experts have all but ruled out a mid-explosion as the bodies reportedly show no signs of burns.
Herve Morin, France’s defence minister, promised on Tuesday that the hunt for more wreckage and bodies would continue while there was hope of finding the plane’s black boxes.