Air France crash recorder recovered

Discovery of "black box" unit to help understand cause of airline's deadliest crash, off Brazil's coast, in 2009.

    The news of the recorder's recovery has raised hopes of understanding what caused the 2009 air crash [AFP]

    Deep sea search parties have found one of two recorders from an Air France flight that crashed off the coast of Brazil in 2009, according to investigators.

    The news on Sunday revived hopes of understanding what caused the crash.

    The Airbus 330-203 jet fell into the Atlantic Ocean off the northeast coast of Brazil en route to Paris from Rio de Janeiro in June 2009, killing all 228 passengers and crew on board after the flight hit stormy weather.

    The flight data recorder (FDR), which stores technical data, could give vital clues about the flight's final moments.

    French investigators said in a statement the FDR, which along with the cockpit voice recorder is called a "black box", had been hauled up to the deck of a search boat.

    Pictures published on the website of France's BEA air accident inquiry office before the instrument was pulled to the surface show an orange cylindrical object half-buried in sand.

    A BEA statement said the "memory unit" was "in good physical condition" after it was "raised and lifted by the Remora 6000 ROV [robot submarine] on board the ship Ile de Sein at 16h40 UTC".

    'Good physical condition'

    The discovery comes after years of start-and-stop search efforts on a 10,000sq km area of sea floor to locate the aircraft's two recorders, which investigators hope will settle a dispute over the cause of the crash.

    Jean-Paul Troadec, the BEA's director, said: "At this stage, the box seems to be in good physical condition. Our experts will tell us if there's hope to read the data.

    "If the data can be used it will allow the enquiry to make headway because the FDR records the altitude, speed and the various positions of the rudder."

    The FDR was expected to arrive at BEA offices within eight to 10 days, to allow for the search of the cockpit voice recorder, so the two can be taken back to France.

    Speculation about what caused the accident has focused on the possible icing up of the aircraft's speed sensors, which seemed to give inconsistent readings before communication was lost.

    Investigators announced on Wednesday that search teams had retrieved part of a "black box" from the aircraft but not the part containing the key data.

    BEA said the chassis that held one of the recorders was found a day after a salvage ship began working to retrieve bodies and recently discovered wreckage using the Remora submarines.

    Previous searches had recovered a limited amount of wreckage and about 50 bodies.

    Air France and Airbus - which are being investigated for alleged manslaughter in connection with the crash, the deadliest in the carrier's history - are paying the estimated $12.7 million cost of the search.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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