Ocean Debris Not From Doomed Air France Flight

An Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean during a thunderstorm on June 1, 2009, with 228 passengers and crew on board.
By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, June 6, 2009

PARIS, June 5 -- The first pieces of debris picked up along the path of an Air France jetliner that went down in the Atlantic with 228 people aboard turned out not to have come from the ill-fated aircraft, French officials said Friday.

The officials, responding to reports from Brazilian search teams, warned against jumping to conclusions as investigators here and in Brazil try to figure out what caused the plane to fall suddenly from the stormy sky early Monday on a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

Dominique Bussereau, the French junior minister for transportation, emphasized in radio interviews that the investigation is just beginning. So far, he said, Brazilian and French authorities know very little about what happened aboard the Airbus 330-200 as it crashed while bucking through a violent thunderstorm off Brazil's northeastern tip.

"The main goal is to put our hands on what are called the black boxes, the flight recorders," he said.

The Brazilian military said earlier that its helicopters had picked up debris in the vast search zone and that it was believed to have come from the jetliner. But officials said later that an examination determined it was not from Air France Flight 447.

France's Investigation and Analysis Bureau, which is leading the inquiry, announced Friday that the only thing it knew for sure was that a rough storm was brewing where the plane disappeared and that, in a series of automatic messages just before it disappeared, the plane's speed sensors seemed to be sending out "incoherent" data.

That led to speculation by experts in Paris that the pilots could have been receiving inaccurate information on their instruments in the cockpit, perhaps leading to inadequate or excessive speed as the plane moved through turbulence. But the investigation bureau cautioned against reading too much into its announcement, saying too little is known about what happened during the moments before the crash.

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