Air France plane lost

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An Air France A330 aircraft, on a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, reportedly experienced electrical problems after encountering stormy weather over the Atlantic. The aircraft has not been heard from for over 12 hours. The last known contact with the aircraft was at roughly 0133 UTC on Monday morning (8:33 pm EDT on Sunday night), about two and half hours after takeoff. The aircraft was outside of radar coverage when it disappeared. There were about 216 passengers and 12 crew members on board.

Hours after an Air France plane bound from Brazil to Paris with 228 people on board disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the prospect of finding any survivors was “very slim.”

Speaking to reporters at the Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport, where the missing Flight AF 447 was supposed to land, Sarkozy described Monday’s incident as “the worst” in Air France’s history.

“It is a catastrophe the likes of which Air France has never seen,” Nicolas Sarkozy said after meeting relatives and friends of passengers at a crisis centre at Charles de Gaulle airport.
Earlier, Air France chief executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon told reporters: “We are without a doubt faced with an air disaster.”
He added: “The entire company is thinking of the families and shares their pain.”

Some 60 Brazilians are said to have been aboard. Other passengers included between 40 and 60 French people, and at least 20 Germans, the French government said.
Six Danes, five Italians, three Moroccans and two Libyans are also believed to have been aboard. Two passengers were from the Republic of Ireland, one was an Irish citizen from Northern Ireland and two were from the UK.

It made its last radio contact at 0133 GMT (2233 Brazilian time) when it was 565km (360m) off Brazil’s north-eastern coast, Brazil’s air force said.
The crew said they were planning to enter Senegalese airspace at 0220 GMT and that the plane was flying normally at an altitude of 10,670m (35,000ft).

At 0220, when Brazilian air traffic controllers saw the plane had not made its required radio call from Senegalese airspace, air traffic control in the Senegalese capital was contacted.

At 0530 GMT, Brazil’s air force launched a search-and-rescue mission, sending out a coast guard patrol plane and a specialised air force rescue aircraft.
France is despatching three search planes based in Dakar, Senegal, and has asked the US to help with satellite technology.

“The plane might have been struck by lightning – it’s a possibility,” Francois Brousse, head of communications at Air France, told reporters in Paris.

The flight, with mostly Brazilian and French passengers on board, left Rio de Janeiro’s Galeao airport at 7pm Sunday night local time (GMT-3). It was expected at CDG at 11:15am Paris time Monday. The passenger jet was “well advanced” over the Atlantic Ocean before it went missing, according to Brazilian Air Force officials.

It made its last radio contact at 0133 GMT (2233 Brazilian time) when it was 565km (360m) off Brazil’s north-eastern coast, Brazil’s air force said.
The crew said they were planning to enter Senegalese airspace at 0220 GMT and that the plane was flying normally at an altitude of 10,670m (35,000ft).
At 0220, when Brazilian air traffic controllers saw the plane had not made its required radio call from Senegalese airspace, air traffic control in the Senegalese capital was contacted.
At 0530 GMT, Brazil’s air force launched a search-and-rescue mission, sending out a coast guard patrol plane and a specialised air force rescue aircraft.
France is despatching three search planes based in Dakar, Senegal, and has asked the US to help with satellite technology.
“The plane might have been struck by lightning – it’s a possibility,” Francois Brousse, head of communications at Air France, told reporters in Paris.

David Gleave, from Aviation Safety Investigations, told the BBC that planes were routinely struck by lightning, and the cause of the crash remained a mystery.
“Aeroplanes get hit by lightning on quite a routine basis without generally any problems occurring at all,” he told BBC Radio Five Live.
“Whether it’s related to this electrical storm and the electrical failure on the aeroplane, or whether it’s another reason, we have to find the aeroplane first.”
France’s minister responsible for transportation, Jean-Louis Borloo, ruled out hijacking as a cause of the plane’s loss.
‘No information’
Mr Sarkozy said he had met “a mother who lost her son, a fiance who lost her future husband”.

I told them the truth,” he said afterwards. “The prospects of finding survivors are very small.”
Finding the plane would be “very difficult” because the search zone was “immense”, he added.
About 20 relatives of passengers on board the flight arrived at Rio’s Jobim international airport on Monday morning seeking information.
Bernardo Souza, who said his brother and sister-in-law were on the flight, complained he had received no details from Air France.
“I had to come to the airport but when I arrived I just found an empty counter,” he was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.
Air France has opened a telephone hotline for friends and relatives of people on the plane – 00 33 157021055 for callers outside France and 0800 800812 for inside France.
This is the first major incident in Brazilian air space since a Tam flight crashed in Sao Paulo in July 2007 killing 199 people.

Plane Crashes and Significant Safety Events
Since 1970 for Air France/Air France Europe

The following are either fatal events involving at least one passenger death or significant safety occurrences involving the airline. Excluded would be events where the only passengers killed were stowaways, hijackers, or saboteurs. The passenger fatalities in the numbered events may be due to accidents, hijackings, sabotage, or military action. The events that are not numbered may or may not include fatalities, and are included because they meet the criteria of a significant event as defined by AirSafe.com

27 June 1976; Air France A300; Entebbe, Uganda: Aircraft was hijacked and all aboard taken hostage. Some passengers were released shortly after the hijacking and the remainder were taken to Entebbe, Uganda. The remaining hostages were eventually rescued in a commando raid. About seven of the 258 passengers were killed.

26 June 1988; Air France A320; Near Mulhouse-Habsheim Airport, France: The aircraft crashed into trees during an air show maneuver when the aircraft failed to gain height during a low pass with the gear extended. Three of the 136 passengers were killed.

20 January 1992; Air Inter A320; near Strasbourg, France: Aircraft had a controlled flight into terrain after the flight crew incorrectly set the flight management system. Five of the six crew and 82 of the 87 passengers perished.

24 December 1994; Air France A300; Algiers Airport, Algeria: Hijackers killed 3 of the 267 passengers. Later, commandos retook the aircraft and killed four hijackers.

5 September 1996; Air France 747-400; near Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso: Severe turbulence associated with a weather front seriously injured three of the 206 passengers. One of the three passengers later died of injuries caused by an in flight entertainment screen.
20 April 1998; Air France 727-200 near Bogota, Colombia: The aircraft was on a flight from Bogota to Quito, Ecuador. Three minues after takeoff, the plane crashed into the mountain at about 1600 feet (500m) above the airport elevation. Although it was an Air France flight, the aircraft was leased from TAME airlines of Ecuador and was flown by an Ecuadorian crew. All 43 passengers and 10 crew members were killed.

25 July 2000; Air France Concorde near Paris, France: The aircraft was on a charter flight from Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris to JFK airport in New York. Shortly before rotation, the front right tire of the left landing gear ran over a strip of metal which had fallen off of another aircraft. Pieces of the damaged tire were thrown against the aircraft structure. There was a subsequent fuel leak and major fire under the left wing.

Shortly afterwards, power was lost on engine number two and for a brief period on engine number one. The aircraft was neither able to climb nor accelerate, and the crew found that the landing gear would not retract. The aircraft maintained a speed of 200 kt and an altitude of 200 feet for about one minute. The crew lost control of the aircraft and crashed into a hotel in the town of Gonesse shortly after engine number one lost power for the second time. All 100 passengers and nine crew members were killed. Four people on the ground were also killed.

2 August 2005; Air France A340-300; Toronto, Canada: The aircraft was on a scheduled international flight from Paris to Toronto. The aircraft encountered heavy thunderstorms upon arrival in Toronto. The crew was able to land, but was unable to stop the aircraft on the runway. The aircraft departed the runway and rolled into a gully where the aircraft broke up and caught fire. All passengers and crew were able to successfully escape the burning plane. None of the 12 crew members and or 297 passengers were killed. This is not a fatal event since no passengers were killed.