Air France Rio-Paris Flight Missing With 228 People Aboard
By Dialogo June 01, 2009An Air France Airbus with 228 people aboard, the majority of them Brazilian, was in route between Rio de Janiero and Paris when it disappeared while crossing the Atlantic Ocean, probably after having been struck by a bolt of lightning, according to the hypothesis made by the French airline. Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, Chief Operating Officer for Air France, stated in a press release that was held at the Roissy airport in Paris, “this is probably an air catastrophe and that the entire company has all of the family members and relatives in our thoughts and that we all share the pain”. The Roissy airport is the airport where the plane would have landed. François Brousse, director of communications for the French airline company added that “the plane was probably struck by a bolt of lightning”. In statements to the AFP, the French Minister of Transportation, Jean-Louis Borloo, specified that the majority of the passengers were Brazilian. At least 40 French passengers and around 20 German passengers were also aboard the flight as well. The company specified that among the 228 passengers, there were seven children and a baby, as well as 82 women and 126 men aboard the flight. They were travelling with 12 crew members and not 15 as it had initially been reported. Earlier, Borloo had ruled out the possibility of a hijacking and favored the hypothesis of an accident”. A source from the Paris airport informed the AFP that the airplane had disappeared from the control screens at 06H00 GMT when it was crossing the Atlantic Ocean. An official source in Morocco confirmed that the plane “was not detected by the Moroccan Air Control”, whose air space the plane would have been crossing. Air France confirmed that it had detected a “malfunction of the electric circuit” at 02H14 GMT. The plane, an A330 Airbus, had taken off from Rio de Janiero at 19H00 local time (22H00 GMT) and it would have landed at 11H10 local time (09H10 GMT) at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, also known as Roissy. Brazilian Air Force planes started a search for the plane, starting at the Fernando de Noronha, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and a French military plane left from Dakar, in Africa, in order to join the search. There are 9,145 km between Rio and Paris and the flight lasts approximately 10 hours and 20 minutes, with almost the entire route of the flight being over the Atlantic Ocean. The Brazilian Aeronautics Company indicated that the plane had its last radio contact when it was located 565 km to the North East of the Brazilian town of Natal. Aeronaútica indicated in an official note that “at 22h33 local time (01 H33 GMT) flight AF 447 had its last radio contact with the Atlantico Area Control Center operated by (Cindacta III), (when it was located) at the INTOL position (the denomination of a point along the route which is located 565 kilometers from Natal)”. It was also reported that when the plane left from the Cindacta III radar coverage area, it was flying normally at an altitude of 35,000 feet (a little less than 11,000 meters) and at 840 kilometers per hour. During the last contact, the plane’s flight crew reported that it was scheduled to enter into Senegal’s air space at 02h20 GMT, but at that time, when Cindacta III became aware that the plane had not made that contact, the operations center alerted Air Control at Dakar, in Senegal. The French President Nicolas Sarkozy requested on Monday “that his government do everything possible to locate the plane. Elíseo confirmed in a press release that the French President had been informed this morning about the loss of contact with the A330 French Airbus (…), and that he had expressed his deep concern”. A crisis response center was established this morning at the Paris airport. French authorities have provided two emergency telephone numbers for family members: a free number in France 0.800.800.812, and another for calls from abroad 00.33.1.57.02.10.55. Also, Brazilian Airport Sources reported that at the airport in Rio de Janeiro, a crisis response center was established as well, in order to receive family members and relatives of the passengers and to provide information concerning the flight.