Final search for plane

THE search for bodies and remnants of a lost Air France airliner enters its third and possibly final week today with the focus now on locating the "black box" recorders that could hold the key to its plunge into the Atlantic.

THE search for bodies and remnants of a lost Air France airliner enters its third and possibly final week today with the focus now on locating the "black box" recorders that could hold the key to its plunge into the Atlantic.

The fate of flight AF447, which vanished on the night of May 31 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, has not been explained, though data indicating the presence of defective speed sensors raised the first alerts of a crash.

But yesterday, EADS, the mother company of the aircraft's builder Airbus, called for "prudence".

"It's the convergence of different causes that led to such an accident," said Louis Gallois, EADS president.

"We don't know whether the pitot tubes [the sensors that measure airspeed] played a role in the accident. No one knows," Gallois said.

Air France and France's Bureau of Investigations and Analyses, which is in charge of the investigation, have also refused to link the crash to the sensors.

The company, however, has accelerated the replacement of the sensors on its Airbus A330-A340 aircraft, under pressure from pilots and after several incidents last year were linked to air speed sensor malfunctions.

Airbus president Thomas Enders said that teams from the manufacturer were with BEA investigators in Brazil and on ships searching for debris from the aircraft.

By Saturday night, the Brazilian and French navies had recovered 49 bodies and pieces of the aircraft, including a fragment of its tail.

Most of the bodies have been transported to Recife, on Brazil's northeastern coast, where doctors will try to establish their identities. - Sapa-AFP

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