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Submarines stop search for Air France black boxes

French submarines have halted their search for the flight recorders of an Air France jet that crashed into the Atlantic on June 1, killing all 228 people aboard, investigators said on Thursday.
/ Source: Reuters

French submarines have halted their search for the flight recorders of an Air France jet that crashed into the Atlantic on June 1, killing all 228 people aboard, investigators said on Thursday.

"The search has not been able to locate the wreck of the plane," France's BEA air investigators said in a statement.

However, the BEA indicated it had not lost all hope of finding the so-called black boxes and said a team of international experts would meet in the coming weeks to decide how best to continue the search process.

Despite the fact the flight recorders have not been found, investigators have stitched together information gleaned from a final burst of automated messages sent by the plane just before disaster struck, and from debris recovered in the sea.

The Air France plane was flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris when it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean not far from the equator after hitting a powerful storm.

The final messages showed sensors on the Airbus 330 were providing incoherent speed readings, sparking speculation that the pilots might have inadvertently stalled the jet.

Airbus has since urged clients to switch speed sensors on about 200 similar airplanes, replacing equipment made by France's Thales with parts supplied by U.S. firm Goodrich.

The plane plunged into a very remote part of the ocean and experts said the wreckage could have fallen to a depth of anywhere between 2,835 and 13,120 feet, making any search extremely difficult.

Just as the hunt for the Air France wreck was wound down, French authorities announced that a boat with an underwater robot had arrived at the place where a Yemeni jet had plunged into the Indian Ocean on June 30, killing 152 people.

The French foreign ministry said the robot would be used to try to recover the black boxes of the Airbus 310-300 which crashed in bad weather off the Comoros archipelago.

A French submarine detected a signal from the plane's flight recorders in July and the underwater robot will now be used to try to locate the precise site and extract the recorders.

Officials say the cause of the crash remains unknown.

The plane was flying the final leg of a trip from France to Comoros, via Yemen. Only one person, a 14-year-old-girl, survived the crash.