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While the doomed Air France flight that vanished in 2009 over the Atlantic shares some similarities with the missing Malaysia Airlines jet, this latest case is a far more "complex" calamity, according to the man who headed France’s investigation.
With Air France Flight 447, there appeared to be no clues and no solid evidence when it disappeared from radar en route to Paris from Rio de Janeiro, said Jean-Paul Troadec, the former director of the French government’s official investigation into the crash.
But one crucial difference with the Malaysian Airlines flight is that the Air France plane had sent out automated messages just before it crashed warning of problems aboard the plane, Troadec told NBC News on Tuesday.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 failed to give off any indication it was in distress after leaving Kuala Lumpur on its way to Beijing. It has been missing since early Saturday local time.
"There was no technical or verbal communication from the plane alerting the airline or air traffic controllers that a problem was occurring," Troadec said.
What caused the plane to disappear is the subject of speculation, and officials say they're not ruling out any possibilities.
Investigators in the Air France crash were helped out by the automated messages sent from the plane about five minutes before it fell, Troadec said. They were able to find debris off the coast of Brazil six days after the accident. A French report later concluded both technical and human error led to the tragedy that killed all 228 on board the flight.
Meanwhile, the lack of messages from Malasyia Airlines before it fell off radar makes finding it that much trickier, Troadec added.
The longer the search takes, the "more difficult" it will be for searchers to calculate where the debris may be in relation to the currents and the winds, he said.