Text by Christian Camerota
The latest reports on Air France Flight 447 indicate the plane likely crashed as a result of severe turbulence, which spawned a series of irreparable mechanical failures.
Originally, many speculated lightning had played a role in the plane's disappearance from radio contact late Sunday night. However, the Airbus A330 sent a series of automated messages through a data link system to Paris central control that reported electrical malfunction. At the time, the plane was four hours into its trip from Rio De Janeiro to Paris and had encountered violent weather while passing through a tropical storm system. Not much more is known, since the power loss most likely occurred quickly and rendered the flight crew unable to send a distress signal.
The 228 passengers and crew aboard are feared dead, making this potentially the most deadly crash in Air France's history. This dubious distinction previously belonged to the ill-fated Concorde jet that crashed shortly after takeoff in July of 2000, killing all 109 aboard.
Rescue efforts are underway, focusing largely on an area surrounding the small Fernando de Noronha archipelago, a chain of volcanic islands just over 200 miles northeast of the Brazilian coastline (guardian.co.uk). The search area was initially described as being three times the size of Europe but has since been narrowed.
Could there be a LOST-like scenario in which some passengers may have survived and made it to one of the 20 largely deserted islands in the Fernando de Noronha chain? If the weather was severe enough to bring down a plane with a solid safety record and that had been recently serviced, it is difficult to imagine any making it safely ashore. Even if this had occurred, the island chain is frequented by a variety of surfing and diving expeditions that probably would have already discovered any survivors.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Both French and Brazilian planes and warships are helping with search efforts, and there is talk of using U.S. spy satellites to help locate the plane (montrealgazette.com). Unfortunately, the fact that no wreckage has yet been found, combined with the vastness of the search area, does not bode well for the fates of those aboard.
A list of the flight's passengers and their nationalities is available here.