28 Apr 2011

Black box found in Atlantic after two years

1:45 pm on 28 April 2011

Deep-sea searchers picking through wreckage of an Air France plane that crashed off Brazil in 2009 have finally found one of the black box data recorders.

Frustratingly it lacks the crash-survivable memory unit that could provide crucial clues to the crash, but the ABC reports it may yet be of use.

France's BEA air accident inquiry office says the chassis of the box had been found surrounded by debris during the first dive by an underwater remote vehicle.

The Airbus 330-203 plunged into the Atlantic in stormy weather en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in June 2009; all 228 passengers and crew on board were killed.

The recent discovery of chunks of the plane's wreckage, in a vast search radius of 10,000 square kilometres, had raised hopes the aircraft's two black boxes might be within reach.

A BEA spokesperson says the flight data recorder could still be in a condition to be read, despite its separation from the chassis.

"The memory module is like a sarcophagus - the information is very well protected," she says.

Speculation about what caused the accident has focussed on the possible icing up of the aircraft's speed sensors, which seemed to give inconsistent readings before communication was lost.