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Fri Aug 01 09:48:49 SAST 2014

Air France voice recorder found

Sapa-AP | 03 May, 2011 10:110 Comments
The Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) seen in this image published on the web site of France's BEA air accident inquiry office.
Image by: HO

French investigators have found and recovered the cockpit voice recorder from an Air France flight that plunged into the Atlantic Ocean almost two years ago, killing all 228 people on board, the agency that probes air accidents says.

The machine that records cockpit conversations was located on Monday and raised from the ocean depths on Tuesday, a statement by the agency said.

The plane's flight data recorder was recovered on Sunday, meaning both pieces critical in helping to determine the cause of the crash have now been found. The memory unit was found by a submarine probing 3,900 meters (12,800 feet) below the ocean's surface.

The condition of the instruments was not immediately clear.

Like the memory unit, the cockpit voice recorder was lifted onto the Ile de Sein, a ship helping to conduct the probe, the statement from the BEA agency said.

Investigators hope the discoveries will allow them to determine what caused the June 1, 2009, crash of Flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Paris. The aircraft slammed into the Atlantic northeast of Brazil after running into an intense high-altitude thunderstorm.

Experts had said that without the voice and data recorders there would be almost no chance of determining what caused the worst disaster in Air France's history.

Automatic messages sent by the Airbus 330's computers showed the aircraft was receiving false air speed readings from sensors known as pitot tubes. Investigators have said the crash, in a remote and deep area of the Atlantic, was likely caused by a series of problems, and not just sensor error.

The flight recorders were recovered during a fourth search for bodies and aircraft debris. Investigators targeted an area of about 3,900 square miles (10,000 square kilometers), several hundred miles off Brazil's northeastern coast.

Searchers were using up to three autonomous underwater search vehicles, each of which can stay underwater for up to 20 hours while using sonar to scan a mountainous area.

In early April, French officials said the operation had succeeded in finding most of the Airbus jet, including its motors. Bodies of some of the victims were also discovered.

Determining the cause of the crash took on new importance in March, when a French judge filed preliminary manslaughter charges against Air France and planemaker Airbus.

Air France and Airbus are financing the estimated $12.5 million cost of the latest search effort, but the French government is to pay for the recovery of anything that is found. About $28 million has already been spent on the three previous searches for the jet's wreckage.

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