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Task of Locating Air France Black Boxes Begins


With officials confirming debris discovered Tuesday off the Brazilian coast came from Air France flight 447, the painstaking task of recovery has begun.

Determining why the Air France Airbus 330 came down about 650 kilometers out to sea off the northeast coast of Brazil has been given a top priority.

French civil aviation officials have promised an initial report by the end of the month. But one thing is clear, establishing the cause will not be easy.

During the coming days, search vessels from various countries will be combing the waters and recovering debris. Each piece could hold vital clues about what exactly happened.

France has dispatched a research ship equipped with unmanned submarines that can explore down to 6,000 meters. Those remotely-controlled submersible craft will be crucial in trying to locate the flight and data recorders that could hold important information.

But as the head of France's Bureau of Accident Investigations, Paul-Louis Arslanian, says it is possible those so-called black boxes may never be recovered.

"We need time to determine whether we have or not reached the recorders. Even in history, from time to time, recorders were found after the 30 days," Arslanian said. "But I am not so optimistic. It is not only deep, it is also very mountainous at that place of the ocean."

Water depths in the area can go down as far as 7,000 meters. The almost indestructible black boxes are designed to send out location signals for up to a month, even underwater.

Meteorologist Henry Margusity told VOA that AccuWeather.Com, a commercial forecaster, analyzed data from the area around the time the plane dissapeared from radar late Sunday and found the plane may have flown into strong tropical thunderstorms.

"We used the atmosphere data in that area to measure the updraft in that area would have been," Margusity said. "These thunderstorm were towering up to 50,000 feet. And based on that data we saw, we calculate updrafts up to 100 miles (160 km) per hour. ... So, we are talking about significant turbulence, significant updrafts that would have really rocked that plane when it hit it."

France's Paul-Louis Arslanian said members of his team were going over the plane's maintenance records, and it appears the craft did not have any kind of a problem prior to take-off.

He added, this is only the beginning of the investigation that he predicts will likely last a long time.

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