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Airliner Lost In Atlantic

The ABC reports on a probable lost airliner: ‘Hope lost’ for missing Air France jet

Air France officials say they have “lost hope” for one of its passenger planes which has gone missing over the Atlantic Ocean with 228 people on board.

Air traffic control lost contact with flight AF447 shortly after it took off from Rio de Janeiro’s international airport in Brazil.

The flight went missing after suffering an electrics failure while flying through a fierce Atlantic storm, the airline said.

Air France chief executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon says about four hours after takeoff, the plane sent an automatic signal indicating electrical problems had occurred.

“The Brazilian authorities have launched a search but the place where it went missing is very far from the coast,” he said.

“After it went through storms, automatic messages were sent out by the plane indicating that there was a fault.”

Flight AF 447 sent an automatic error message reporting a fault in an electrical circuit at 2:14am GMT (12:14pm AEST), just over four hours after it left Rio, Air France said earlier in a statement.

“The most likely thing is that the plane was hit by lightning. The plane was in a stormy area with strong turbulence, which provoked problems,” Francois Brouse, Air France’s director of communications, said separately.

“In his last communication, the captain said there was turbulence and afterwards contact was lost,” a Paris civil aviation official said on condition of anonymity.

There was “no hope”, the official added grimly.

The plane, an Airbus 330-200 carrying 216 passengers and 12 crew, dropped off radar screens at around 4:00pm (AEST) and has not arrived in Paris where it was scheduled to land earlier this evening.

This is a “fly-by-wire” airframe, which means it is nearly impossible to control if it loses its computerized systems. There is a lot of stormy weather this time of year off the West coast of Africa, some of it arriving here as hurricanes. I have been in a number of aircraft struck by lightning, and it normally is annoying, rather than catastrophic. Turbulence on the other hand can and has destroyed aircraft.

The US may be able to help in the search because we do have a lot of resources watching the weather systems in that area. An aircraft flying at 35,000 feet may have left a contrail that could be spotted on the satellite images. The problem is that the pilot would probably not have been flying a straight course, but making course adjustments to avoid the worst of the thunderstorms ahead of him/her. That’s a lot of ocean and not much traffic.