Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
June 16, 2009 : Air France Flight 447 carrying 228 people on board disappeared while flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris hours after it took off on June 1, 2009. The plane vanished from radar when it was some distance away from the Brazilian coast. The Airbus A330-200 made its last radio contact with aviation authorities around three and a half hours after takeoff. Half an hour later, Air France officials received an automatic signal from the aircraft indicating electrical problems related to strong turbulence. However, no contact was made with the pilot, and the jet disappeared off all radar without a distress signal.
The French government held out hope for hours, but it became clear that the plane had crashed and fallen into the Atlantic Ocean. What caused the crash is still a mystery. At first it was suggested that the plane might have been struck by lightning. This theory was soon ruled out, as all modern aircraft are equipped to deal with lightning strikes.
There were 216 passengers on board and 12 crew members – and they hailed from 32 countries. By June 15, 2009, 49 bodies had been found. Parts of the wrecked plane were recovered, and they will be used to analyse why the plane crashed. The ‘black box’ or flight recorder may never be found. The plane fell into water that was probably more than 4,800m deep. The black box in an aircraft is also a cockpit voice recorder, and it might have offered clues as to what really happened on the ill-fated flight. Rough seas and winter storms added to the problems faced by the combined recovery team of Brazil’s navy and air force. This is the worst disaster in Air France’s 75-year history.