Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Fears of bomb attack on doomed Air France jet

Unidentified Air France employees react outside the Notre-Dame cathedral, following an ecumenical church service for relatives and families of the passengers of Air France's flight 447 which vanished Monday over the Atlantic ocean, Wednesday June 3, 2009 in Paris.
Unidentified Air France employees react outside the Notre-Dame cathedral, following an ecumenical church service for relatives and families of the passengers of Air France's flight 447 which vanished Monday over the Atlantic ocean, Wednesday June 3, 2009 in Paris. The reason for the crash remains unclear, with fierce thunderstorms, lightning or a catastrophic combination of causes as possible theories. (AP Photo/Bob Edme, pool)
Brazil's Vice President Jose Alencar, center, Rio de Janeiro's Governor Sergio Cabral, left, and Rio de Janeiro's Mayor Eduardo Paes, back second from left, arrive for a press conference after visiting relatives of passengers of the Air France flight 447 at the Tom Jobim Airport in Rio de Janeiro, Monday, June 1, 2009. Air France flight 447, carrying 228 people from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, ran into a towering wall of thunderstorms and disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean. French President Nicolas Sarkozy told families of those aboard Monday that "prospects of finding survivors are very small." (AP Photo/ Ricardo Moraes)

The Air France plane that went missing over the Atlantic this week was likely to have broken up in mid-air, prompting some speculation that it may have been bombed.

The vast area over which debris has been found suggested there was an explosion while the aircraft was in flight.

Experts said the “wide dispersion of wreckage discovered suggests that the Airbus exploded at high altitude”.

Terrorism has not been ruled out, but they said the most likely scenario was that the break-up was caused by massive depressurisation inside the plane.

If depressurisation had occurred at high altitude, passengers would have almost certainly fallen unconscious instantly and may have been unaware of their fate.

Professor Philippe Juvin, of Beaujon hospital, west of Paris, said: “It would have been as quick as the moment when one falls asleep.”

Depressurisation can be caused by failure of the pressure control system, reduced cabin air inflow, or structural failure — such as an open door, a cracked window, or a hole caused by a bomb.

The structure can also disintegrate if the G-forces during a dive are more than the plane can cope with.

Investigators will examine a bomb threat made against a flight from Buenos Aires to Paris just days before Flight 447 disappeared.

One unnamed Air France pilot suggested that a bomb could be the cause of the crash.

He said: “One can very well imagine that a bomb caused the aircraft's depressurisation and that the plane took time to break up. It could just as well have been a big bomb that blew up the entire plane, which would explain why the aircraft didn't have time to send an alert signal.”

"If there was an explosion on board, the wreckage would have been spread over a very wide area, as it was.

"So in my opinion there is no other option than the highly likely theory that a bomb went off on the plane - perhaps even a large bomb that destroyed it in mid-air leaving no chance to send a message."

He added: "I have flown these jets for more than ten years and the chances of an electrical fault seem unfeasible.

"There are five electricity supplies on the plane. And to cause it to break down completely they would all have to fail. Even then, a type of wind turbine takes over to generate power.

"We cannot know if it crashed after being struck by lightning. But we know this is very rare."

Crash investigators said they were “not optimistic” about retrieving the plane's black boxes, despite confirmation that debris spotted 400 miles off Brazil's coast came from the missing plane.

Paul-Louis Arslanian, of the French civil aviation ministry, said it would be very difficult to recover the flight data recorders because of the depth of the ocean — up to 10,000ft — and its rugged floor.

“The investigation will not be easy — but we are not giving up,” he said.

A French mini-submarine will arrive at the area next week.

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