Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 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. The reason for the crash remains unclear, with fierce thunderstorms, lightning or a catastrophic combination of causes as possible theories.
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)
Air France employees stand outside the Notre-Dame cathedral, in Paris, Wednesday June 3, 2009, during an ecumenical church service for relatives and families of the passengers of Air France's flight 447 which vanished Monday over the Atlantic ocean. 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)
Relatives of passengers of the Air France flight 447 are pictured through a glass door as they react at the Tom Jobim Airport in Rio de Janeiro, Monday, June 1, 2009. Air France flight 447carrying 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)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy
Dr Eithne Walls
Dr Eithne Walls
The Walls family described Eithne as 'an extraordinary person who brought light into the lives of everyone she touched'
A man, rear center left, and a woman, rear center right, walk past French police officers, right, as they enter a side entrance to a hotel near Charles de Gaulle's airport in Roissy, north of Paris, Tuesday, June 2, 2009, where relatives of the passengers of Air France's flight 447 that vanished Monday over the Atlantic ocean, are staying. An Air France jet with 228 people on a flight From Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Paris vanished over the Atlantic Ocean after flying into towering thunderstorms and sending an automated message that the electrical system had failed. A vast search began Monday, but all aboard were feared killed. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)
A member of the ground crew gives a thumbs up signal to the pilot of an Atlantic Model 2 aircraft as it prepares to depart from France's air base in Dakar, Senegal, toward the presumed site of the crash of a missing Air France flight Tuesday, June 2, 2009. France has three military patrol aircraft flying over the central Atlantic from their base in Senegal and it is sending an AWACS radar plane that should join the operation on Wednesday, said French military spokesman Christophe Prazuck.(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
This photo taken Tuesday, June 2, provided by ECPAD, shows French army air crewman aboard an Atlantic Model 2 aircraft, which took off from a French air base in Dakar, Senegal, patroling the presumed site of the crash of a missing Air France flight. France has three military patrol aircrafts flying over the central Atlantic from their base in Senegal and it is sending an AWACS radar plane that should join the operation on Wednesday, said French military spokesman Christophe Prazuck. (AP Photo/ECPAD/French Defense Minister)
A Brazilian Air Force radar plane takes off to take part in the searching mission of the Air France flight 447 in Fernando de Noronha, 350 kms off the coast of Natal, in northeastern Brazil, Tuesday, June 2, 2009. The Air France airplane, carrying 228 people from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, ran into a towering wall of thunderstorms and disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean late Sunday local time. Brazilian military pilots spotted early Tuesday an airplane seat, an orange buoy, and other debris and signs of fuel in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean as they hunted for the missing flight. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
This aerial view shows the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, northeast of Brazil, Tuesday, June 2, 2009. Brazilian military pilots spotted an airplane seat, an orange buoy, and other debris and signs of fuel in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean as they hunted for a missing Air France jet that carried 228 people. The pilots spotted two areas of floating debris, but no signs of life, about 60 kilometers, 35 miles, apart, about 410 miles, 650 kilometers, beyond the Brazilian archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, near Flight 447's path from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, said Air Force spokesman Jorge Amaral. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Relatives of passengers of the Air France flight 447 are pictured through a glass door as they react at the Tom Jobim Airport in Rio de Janeiro, Monday, June 1, 2009. Air France flight 447carrying 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)
Isabelle Birem, Air France's general director in Brazil, arrives for a press conference, in Sao Paulo, 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/ Andre Penner)
A man speaks to an Air France employee at the Air France check-in desk of 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)
Members of the Brazilian Pelican military squad prepare to departure from Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, to take part in the search of an Air France jet that disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean, 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/Walbe, Correio do Estado) ** BRAZIL OUT **
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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