Air France CEO mourns crash of flight AF447 with international passengers onboard

June 1st, 2009 - 8:55 pm ICT by John Le Fevre  

Air France AF447 A visibly shaken chief executive officer of Air France has told a press conference at Charles de Gaulle airport the company and nation are in mourning.

Pierre-Henri Gourgeon said Air France flight AF447 had reported “the failure of several onboard computer systems” after flying through an area of “extreme turbulence” prior to air traffic controllers loosing contact with it.

According to Mr Gourgeon, the aircraft sent out an automatically generated alert that the onboard systems had failed, leading to speculation it had been struck by lightning.

Air France flight AF447 departed Rio de Janiero at 7pm BET (10pm GMT) and was due to arrive at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle 2 airport at 11.15am local Paris time (0915 GMT).

A little more than four hours into the 11-hour flight while flying over the Fernando de Noronha archipelago 1500miles (2,400km) northeast of Rio, air traffic controllers lost contact with the aircraft.

According to Air France there was 228 people – 126 men, 82 women, 7 children and one baby - onboard the aircraft.

Air France said the flight included Brazilian, French, Italian, Moroccan, and British passengers and a massive air search was underway to try and find the crash scene.

Air France said the flight captain had 11,000 flight hours experience, including 1,700 hours on Airbus A330/A340s, while one of the two first officers had flown 3,000 flight hours, 800 of which were on Airbus A330/A340s and the other 6,600 hours, of which 2,600 had been on the Airbus A330/A340.

Air France reported the aircraft had totaled 18,870 flight hours and went into service on 18 April 2005. Its last maintenance check in the hangar took place on 16 April 2009.

The Airbus 330
is a twin-engine long-range aircraft introduced into commercial aviation in the 1990s and the craft operating flight AF447 is believed to have been delivered to Air France in April 2005.

The A300 Airbus is a stalwart of long-haul flights and has an impeccable safety record.

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