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Wed, Jun 10, 2009

Flight 447 Vertical Stabilizer Found

Find Helps Narrow Search For Voice And Data Recorders

Search crews have recovered a section of the vertical stabilizer from Air France flight 447, which broke up over the Atlantic Ocean last week after apparently penetrating a violent thunderstorm. Authorities say the find could provide clues as to why the airliner broke up in flight, and narrow the search for the Airbus A330's cockpit voice and data recorders.

8 more bodies were also recovered.

William Waldock, who teaches air crash investigation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, told the Associated Press that finding the section of the vertical stabilizer does not necessarily indicate the location of the voice and data recorders, but that it does narrow down the search area. Both instruments are housed in the aircraft fuselage near the tail section. After viewing photos and video titled "Vertical Stabilizer Found" on a Brazilian Air Force website, Wadlock said the damage he saw looked like a "lateral fracture", which reinforces the theory of a mid-flight breakup. "If it hits intact, everything shatters in tiny pieces," he said.

Another portion of the investigation is focusing on the aircraft's pitot tubes. Air France has said it was in the process of replacing pitot tubes in its Airbus aircraft when a new version became available late in April, but it had not yet upgraded the system on the plane that was used for this flight.

Locating the voice and data recorders from the flight is still a top priority, but officials remain guarded about their recovery, given the depth of the water and mountainous terrain on the ocean floor. Ocean currents in the 8 days following the crash could have moved debris miles from the actual impact site.

FMI: www.airbus.com

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