A Brazilian relative of one of the passengers onboard Air France flight AF447 is escorted by airport officials as he tried to get information at Rio de Janeiro’s International airport yesterday. — AFP picture
Brazil’s air force late Monday deployed aircraft with radar and infrared technology to maintain the search overnight for an Air France plane carrying 228 people that went missing over the Atlantic, an official said.
A daytime search using eight air force aircraft doing visual sweeps did not turn up anything in the area being searched: a zone 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) off the coast of northeast Brazil.
The area is beyond the reach of fixed land radar and near where the Airbus emitted its final communication, an automatic data message signaling multiple failures of its electric and pressurization systems.
The missing plane, Air France flight AF 447, disappeared early Monday, four hours into its 11-hour flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. More than half the 216 passengers on board were either Brazilian or French.
An air force spokesman, Colonel Jorge Amaral, told reporters that the search would continue overnight with a Hercules C130 plane fitted with equipment to try to detect the Air France plane’s emergency beacon.
Another aircraft being used, an Embraer R-99, had onboard radar and, “if weather conditions permit,” infrared gear that could detect bodies in the water, he said.
The spokesman said two French aircraft that had been searching from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean would have to suspend operations for the night.
Amaral said an anomaly reported by the pilot of a TAM Airlines plane flying in the area around the time the Air France plane emitted its final signal was being weighed.
The TAM pilot, who was flying towards Brazil, said he spotted what appeared to be orange marks in the ocean, in an area under the responsibility of Senegalese air traffic control. The pilot was unable to make out whether the marks were buoys or flames.
The latest list provided by Air France said the following people were on the Rio de Janeiro-Paris flight:
:: 72 French (11 crew and 61 passengers)
:: 59 Brazilians (1 crew and 58 passengers)
:: 26 Germans
:: 9 Chinese, Italians
:: 6 Swiss
:: 5 British, Lebanese
:: 4 Hungarians
:: 3 Irish, Norwegians, Slovaks
:: 2 Americans, Moroccans, Poles
:: 1 Argentine, Austrian, Belgian, Canadian, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Filipino, Gambian, Icelandic, Romanian, Russian, South African, Swedish, Turkish