400 pieces of Air France debris found

Investigators still groping in the dark about the cause of the air mishap in Atlantic

Paul-Louis Arslanian, head of the French air accident investigation agency BEA, expressed “a little more optimism” about the investigation as the discovery of so much debris has narrowed the vast search zone off the northeast coast of Brazil.

“We are in a situation that is a bit more favourable than the first days,” Arslanian told a news conference at BEA headquarters by the Le Bourget air field outside Paris. “We can say there is a little less uncertainty, so there is a little more optimism.”

“(But) it is premature for the time being to say what happened,” he added.

Rescuers and military search equipment from Brazil, France, the United States and other countries are methodically scanning the surface and depths of the Atlantic for signs of the Airbus A330 that crashed on May 31 after running into thunderstorms en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. All 228 people aboard were killed.

Arslanian said the debris that has been found came from “all zones” of the plane, but did not describe it in detail or say what proportion of the plane had been retrieved. The wreckage, some in sections so large and heavy that cranes are required to move it, is being collected in a hangar in Recife, Brazil.

Still missing are the plane’s two black boxes, its flight data and voice recorders, thought to be deep under water. The black boxes, which provide information about what happened to the plane before and during the crash, will emit signals for at least another two weeks.

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