Page last updated at 17:58 GMT, Wednesday, 3 June 2009 18:58 UK

Lost jet data 'may not be found'

Service at Notre Dame Cathedral
President Sarkozy and first lady Carla Bruni attended the memorial service

French aviation officials have said they may never find the flight data recorders of an Air France jet that went missing over the Atlantic.

The officials promised a thorough investigation but said the circumstances were very difficult.

Flight AF 447 was heading from Rio to Paris with 228 people on board on Monday when it was lost over the ocean.

A memorial service has been held at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, attended by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Mourners heard a message of condolence from the Pope.

Debris found

As the search continued on Wednesday, French and Brazilian navy ships were converging on an area 650km (400 miles) off Brazil's coast where debris was spotted on Tuesday.

A Brazilian air force plane found more, larger items of debris on Wednesday about 90km (55 miles) south of the other wreckage, a spokesman said.

"Several objects spread over a 5km (three-mile) radius, including an apparently metallic object 7m (23ft) in diameter and a fuel slick" were discovered, Col Jorge Amaral said.

The French civil aviation officials, at a news conference in Paris, said they hoped there would be an initial report by the end of June.

Flight AF 447 left Rio at 1900 local time (2200 GMT) on Sunday
Contact lost 0130 GMT
Missed scheduled landing at 1110 local time (0910 GMT) in Paris

The officials, headed by Paul-Louis Arslanian, chief of the French civil aviation ministry's bureau of investigation, said there had appeared to be no problems with the flight before take-off.

Mr Arslanian said there would be no speculation and that it was "essential we check and verify everything".

He said: "This catastrophe - which is the worst that our country has witnessed in terms of aviation, took place in a very difficult region... so the investigation will not be easy... but we are not giving up."

Mr Arslanian said the exact time of the accident was not known, nor whether the chief pilot was at the controls.


Aeronautical engineer Dr Guy Gratton on the search for flight recorders

One French and four Brazilian navy ships are on their way to the area but the Brazilian navy says weather conditions are poor. The flotilla includes divers and a French mini-submarine that can explore to a depth of 6,000m (19,680ft).

French government minister Jean-Louis Borloo said the plane's cockpit voice and data recorders were believed to be at a depth of up to 3,700m (12,100ft), within reach of the submarine, but warned they would be hard to find.

"We have never recovered black boxes that deep before. The sea currents are powerful that far down," he said.

Three merchant vessels are already in the area after being diverted to help with the operation.

Without [the recorders] it will be very difficult to reach established fact, but we can reach a possible explanation
Paul-Louis Arslanian,
French investigation head

The recorders can send signals for about 30 days.

Mr Arslanian said he was "not optimistic" of finding the boxes because of the undersea terrain.

He said: "Without them it will be very difficult to reach established fact, but we can reach a possible explanation."

Three days of national mourning have been declared in Brazil.

Most of the missing people are Brazilian or French but they include a total of 32 nationalities. Five Britons and three Irish citizens are among them.

Bomb scare

Meanwhile, Air France said on Wednesday it had received an anonymous phone call warning that a bomb was on a flight leaving Buenos Aires on 27 May, four days before the ill-fated Rio-Paris flight.

A spokesman said no bomb was found and the aircraft left 90 minutes late. He added that such scares were relatively common.

Air France has not ruled out terrorism as a cause of the crash but says it does not have any evidence of it.

Flight of AF 447

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