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Sunday, September 6, 1998 Published at 20:50 GMT 21:50 UK

World: Americas

Flight 111 black box found

The first indication of trouble came 16 minutes before the crash

Divers found one of two "black box" flight recorders of Swissair Flight 111 on Sunday, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Canada, killing 229 people,

In choppy seas and murky conditions, the underwater search teams also discovered three large objects, believed to be sections of the fuselage.

The recorder is being flown to a laboratory in Ottawa, where experts will try to piece pinpoint the reason for the crash.

Investigators previously released details of the final conversations between the pilot and the control tower, which show that the plane hit the sea six minutes after losing its course.

Jane Hughes reports on the last words from the cockpit
Using a recording of the pilot's communications with the control tower and a radar track of the plane's path, investigators have pieced together a detailed picture of the airliner's final few minutes.

The first that air traffic controllers heard of the problem was 16 minutes before the crash. The pilot announced: "Swissair 111 is declaring pan pan pan - we have smoke in the cockpit."

"Pan pan pan" is the expression used when an emergency is less acute than a mayday signal, which indicates imminent disaster. But the situation rapidly deteriorated.

Jane Hughes: "The rocky shoreline is now a cemetery"
The pilot suggested landing at Boston, but was told Halifax was closer, so he began heading in that direction.

However, the plane was at an altitude of around 10,000 metres at that point, and needed to lose height. It also had too much fuel on board to land safely. So the control tower cleared the pilot to turn away from the airport and dump at least 30 tons of fuel.

Last words

[ image: The search for clues continues]
The search for clues continues
The pilot's next words on the radio were that he was declaring an emergency. "We have to land immediately," he said. These were the last words the controller heard from the plane.

Radar signals showed that it began flying off course in a rapidly descending loop over the sea. Six minutes later, it hit the water.

Although it was too early to draw firm conclusions from the recording, the Chief Investigator, Vic Gerden, said: "When we find the cockpit voice recorder, the flight data recorder, then we'll have a wealth of information."

Flight recorder 'located'

Corporal Devri Warnell of the Canadian Police: "Black box has been located"
Investigators from the Canadian navy believe they have located one of the flight recorders from the aircraft.

The navy says a submarine that was carrying out sonar scans detected a signal from one of the data recorders and located the area in which it lies.

The naval investigators say it is 190 feet below the surface, and that divers using more sensitive sonar equipment have been able to pinpoint the location more closely.

Rough seas prevented them continuing their search on Saturday, but divers expect to descend again on Sunday, weather permitting.

Investigators also say they have identified one body, that of a French national. Work is continuing to identify the other bodies which have been retrieved.

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