Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Thursday, 20 August 2009 15:59 UK

Air France 'black box' hunt ends

Brazilian military personnel retrieve part of the Air France plane from the Atlantic Ocean (08 June 2009)
Search teams recovered 51 bodies from the crash area

France's accident investigation agency has abandoned a search for the 'black boxes' from the Air France passenger jet that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean.

The research ship leading the hunt had left the area of the crash and would soon arrive in Senegal, concluding the "second phase" of the effort, it said.

Experts will gather in the coming weeks to decide whether to launch a third.

The Airbus A330 crashed in a storm en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on 1 June, killing all 228 people on board.

Pieces of wreckage which have been recovered indicate that it broke up on contact with water, and not in the air.

Investigators also believe the plane's speed sensors had been "a factor but not the cause" of the crash. There had been speculation that old-style sensors may have given the pilots faulty information.

Airbus A330-200 believed to be the crashed plane (archive image from Air Team Images

However, information from the two flight recorders is needed for an exact account of how, when and why the crash happened.

The first search phase to find the black boxes ended on 10 July, when the batteries powering their locator signals were thought to have run out.

A second phase to locate the black boxes and the wreckage began at the end of July, with submarines working for the French Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis (BEA) for Civil Aviation Safety sweeping the site with sonar.

"The search having failed to locate the wreck of the aircraft, the BEA will gather an international team of investigators and experts in the coming weeks to exploit the data gathered with a view to launching a third search phase, and to determine its modalities and means," the agency said in a statement on Thursday.

The BEA warned that the task of finding the flight recorders was formidable after debris was found scattered across a remote area some 1,000km (600 miles) off the Brazilian coast. The ocean floor at this point can reach a depth of 3,500m (11,500ft).

Flight of AF 447

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