Monday, June 8, 2009

U.S. Crew to Aid in Locating French Airliner's Data Recorders

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 8, 2009 - The Defense Department is flying a 19-person crew and Navy equipment to Natal, Brazil, to aid in the search for Air France Flight 447's data recorders, a Pentagon spokesman said today.

The Airbus A330 jetliner with 228 people aboard disappeared May 31 in thunderstorms while traveling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon said the U.S. crew, a mix of military personnel and contractors assigned to Naval Sea Systems Command's supervisor of salvage and diving here, will operate Navy towed pinger locators, or TPLs, from two French-contracted ships.

The passive listening devices, which can locate emergency beacons up to 20,000 feet below the ocean's surface, will be towed behind the vessels at speeds of 1 to 5 knots, depending on water depth, Gordon said. If they detect an acoustic pulse, it's transmitted up the towing cable and is presented in audio and visual modes.

The first ship to receive a TPL and a crew will depart for the search area June 10. The second ship is scheduled to depart June 12.

Last week, a U.S. Navy P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft was deployed to Brazil, where it flew three search missions of about eight hours each. It returned to Florida over the weekend.

Brazilian officials are reporting 16 bodies and a large part of the aircraft's tail section have been recovered from the wreckage field. While not exactly identifying the location of the search area, the officials have said it's south of the plane's last transmission, indicating pilots may have turned back toward a nearby island.

Related Sites: Naval Sea Systems Command

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