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Air France jet vanishes off Brazilian coast;'hit by electric fault'

Missing Air France jet 'hit by electric fault'

* Story Highlights
* French passenger carrying 228 people disappears
* Aircraft vanished off coast of Brazil, airline officials say
* Jet was heading for Paris from Rio de Janeiro
CNN's Mario Ramos charts the flight path of the missing Air France passenger jet bound for Paris from Rio de Janeiro.

PARIS, France (CNN -- An Air France plane missing over the Atlantic with 228 people aboard reported electrical problems in stormy weather before it lost contact, the airline said Monday, describing the loss as a "catastrophe."
The incident involves an Air France Airbus A330-200.

The incident involves an Air France Airbus A330-200.

The Airbus A330-200 sent automatic messages signaling equipment failure as it hit turbulence early in its 11-hour flight from Rio de Janeiro to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, Air France CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon told a news conference.

The last known contact with the plane was at 1:33 a.m. GMT (8:33 p.m. Sunday night ET), according to the Brazilian Air Force.

Brazil says it has launched two air force squadrons to hunt near the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha in the Atlantic Ocean, 365 kilometers (226 miles) from its coast, although the plane vanished outside the country's radar coverage.

Flight AF 447, took off shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday local time (6 p.m. Sunday ET). It was carrying 126 men, 82 women, seven children and a baby, in addition to the crew, CNN affiliate BFM reported.

"I can say without doubt that this is a catastrophe," Gourgeon said, adding "the entire Air France company and its staff are very moved and affected by this."

A crisis center was being set up at Charles de Gaulle to deal with anxious relatives and friends waiting for news of passengers. Air France has also set up a hotline for people to call: +33 157021055.

Agence France-Presse quoted France's Environment Minister Jean Louis Borloo saying that it was extremely unlikely the plane had been hijacked.


The Airbus 330 is a twin-engine long-range aircraft introduced into commercial aviation in the 1990s.

Transport analyst Kieran Daly told CNN that the lack of communication with the aircraft "does suggest it was something serious and catastrophic."

He said the aircraft involved is believed to be one delivered to Air France in April 2005.
"It is an extremely young fleet by aviation standards," he said. "The A330 is state of the art with extremely reliable engines made by General Electric."

CNN air travel expert Richard Quest says the plane, a stalwart of trans-Atlantic routes, has an impeccable safety record.

"It has very good range, and is extremely popular with airlines because of its versatility," he said.
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Source: CNN
Added On June 1, 2009

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Added: Jun-1-2009 
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