* Brazilian search teams continue scouring Atlantic waters
* Chances of finding bodies seem increasingly slim
* Flight speed may have played a role in crash
(Recasts, adds new media report on investigation, changes
dateline from FERNANDO DE NORONHA)
By Fernando Exman
RECIFE, Brazil, June 4 Brazilian search teams
on Thursday scoured choppy Atlantic waters for remains of a
crashed Air France jet after the first debris retrieved by
helicopter turned out to be trash.
With hopes of finding any bodies waning as the search
headed into its fifth day, Brazil's military shifted focus to
recovering wreckage from the Airbus A330-200 crash that killed
The New York Times reported that Airbus EAD.PA issued a
warning on Thursday to airlines that pilots should follow
"established procedures" if they suspect airspeed indicators
are not working.
The warning followed a flurry of speculation that the plane
may have crashed because it few into a storm too fast. But
Brazilian and French officials cautioned that the evidence was
far too slim to offer explanations.
"With each passing moment the possibilities of finding
bodies decreases," Brazilian Air Force Brigadier Ramon Borges
Cardoso told reporters in Recife, the coastal city where
wreckage from the crash would be brought.
"We were initially concentrating on searching for bodies
and survivors, but now we're focused on finding debris that can
help in the investigation," he added.
The New York Times said Airbus told clients "there was
inconsistency between the different measured airspeeds" in the
Airbus 330 that crashed, though the company noted it was not
prejudging the investigation's outcome.
Other reports from the Wall Street Journal and France's Le
Monde both pointed to air speed, combined with thunderstorms in
a notoriously dangerous tropical area, as a potential factor in
the crash that has baffled aviation experts.
Airbus earlier declined to comment.
A luggage pallet and two buoys were pulled by helicopters
from the crash area about 1,100 km (680 miles) northeast of
Brazil's coast, but investigators later determined they weren't
part of the jet.
MOURNING IN RIO
Searchers have found several debris sites spread out over
90 km (56 miles), a sign the plane may have broken up in the
air. Cardoso said they have yet to collect any debris from the
Air France Flight 447 was en route to Paris when it plunged
into the Atlantic four hours after leaving Rio de Janeiro.
Eleven air force planes have been searching over a 6,000 sq
km (2,300 sq mile) area from a base on the islands of Fernando
de Noronha, off Brazil's northeastern coast.
Several hundred relatives and friends of the passengers
crammed into the Candelaria church in Rio on Thursday morning,
crying and hugging each other.
"Those who are missing are here in our hearts and in our
memories," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told them.
Experts have been mystified by the sudden crash of a modern
airliner operated by three experienced pilots. Determining what
happened may be difficult because the plane's flight data and
voice recorders may be at the bottom of the ocean.
The plane sent a series of automatic messages in the space
of four minutes indicating system failures and a sharp dive,
specialist magazine Aviation Herald said on its website, citing
Air France sources.
The messages started arriving at 0210 GMT on Monday,
indicating the automatic pilot had been disengaged, and ended
at 0214 with an advisory that the cabin was at "vertical
The crash appears to have been sudden and brutal.
Spanish newspaper El Mundo said a transatlantic airline
pilot reported seeing a flash of white light at the same time
the Air France flight disappeared.
"Suddenly we saw in the distance a strong, intense flash of
white light that took a downward, vertical trajectory and
disappeared in six seconds," the pilot of an Air Comet flight
from Lima to Madrid told his company, the newspaper reported.
(Additional reporting by Alonso Soto, Brian Ellsworth and
Pedro Fonseca in Rio; Christian Balmer and Estelle Shirborn in
Paris; Andrew Hay in Madrid; William Maclean in London; Writing
by Brian Ellsworth, editing by Todd Benson and Eric Beech)