June 4, 2009 / 11:47 AM / 9 years ago

Air France jet was flying too slowly -report

PARIS, June 4 (Reuters) - The Air France jet that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on Monday was flying too slowly ahead of the disaster, Le Monde newspaper said on Thursday, citing sources close to the inquiry.

The paper said the manufacturer of the doomed plane, Airbus, was set to issue a recommendation advising companies using the A330 aircraft of optimal speeds during poor weather conditions.

Airbus EAD.PA declined to comment on the report and the French air accident investigation agency, which has to validate any such recommendations, known as an Aircraft Information Telex, was not immediately available for comment.

A Spanish newspaper said a transatlantic airline pilot reported seeing a bright 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 El Mundo newspaper reported. "We did not hear any communication on any emergency or air to air frequency either before or after this event."

A spokesman for Madrid-based airline Air Comet was not immediately available to confirm the El Mundo article, which cited a report the pilot submitted to his company.

The Air France A330-200 was enroute from Rio de Janeiro to Paris when it splintered over the Atlantic four hours into its flight. All 228 people on board died.

The plane sent no mayday signals before crashing, only automatic messages showing electrical faults and a loss of pressure shortly after it entered a zone of stormy weather.

Portguese newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo, citing a source close to Air France (AIRF.PA), published what it said was the final sequence of messages, showing how the plane rapidly lost its key flight functions.

It said they began at 0210 GMT showing the automatic pilot had been removed. The same minute there were multiple electricity failures. At 0214 GMT a final message was sent showing the planing was plunging towards the sea.

There was no confirmation of this from Air France.

Search crews flying over the Atlantic have found debris from the jet spread over more than 55 miles (90 km) of ocean, about 685 miles (1,100 km) northeast of Brazil’s coast.

Brazilian Defence Minister Nelson Jobim has said the existence of large fuel stains in the water likely ruled out an explosion, undercutting speculation about a bomb attack.

Experts have speculated that extreme turbulence or decompression during stormy weather might have caused the disaster — the worst in Air France’s 75-year history. (Reporting by Crispian Balmer; additional reporting by Andrew Hay in Madrid)

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