Air crash autopsies rule out terrorism

Autopsies on the bodies recovered after the Airbus disaster in the south Atlantic suggest there was no explosion or fire and therefore no terrorist attack.

But two weeks after Air France’s AF447 fell from the sky between the Brazilian and West African coasts, the mystery of what happened to the plane and the 228 people on board remains largely impenetrable.

The automatic messages sent from the aircraft in its dying minutes suggest problems with speed sensors, and also with the rudder in the tail. However, French investigators are still uncertain whether these were symptoms, or the principal causes, of the difficulties which overwhelmed the Airbus 330-200 flying from Rio to Paris on the night of 31 May and 1 June.

Autopsy reports on the first 16 bodies recovered from the ocean seem finally to have put to rest the theory that the aircraft was the victim of a terrorist attack. Details of the autopsies leaked to the Brazilian press at the weekend indicate that the bodies showed no sign of burning or damage from an explosion. The bodies were recovered whole, which is also said to be unusual after a mid-air explosion. Examination by X-ray revealed no evidence that the bodies had been penetrated by shards of metal.

The 50 corpses discovered so far were recovered in two groups over 50 miles apart. This suggests to some aviation experts that the aircraft may have disintegrated, fully or partially, in mid-air.

An aviation website, EuroCockpit, has also published the full details of the 24 automatic messages transmitted by the airbus to Air France headquarters in the minutes before it crashed. Much of this information – including the fact that the aircraft was transmitting erratic and conflicting speed recordings – had already been revealed.

The full details of the messages also show, however, that the aircraft may have had a problem with its “rudder limiter”, which prevents the main rudder, or steering device, in the tail from moving beyond its safe range. Aviation experts said that, in theory, if the rudder moved too far at speed, it could break off and take the “vertical stabiliser” – or main part of the tailplane – with it. The tailplane is the largest piece of wreckage from the A330-200 to have been recovered so far. However, the experts also point out that there was nothing in the automatic message which proved that the “rudder limiter” had failed, causing the crash.

The device might have simply locked itself into place because of the conflicting speed readings. “The message tells us that the rudder limiter was inoperative,” Jack Casey, an aviation safety expert in Washington told the Associated Press.

“It does not give you any reason why it is not working or what caused it, or what came afterward.”

It is believed that the erratic speed readings may have been caused by malfunctioning speed sensors – or pitot tubes – but it still remains unclear how this problem alone could have destroyed, or brought down, a modern aircraft so rapidly. No Mayday call or emergency radio message was sent by the pilot and co-pilot, suggesting that the aircraft fell apart or crashed while they were still going through their first, emergency response procedures.

A French nuclear submarine is searching the ocean depths up to 15,000ft below the crash site in the hope of picking up a message from the beacons fitted to the aircraft’s flight recorders. Senior French air crash investigation officials have warned that it may never be possible to explain the crash unless the recorders or “black boxes” are found. The location “pings” sent out by the boxes will cease in about two weeks’ time.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Sport
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballArsenal vs QPR match report
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
i100
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all