Monday, June 1, 2009

Air France Jet with 228 onboard missing,

ARIS, France (CNN -- An Air France passenger aircraft carrying 228 people has disappeared off the coast of Brazil, officials say.

The incident involves an Air France Airbus A330-200.

The airline told CNN the Airbus A330-200 jet was making the 11-hour flight from Rio de Janeiro to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris when contact was lost.

Brazil's air force launched a search near the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha in the Atlantic Ocean, 365 km (226 miles) from Brazil's coast, a spokesman for the air force told CNN.

Two Brazilian squadrons are searching for the plane, although it disappeared after it left the country's radar space, said the officer, who declined to be named.

The flight, AF 447, took off shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday local time (6 p.m. Sunday ET) for the 11-hour flight, with 216 passengers and 12 crew members. It was scheduled to land in Paris at 11:15 a.m. local time (5:15 a.m. ET).

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

Air France said it could not confirm reports of a short circuit on board the aircraft.

The airline said it "shared the emotion and the concern of the families concerned" adding that friends and relatives waiting at the airport would be taken to a special area.

A crisis center is being set up at Charles de Gaulle where the plane had been due to land at 11.15 a.m. local time.

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

"We are very worried," an aviation official told AFP. "The plane disappeared from the screens several hours ago. It could be a transponder problem, but this kind of fault is very rare and the plane did not land when expected."


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