New search for Flight 447 to begin

LE BOURGET, France — A new $13.73 million international search for the remains of Air France Flight 447 will begin in mid-March, nearly nine months after it crashed in the Atlantic depths, France’s chief air accident investigator said today.

The search plan, involving U.S. and Norwegian ships, covers some 772 square miles of sea, said Jean-Paul Troadec, chief of the BEA investigation agency.

He said the first search efforts after the June 1 crash “were not fruitful.” Since then, “the investigation has stalled,” he said, without further information from the crash site, including from the black box flight recorders that would provide crucial information on what went wrong. The black boxes have not been found.

Families of victims of Air France Flight 447 have welcomed the new search effort.

John Clemes, whose brother was among the 228 people killed in the June 1 crash of the plane en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, says the search plan has “raised our hopes.” It was shared with the families today before the BEA presented it at a news conference.

“Our one regret is that it took so long” to resume searching that was halted last summer, Clemes told The Associated Press.

Troadec said the search site includes depths of up to 4,000 meters.

The new search will be jointly financed by Airbus and Air France. The U.S. Navy and the National Transportation Safety Board will help, along with accident experts from Britain, Germany, Russia and Brazil and private companies.

The lifespan of the so-called “pingers” attached to the black boxes is only about a month, but officials say submarines and boats equipped with sonar gear can find the wreckage from the Airbus 330 even without such signals.

Investigators “said the black boxes can survive that kind of an impact and that time under water,” Clemes said.

The second and most recent search for the black boxes ended in August.

Investigators have insisted that the crash was likely caused by a series of failures, but that they won’t know definitively without the black boxes.

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