Brazilian Air Force spots debris: Is it the Air France jet?

An orange buoy, an aircraft seat, and oil sighted near to Flight 447's last reported position.

By , Correspondent

The Brazilian Air Force may have found debris from the Air France flight that disappeared Monday.

Brazil’s Air Force officials say that at 1 a.m. local time Tuesday, an R-99 reconnaissance plane spotted an orange buoy, an aircraft seat, a drum, kerosene and oil near to the plane’s last reported position.

Brazilian Air Force Col. Jorge Amaral was quoted as saying, “We cannot confirm that it is the Air France plane. We need to get these pieces out the water first.”

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An Air Force statement said the R-99 aircraft initially spotted metal in the water approximately 650 kilometers (400 miles) northeast of the island of Fernando de Noronha, an idyllic archipelago off Brazil’s coast.

However, the plane did not land or identify the debris. Authorities narrowed down their search area to this region.

Another Brazilian aircraft, a C-130, returned to the scene and found materials 60 kilometers (37 miles) away from the original debris. It was not clear if it was the same debris and had drifted on ocean currents, or if it was different debris.

The pieces must be retrieved to be analyzed for code numbers to verify if they belonged to the missing Air France Airbus 300-200, officials reportedly said.

But Brazilan media reports say that it could take another day for ships to reach the debris site.

Ten planes are currently involved in the search along with an unspecified number of ships.

What brought it down?

Pilots and aviation experts have cast doubt on the theory that the aircraft was downed by lightning. Air France reported an electrical-circuit breakdown and that the aircraft had sent 10 automated distress messages before it vanished.

John Nance, a pilot who runs an aviation-consulting business in Seattle, told Bloomberg News, “That’s the kind of message you receive from a dying, breaking-up airplane.”

The plane probably ran into a 300-kilometer- (186-mile-) wide wall of thunderstorms and broke up before pilots could issue a mayday call, Denny Fitch, a retired United Airlines pilot and consultant told Bloomberg “Whatever it was, it happened very quickly,” he said.

Flight 447 was flying through an area where severe tropical storms are common, and increasingly aviation experts are speculating that this was the cause of the plane’s demise.

The French site, www.techno-science.net, says:

French search off Cape Verde

While Brazilian teams concentrated their search on an area north of Fernando de Noronha, the French military sent aircraft and ships to a region west of the Cape Verde Islands.

Pilots flying the route from Paris to Rio de Janeiro Monday reported seeing “fire” in the ocean.

"There is information that the pilot of a TAM aircraft saw several orange points on the ocean while flying over the region ... where the Air France plane disappeared," Brazilian Air Force spokesman Colonel Amaral said.

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