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Air France Relatives Have Sad Bond With Malaysia Air Families

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

As the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the 239 people on board has continued over the past 12 days, there have been many reminders about the fate of Air France Flight 447.

En route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, the jet and the 228 people on board went down in the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil on June 1, 2009. Investigators eventually determined that "human and technical factors" were to blame.

As we reported in July 2012:

"The Airbus A330's speed sensors, known as pitot tubes, may have frozen over, giving false readings, the investigators said. ... According to the report, while Flight 447's pilot was on break, one of the co-pilots misread the plane's speed because of the faulty sensors and nosed up instead of down, as he should have. The plane was unable to recover from the stall and crashed."

The most obvious parallel to the Malaysia Airlines case: the prolonged wait to find out what happened and to recover any of the passengers' remains.

While debris from the Air France flight was spotted five days after the crash, it was nearly two years before major pieces of the wreckage and human remains could be recovered from the ocean floor, 2 1/2 miles below the surface. It took three years for investigators to determine what brought down the plane.

Now, some of the families of those who died when Air France 447 crashed have reached out, via Facebook, to those who are awaiting word about the 239 people aboard the Malaysia Airlines flight.

Here's a letter, as posted in English, from families of Germans who were aboard Air France 447:

"Dear All,

"On behalf of the families of the German victimes of flight AF447, which crashed on 1st of June 2009, we would like to express to you our sympathy and compassion in these days of utmost anxiety about the fate of your beloved ones on flight MH370.

"Alike you we are completely dismayed about the vague and partially contradicting information policy by the Malaysian Government. As MH370 is an international flight and booked by passengers from various countries you as families should feel entitled to approach your respective national Governments to put pressure on the Malysian military and civil authorities to speed up the investigations and to care for quicker release of findings.

"We also encourage you to demand together with your national Governments right now and in addition to ICAO Annex 13 (Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation) a neutral investigation to be carried out by compentent experts of your choice in order to safeguard full transparency and best pratices be applied. In this respect the families concerned should also envisage a legal incorporation in form of an association in their respective homecountries.

"As to immediate financial aid we recommend that you demand from Malaysia Airlines a first installment out of 113,100 special drawing rights according to the Montreal Convention of 28th May 1999.

"Watching your case very carefully and sending you our sincerest wishes."

ICAO Annex 13 refers to the "international standards and recommended practices" agreement on aircraft accident investigations.

The anguish that those waiting for word of the Malaysia Airlines flight's fate was underscored today with the news that:

"Distraught family members of Chinese passengers who were on Malaysia Airlines flight 370 stormed a meeting room at a Kuala Lumpur hotel where government officials were due to hold a daily press briefing.

" 'Where are my sons? I need to know where they are!' wailed one woman from Beijing. ...

"Shortly before the press conference started, security guards led the protesters away and locked them in a room opposite the conference hall."

(From the South China Morning Post.)

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Source: NPR

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