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Search narrows for Air France Flight 447 black boxes

Based on a new analysis of sonar "pings," French investigators are focusing attention on a smaller area of the Atlantic to continue the hunt for the black boxes that could reveal why the Air France Flight 447 crashed last June.

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French general Christian Baptiste speaks during a news conference about the location of Air France black boxes from the 2009 crash in Paris on Thursday. The location of black box recorders, from Air France Flight AF447 crash between Rio de Janeiro and Paris that killed 228 people, has been sharply narrowed down in the Atlantic Ocean.

Benoit Tessier/Reuters

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French investigators have narrowed the search area in the hunt for the flight data recorders from the tragic Air France Flight 447 crash, boosting the possibility that relatives of victims and aviation experts will someday know why the Brazil-to-France flight crashed into the Atlantic last June.

But the prospect of locating the black boxes, believed now to be somewhere in an area approximately the size of Paris, in terrain that resembles the Andes, remains a formidable task. “It’s smaller than the southern Atlantic ocean,” says Robert Mann, president of R.W. Mann & Company, aviation consultants in Port Washington, N.Y. “But it’s one particular haystack among a field of haystacks.”

The Air France 447 flight, which took off from Rio De Janiero en route to Paris, crashed June 1, killing all 228 people on board. Until the black boxes are recovered, there is little hope that the true cause of the disaster will ever be known. According to a preliminary report, seen by the French newspaper Liberation on April 25, nine pitot tubes were considered "degraded" by experts who examined them. Bad weather and faulty pitot tubes (the airspeed sensors) have been oft-cited theories as to the disappearance of the flight.

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