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Search begins off Brazil's coast for 'disappeared' Air France flight

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Bob Edme/AP

(Read caption) Air France company chairman Pierre Henri Gourgeon addresses reporters at the Air France headquarters at Paris's Charles De Gaulle airport Monday morning. He confirmed that an Air France Airbus A330 was missing between Rio de Janeiro and Paris, after it sent an automatic signal indicating electrical problems while going through an area of strong turbulence.

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RIO DE JANEIRO – How does a commercial airplane just disappear in the middle of a flight?

It's the question of the morning as an Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris has vanished over the Atlantic.

Air France Flight 447 took off from Rio at 7:00 p.m. local time Sunday night carrying 216 passengers and 12 crew members, but Brazil's Air Force says that the Airbus A330 passenger plane disappeared near the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha, a 7-square mile island about 186 miles northeast of the coastal Brazilian city of Natal.

The last contact with the plane was at 10:36 p.m. Brazil time.

Let the search begin

Brazil's Air Force has two planes searching for wreckage. One left from the city of Salvador and another from Recife.

“We have two planes up there searching,” said Air Force spokesman Col. Henry Munhoz. He refused to discuss causes, saying it would be speculation. He said one search aircraft was a Hercules and the other a Bandeirantes plane used specifically for such reconnaissance missions. However, he also cautioned that it was a "visual search" and was dependent on cloudless skies.

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