The more complete chronology was first published on Wednesday June 3rd, 2009 by Brazil's O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, citing an unidentified Air France source. The Associated Press confirmed the information with an industry official who had knowledge of the investigation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details of the probe. According to the official, here's what's believed to have happened:
The last manual message from the pilot of Air France Flight 447 indicated the plane was headed into a storm. At 11:00 P.M., the pilot manually signaled that he was entering an area of "CBs" — black, electrically charged cumulonimbus clouds that come with violent winds and lightning. Satellite data examined after the fact showed towering thunderheads sending 100 mph updraft winds into the jet's flight path.
Ten minutes later (11:10 P.M.) a flurry of automated messages began: The autopilot had disengaged, a key computer system had switched to alternative power. Controls needed to keep the plane stable had been damaged. An alarm sounded indicating which flight systems had deteriorated.
Three minutes after that (11:13 P.M.), systems needed to monitor air speed, altitude and direction failed, and then the main flight computer and wing spoilers failed as well.
The last message, at 11:14 P.M. reported loss of cabin pressure and complete electrical failure — catastrophic events in a plane that was likely already plunging toward the ocean.
"This clearly looks like the story of the airplane coming apart," the official said. "We just don't know why it did, but that is what the investigation will show." At this time, they cannot be sure if the plane broke apart upon ocean impact, or if it began breaking apart in mid-air.
To determine why the mishap occurred, the black box must be located. The lead French investigator, Paul-Louis Arslanian, is not optimistic; he said the black boxes might never be found due to fierce tropical weather and undersea mountains and valleys that drop as much as three miles down. The black boxes, which are designed to survive crushing ocean depths, only emit a signal for 30 days. A French research ship with remotely controlled submersibles that can explore as deeply as 19,600 feet (6,000 meters) is scheduled to arrive in the area next week. But ocean depths in the area reach nearly 23,000 feet.
The presence of a 12-mile-long oil slick in the crash area is stifling official speculation about terrorism, since oil stains on the water might exclude the possibility of an explosion, meaning little chance of a fire. However, an anonymous Air France pilot thinks differently. According to this story in NewstrackIndia and also in Metro.co.uk and the Daily Star, the pilot says that it is "highly likely" that flight AF447 may have been blown up by a terrorist bomb. The pilot dismissed the theory the doomed jet suffered catastrophic electrical failure. He also ruled out suggestions that the pilot of the Rio de Janeiro to Paris flight had tried to land on the sea.
He backed up his contention by saying that Air France received a telephone threat against a flight from Argentina to Paris just four days before AF447 vanished without sending a May Day message. He also stated that "If there was an explosion on board, the wreckage would have been spread over a very wide area, as it was. So in my opinion there is no other option than the highly likely theory that a bomb went off on the plane - perhaps even a large bomb that destroyed it in mid-air leaving no chance to send a message."
However, the terrorist theory raises two puzzling questions. First, why has no one taken responsibility? Terrorists are attention whores - they're always looking for headlines. Second, why target Brazil, or for that matter, even France. Yes, France has had domestic problems with their Muslims torching the suburbs, but I don't see why a terrorist organization would target France at this time.