Spotlight: Air France Flight 447

Until debris from the missing aircraft began to surface on June 6, Air France Flight 447 and its 228 passengers and crew seemed to have vanished into thin air. There were no last-minute distress calls from the cockpit; just 24 automatic satellite messages--some indicating major system failures — relayed from the stricken plane to Air France maintenance headquarters. Even now, as recovery teams retrieve flotsam and victims' bodies, the black boxes that recorded the flight's final moments remain as much as 2 miles (3.2 km) deep.

That dearth of data...

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