The plane indicated it was still flying normally more than three hours later as it left Brazil radar contact, beyond the Fernando de Noronha archipelago, at 10:48 local time (0148 GMT, 9:48 p.m. EDT). It was flying at 35,000 feet (10,670 meters) and traveling at 522 mph (840 kph).
About a half-hour later, the plane “crossed through a thunderous zone with strong turbulence.” It sent an automatic message fourteen minutes later at 0214 GMT (10:14 p.m. EDT Sunday) reporting electrical failure and a loss of cabin pressure.
Air France told Brazilian authorities the last information they heard was that automated message, reporting a technical problem before the plane reached a monitoring station near the Cape Verde islands. Brazilian, African, Spanish and French air traffic controllers tried in vain to establish contact with the plane, the company said.
Brazilian Air Force spokesman Col. Jorge Amaral said seven aircraft had been deployed to search the area far off the northeastern Brazilian coast. Brazil’s Navy sent three ships.
“We want to try to reach the last point where the aircraft made contact, which is about 745 miles (1,200 kilometers) northeast of Natal,” Amaral told Globo TV.
Meteorologists said tropical storms are much more violent than thunderstorms in the United States and elsewhere.
“Tropical thunderstorms … can tower up to 50,000 feet (15,240 meters). At the altitude it was flying, it’s possible that the Air France plane flew directly into the most charged part of the storm — the top,” Henry Margusity, senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.com, said in a statement.
Portuguese air control authorities say the missing plane did not make contact with controllers in Portugal’s mid-Atlantic Azores Islands nor, as far as they know, with other Atlantic air traffic controllers in Cape Verde, Casablanca, or the Canary islands.
In Washington, a Pentagon official said he’d seen no indication that terrorism or foul play was involved. He spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the subject.
The 216 passengers included 126 men, 82 women, 7 children and a baby, Air France said. There were 61 French and 58 Brazilians; 30 other countries were represented, including two Americans.
The mystery is that this was a modern jet which was designed to be able to take a direct lightning strike.
… They are designed to direct the current from a strike along the outside of the aircraft, and also away from the engines. On average, planes are struck by lightning twice a year, but continue to fly safely. – cfnews13
Isn’t there some kind of radio signal they can locate from a black box on the jet? If not lightning, what? There are many possibilities. I found it interesting that there is at least one case of an Air France pilot seeing a UFO and reporting it.