UK & World News

  • 19 March 2014, 7:11

Missing Plane: Air France Families 'Dismayed'

The families of the Air France flight AF447 crash victims have written a touching letter to the relatives of those on board the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, offering their support.

In the open letter, published by a German association of family members of the 228 people who were killed, they express their "sympathy and compassion in these days of utmost anxiety".

The letter is critical of the handling of the disappearance by authorities investigating the disappearance of flight MH370.

"We are completely dismayed about the vague and partially contradicting information policy by the Malaysian government," the families say.

They also urge the relatives of passengers, who hail from 14 different countries, to approach their respective national governments to put pressure on the Malaysian military and civil authorities to speed up their investigations and quickly release their findings.

The letter was shared on Facebook by the Families and Friends of American Eagle Flight 4184, a group set up after a plane crash in Indiana in 1994 killed all 68 people on board.

But it is the Air France tragedy which has so far drawn most comparisons with the Malaysia Airlines mystery.

It has been nearly five years since the Airbus A330 took off from Rio de Janeiro, bound for Paris.

On June 1, 2009, the plane plunged into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 228 passengers and crew on board.

Just like MH370, the jetliner disappeared from radar and a daunting search and rescue operation ensued.

Bodies and debris from the flight emerged in the days and weeks following the crash, but investigators took nearly two years to retrieve the main wreckage and black box recorders.

The final report into the disaster found the flight was doomed by a combination of ice build-up, mechanical failure and pilot error.

Aviation experts who were involved in the search for the Air France plane have arrived in Malaysia to help with the investigation.

It is hoped they might be able to help provide answers for the families of the 239 passengers and crew who, 12 days on, are still missing.

Some 26 countries are searching an area larger than Australia for any sign of the aircraft.

As China joined the hunt, angry relatives of the 154 people from the country who were on the plane threatened to go on hunger strike unless they were given more information from authorities.

Investigators have not uncovered any evidence suggesting there was a plot to hijack or bring down the aircraft, although both theories remain a possibility.

Authorities believe someone on board the flight intentionally switched off two vital pieces of communication equipment and deliberately diverted the aircraft.

Satellite data suggest the plane flew for at least seven hours.

The backgrounds of pilots Zaharie Ahmad Shah and Fariq Abdul Hamid are being checked, as are those of ground engineers who worked on the aircraft before it took off.