At just after half past 1 in the morning on the 1st of June 2009, An Airbus A330-203 cruises at 35,000 feet above the Southern Atlantic Ocean. The aircraft departed from Rio de Janeiro at 1030 pm and is about 3 hours into its 10 and a half flight to Paris Charles De Gaulle in France. On board are 216 passengers and 12 crew members. The Airbus has just passed a navigation waypoint known as INTOL which sits about 300 miles off the Brazilian coast. A navigation waypoint is a known reference point with a given set of coordinates and is useful for both the air traffic controllers and pilots to monitor the progress of an aircraft, especially when radar coverage is not available.  The captain of the aircraft makes contact with the Atlantico Area Control Centre, responsible for controlling air traffic in this particular region of the Southern Atlantic. The captain advises Atlantico that they have just passed the INTOL waypoint and their next waypoint will be SALPU in about 15 minutes, followed by ORARO 15 minutes after that. The Atlantico controller advises AF447 to contact Dakar, the next area control centre on the aircraft’s journey, after passing a further waypoint, TASIL. The pilots ask the Atlantico Area Control Centre to perform a test on a piece of their radio equipment. With the check successfully completed, the crew are advised to maintain their altitude of 35,000 feet. The captain acknowledges the instruction.

It is the last time anybody will hear from the crew of the Airbus A330.  What has begun as a routine flight across the Atlantic Ocean will become one of the most lengthy and complex air accident investigations in history.

You are listening to Inside The Black Box. This is the story of Air France Flight 447.

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