FERNANDO DE NORONHA, Brazil - An airplane seat, a fuel slick and pieces of white debris scattered over three miles of open ocean marked the site in the mid-Atlantic Tuesday where Brazilian officials said Air France Flight 447 crashed.
Brazilian military pilots spotted the wreckage, sad reminders bobbing on waves, in the ocean 400 miles northeast of these islands off Brazil's coast. The plane carrying 228 people from Rio de Janeiro to Paris went down in waters up to three miles deep Sunday night.
"I can confirm that the five kilometers of debris are those of the Air France plane," Defense Minister Nelson Jobim told reporters at a hushed press conference in Rio. He said no bodies had been found and there was no sign of life.
The effort to recover the debris and locate the all-important black box recorders, which emit signals for only 30 days, is expected to be exceedingly challenging.
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"We are in a race against the clock in extremely difficult weather conditions and in a zone where depths reach up to 7,000 meters (22,966 feet)," French Prime Minister Francois Fillon told lawmakers in parliament Tuesday .
Brazilian military pilots first spotted the floating debris early Tuesday in two areas about 35 miles (60 kilometers) apart, said Air Force spokesman Jorge Amaral. The area is not far off the flight path of Flight 447.
The cause of the crash will not be known until the black boxes are recovered - which could take days or weeks.
Remotely controlled submersible crafts will have to be used to recover wreckage settling so far beneath the ocean's surface. France dispatched a research ship equipped with unmanned submarines that can explore as deeply as 19,600 feet (6,000 meters).
The location could be identified with help from a U.S. Navy P-3C Orion surveillance plane - which can fly low over the ocean for 12 hours at a time and has radar and sonar designed to track submarines underwater - and a French AWACS radar plane joining the operation.