Debris from Air France Flight 447 Sent to France for Probe

More than 600 pieces of Air France Flight 447 are being sent from Brazil to France by ship to be studied further for clues into the June 1 crash, Airbus said Thursday.

The disaster overshadowed a meeting of Air France-KLM shareholders on Thursday, with pilots saying the company didn't do enough to prevent the plane from crashing into the Atlantic Ocean. All 228 people aboard were killed and the reason for the accident remains unclear.

French investigators say 640 parts of the plane — including a nearly intact tail, an engine cover, uninflated life jackets, seats and kitchen items — have been plucked from the Atlantic Ocean, some of them huge pieces that had to be handled by cranes. They were initially held in the Brazilian city of Recife.

While Brazil led the search operation after the crash, France is leading the investigation into the accident.

All the wreckage has been loaded on an Airbus cargo ship, the Ville de Bordeaux, and is en route to France, an Airbus official said. The official was not authorized to be named according to company policy.

She said the material will arrive in mid-July and be examined at a Defense Ministry aviation center in the southern city of Toulouse — where Airbus is headquartered — by French accident investigators and judicial police.

Air France-KLM shareholders began their annual meeting by observing a minute of silence in memory of the 228 victims.

His voice cracking with emotion, Air France-KLM Chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta told the nearly 1,000 shareholders gathered in the basement of the Louvre museum that the company would do whatever it takes to find the cause of the crash, "even if it is uncomfortable for the airline."

"There are injuries that never heal," Spinetta said, reminding shareholders that he had led Air France through two earlier crash investigations, the 1992 plane crash that killed 87 people at Sainte Odile in eastern France, and the Concorde crash in 2000.

Spinetta pledged that France-KLM would continue to act with "tact, compassion and decency" with the families of the crash victims, who came from 32 different countries.

"We share their pain completely," Spinetta said.

A half-dozen pilots from the Alter union handed out leaflets saying the pilots "have the painful feeling that not everything was done to avoid the crash of Flight 447" and that "the confidence of the personnel in the company's management is seriously affected."

The Airbus A330 plane crashed after running into severe thunderstorms en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

French crash investigators last week issued a preliminary report into the crash, finding that problems with the plane's speed sensors were one of several factors in the crash. It said the plane hit the ocean intact and belly first at a high rate of speed.

Experts have found no signs of an explosion or terrorist act in the crash investigation.