Signals from the flight data recorders of the Air France airliner that crashed into the Atlantic killing all 228 people on board have been located, a French newspaper claimed today.
However, a military spokesman later cast doubt on the reports.
“The research continues, we have not found the black boxes so far,” Christophe Prazuck, the spokesman for the military, said in a telephone interview.
“The vessels on site caught several signals but none of them so far have proven to be the black boxes. The signals caught were fleeting. The black box signal is a very clear, recognisable.”
A spokeswoman from the BEA, the French air accident authority, noted that many sounds were picked up on the sea bed and investigators were not sure that what they had detected was from the flight recorders.
"It's not the first time sounds have been heard and we will be verifying this with all the equipment we have at our disposal," she said. "The search is continuing and we haven't found the recorders."
Le Mondenewspaper said on its website that French naval vessels had picked up a weak signal from the flight recorders and that a mini submarine had been dispatched yesterday to try and find the "black boxes" on the bottom of the rugged ocean floor.
The "black boxes" may contain vital information that could help explain what happened when the Airbus A330 aircraft crashed into the sea en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on June 1st.
Locator beacons, known as "pingers", on the flight recorders send an electronic impulse every second for at least 30 days. The signal can be heard up to 2km (1.2 miles) away.
French vessels involved in the search operation include a nuclear submarine with advanced sonar equipment and a research ship equipped with mini submarines.
The remote location in the Atlantic as well as the depth and surface of the ocean floor have made the search especially difficult and the wreckage could lie anywhere between a depth of 1km (0.6 miles) and 4km (2.5 miles).