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Air France Advance: Crash Victims' Families To Receive $24,000

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PARIS — Air France focused on aiding families of victims from the crash of Flight 447, offering a first advance on compensation on Friday while investigators worked quietly to solve the mystery of what brought the jet down.

The top European air safety agency said, meanwhile, there was not yet enough evidence to issue a mandatory recall of an external air speed monitor suspected of contributing to the disaster.

Air France chief executive Phillipe Gourgeon told RTL radio that the airline plans to make an advance of about euro17,500 ($24,400) for each of the 228 victims, with no strings attached.

He said it is also may hold a memorial for all the victims of the May 31 crash, Gourgeon said.

Some relatives of French victims have accused Air France of a lack of sympathy and of failing to keep them informed about the crash investigation.

But Gourgeon said the airline has had trouble even reaching some relatives of victims, who came from 32 countries. He said that sometimes the only contact number for a victim is from a mobile phone that was lost in the crash.

Investigators say an automated message sent by the plane minutes before it lost contact indicates it was receiving inconsistent speed readings from external monitors called Pitot tubes.

Air France has replaced the Pitot tubes on all its A330 and A340 aircraft, under pressure from pilots who feared a link to the accident.

But Daniel Hoeltgen, a spokesman for the Cologne, Germany-based European Aviation Safety Agency, said Friday there was not enough evidence to warrant a mandatory order that all airlines replace the part.

"We continue our technical evaluation, and we're looking to the accident investigation for further findings, but there will not be an air worthiness directive today," he said.

A Brazilian naval ship, meanwhile, arrived in the coastal city of Recife with a significant amount of debris and passengers' baggage, adding to hundreds of pieces of debris that experts are studying for clues to the cause of the accident.

Several of the chunks of wreckage were so large that a crane was needed to lift them off the ship.

In a joint statement, Brazil's navy and air force said that search crews recovered only debris on Friday.

Good weather on Friday aided searchers from Brazil, France, the United States and other countries who are methodically scanning the Atlantic for signs of debris or flight recorders from the plane, which experts say may have broken up in the air after flying into thunderstorms.

French-chartered ships are pulling U.S. Navy underwater listening devices through a search area with a radius of 50 miles (80 kilometers), trying to detect the black boxes, now deep at sea, that might have the most detailed description of what happened to the plane.

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Associated Press writers Melissa Eddy in Berlin and Bradley Brooks in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

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