RECIFE, Brazil - Searchers found two bodies and the first confirmed debris - a briefcase containing an Air France Flight 447 ticket - in the Atlantic Ocean near where the jetliner is believed to have crashed, a Brazil military official said yesterday.
The French agency investigating the disaster, meanwhile, said airspeed instruments were not replaced as the maker had recommended before the plane disappeared in turbulent weather last Sunday during a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris with 228 people aboard.
All were killed in the world's worst commercial air accident since 2001, and Air France's deadliest crash.
The bodies of two male passengers were recovered yesterday morning about 45 miles south of where Air France Flight 447 emitted its last signals - roughly 400 miles northeast of the Fernando de Noronha islands off Brazil's northern coast.
A Brazilian air force spokesman, Col. Jorge Amaral, said an Air France ticket was found inside a briefcase.
"It was confirmed with Air France that the ticket number corresponds to a passenger on the flight," he said.
Adm. Edison Lawrence of the Brazilian navy said the bodies were being transported to the Fernando de Noronha islands for identification. A backpack with a laptop and a vaccination card also was recovered.
The finds could potentially establish a more precise search area for the crucial black box flight recorders that could tell investigators why the jet crashed, although Brazilian authorities refused to comment on implications for the search.
The U.S. Navy is sending two high-tech devices to help French ships locate the recorders. A senior defense official said the Towed Pinger Locators, which can detect emergency beacons to a depth of 20,000 feet, are being flown to Brazil tomorrow with a U.S. Navy team.
Investigators have been searching a zone of several hundred square miles for debris. A blue plane seat with a serial number on it has been recovered - but officials were still trying to confirm with Air France that it was a seat belonging to Flight 477.
The French accident investigation agency, BEA, found the plane received inconsistent airspeed readings from different instruments as it struggled in a thunderstorm.
The investigation is increasingly focused on whether external instruments may have iced over, confusing speed sensors and leading computers to set the plane's speed too fast or slow - a potentially deadly mistake in severe turbulence.
Airbus recommended that all its airline customers replace instruments that help measure speed and altitude, known as Pitot tubes, on the A330, the model used for Flight 447, said Paul-Louis Arslanian, the head of the agency.
"They hadn't yet been replaced" on the plane that crashed, said Alain Bouillard, head of the French probe.
Air France issued a statement yesterday saying it began replacing the monitors on the Airbus A330 model on April 27 after an improved version became available.
The statement stressed the recommendation to change the monitor "allows the operator full freedom to totally, partially or not at all apply it." When safety is at issue, the aircraft maker puts out a mandatory service bulletin followed up by an airworthiness directive, not a recommendation.
The Air France statement said monitor icing at high altitude has led at times to loss of needed flying information, but only a "small number" of incidents linked to the monitors had been reported.
Air France has already replaced the Pitots on another Airbus model, the 320, after its pilots reported similar problems with the instrument, according to an Air France air safety report filed by pilots in January and obtained by the Associated Press.
The report followed an incident in which an Air France flight from Tokyo to Paris reported problems with its airspeed indicators similar to those believed to have been encountered by Flight 447. In that case, the Pitot tubes were found to have been blocked by ice.
Arslanian of the BEA cautioned that it was too early to draw conclusions about the role of Pitot tubes in the crash, saying that "it does not mean that without replacing the Pitots that the A330 was dangerous."