Air France plane with 228 on board crashes into Atlantic Ocean

An Air France jet carrying 228 people from Rio de Janeiro has gone missing on its way to Paris and is suspected to have crashed into the Atlantic Ocean after it was hit by lightning and strong thunderstorms, the airlines said in a statement.

 Air France Flight 447, an Airbus A330, left Rio on Sunday at 7 pm local time (2200 GMT) with 216 passengers and 12 crew members on board, company spokeswoman Brigitte Barrand said in the statement.

The plane is believed to have ran into stormy weather four hours after taking off as many of its mechanisms malfunctioned under the influence of the thunderstorm.

Air France said the plane sent an automatic signal indicating electrical problems while going through strong turbulence, four hours after it hit the thunderstorm.

Brazilian Air Force has launched a  search mission off its northeastern coast, but said its last contact with the Air France jet was at 0136 GMT and was not sure of its position at that time.

Air Force planes are searching near the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, about 300 km northeast of the coastal city of Natal.