Air France Official: 'We Can Fear the Worst'

"We don't have enough information to really put a storyline together, and it may not be possible to put an accurate storyline together, especially if the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder are never recovered," Feith said.

What Air France does know is that 10 automated messages were sent directly from the plane to maintenance at 10:14 p.m. after it experienced turbulence and a thunderstorm, saying the plane had experienced an "electrical short circuit."

"That is certainly something we can thank the modern day technology for," said William Voss, president and CEO of Flight Safety Foundation. "Airlines have to keep very close track of their aircraft for maintenance purposes. So when even routine things go wrong, they get a message right away so there is somebody waiting to fix the airplane."

"It sort of provides us a trail of clues and a trail of communications with this aircraft," he said.

If found, the plane's black boxes would also provide many more clues about what happened. Experts said the black boxes emit signals, although only for a finite period of time, in the water.

Reeves of AccuWeather.com said planes typically fly at about 35,000-37,000 feet. Storms in the tropics can be as high as 50,000 feet.

"In that part of the tropics, with as high as the thunderstorms are, it can be difficult having to go hundreds and hundreds of miles out of your way in order to just get to the point you're trying to get to," Reeves said.

Voss said, "We are really talking about extreme circumstances here. And so a rainy night out of LaGuardia isn't what we are talking about. We are talking about situations that are very extreme, very severe turbulence is assumed occurred here. And there's not many of us -- not even many pilots that have really experienced severe turbulence. You would know it if you had."

The Brazilian Air Force said in a statement that it was anticipating radio contact with the plane when it was still over northeast Brazil. When it received no radio communication, Brazilian air traffic control contacted air traffic control in Dakar, Senegal. There was no Mayday call and no nearby planes received a call for help on the international emergency frequency.

Air France said the captain of the flight had more than 11,000 hours of flight time, including 1,700 hours on A330/A340.

State Department Confirms Two Americans Were Onboard

Hope is now fading for the passengers and crew of the missing aircraft, which include seven children, a baby, 126 men and 82 women.

Meanwhile, more information about who was on board when the plane disappeared is starting to trickle out from various countries.

U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood confirmed today that two Americans were on board and that the U.S. government is in touch with their families. He did not name them.

Air France released the nationalities of passengers, including 61 French, 58 Brazilians and people from nearly 30 countries. All 12 members of the crew on the plane were French, according to airline.

Embassy consular staff are at the airports in both countries to assist concerned loved ones.

The plane's manufacturer, Airbus, released a statement saying it would be "inappropriate for Airbus to enter into any form of speculation into the causes of the accident.

"The concerns and sympathy of the Airbus employees go to the families, friends and loved ones affected by the accident," the statement read.

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