Air France boss to Toronto toinspect scene of plane drama

2nd August 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 3 (AFP) - The head of Air France, Cyril Spinetta, said he would arrive in Toronto later Wednesday to personally inspect the carbonised shell of one of his company's passenger jets, which burst into flames after landing, with no loss of life.

PARIS, Aug 3 (AFP) - The head of Air France, Cyril Spinetta, said he would arrive in Toronto later Wednesday to personally inspect the carbonised shell of one of his company's passenger jets, which burst into flames after landing, with no loss of life.

"I am leaving with the director general of air operations to be present in Toronto this afternoon and to personally make sure that all the operations are being carried out in a coordinated way," he told a media conference at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport.

Air France flight AF 358 overshot the runway at Toronto international airport and caught fire after landing in a storm late Tuesday.

All 309 people on board managed to escape via emergency slides, though 43 suffered minor injuries.

Spinetta said the Airbus A340 aircraft had left Paris with no sign of any technical problem.

As it approached Canada, Toronto's airport was initially closed because of violent storms in the region, but Canadian authorities had reopened it shortly before the Air France plane arrived in the airspace, he said.

Asked whether there was disagreement between the Air France cockpit crew and Canadia air traffic control over the opportunity to land in the storm, Spinetta responded: "It doesn't seem so, but I say that with caution."

The plane's 43-year-old co-pilot, a man with "very solid experience" and 10,700 flight hours behind him, was at the controls for the landing, he said.

He added that only an examination of the plane's black box flight recorder could give a clear idea of what went wrong.

Some passengers said they believed the aircraft had been struck by lightning.

But Air France's executive director, Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, sitting next to Spinetta at the media conference, said: "I don't think there was any lightning strike."

He noted that a sudden blackout of the plane's cabin lighting observed by several passengers occurred only "when the plane came to a stop."

Gourgeon also said the aircraft "was probably the first to land after the reopening of the runways, which were closed a maximum of 30 minutes."

The landing itself had been "normal," he said, an assertion backed by passenger accounts.

"But there was probably a lot of water on the runway," he added. "The weather conditions were severe."

Air France said the plane was entirely insured.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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