Air France pilot union attacks safety bodies

9th July 2009, Comments 3 comments

An Air France pilots' union accused French and European air safety bodies of failing to prevent the crash of flight AF447.

Paris – An Air France pilots' union accused French and European air safety bodies of failing to prevent the crash of flight AF447 by ignoring warnings about faulty speed probes, in a letter published Wednesday.

Speculation has swirled on the speed sensors which fed inconsistent readings to the cockpit just before the Airbus A330 plunged into the Atlantic on June 1, with investigators saying they were a "factor", if not the cause of the crash.

The SPAF union wrote to France's DGAC aviation authority and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), accusing both of ignoring a string of incidents involving defective airspeed, or pitot probes.

"For years the crews of A330/340 aircraft have been reporting cases of loss or variation of airspeed data in severe weather conditions," SPAF head Gerard Arnoux said in the letter.

"Appropriate measures" from either agency would have "helped prevent the sequence of events that led to the loss of control of the aircraft," which crashed en route from Rio to Paris killing 228 people, he charged.

Arnoux said it was the "responsibility" of both agencies to "force the manufacturer Airbus to make the necessary changes" to the defective sensors.

Contacted by AFP, the DGAC agency declined to respond to the charges. The EASA was not immediately reachable for comment.

The SPAF letter mentioned a presentation made to the EASA in September 2007 as proof the agency was aware Airbus pitot probes had suffered "a significant number of operating incidents linked to icing over or heavy rain."

According to an internal report seen by AFP in the wake of the crash, Airbus jets at Air France experienced at least nine incidents in which airspeed sensors, or pitot probes, iced over in the past year.

Air France decided on 12 June to upgrade all pitot probes on its long-haul fleet after protests from pilots, but neither the DGAC nor the EASA have asked Airbus or airlines to replace the sensors.

Conflicting airspeed data can cause the autopilot to shut down and in extreme cases lead the plane to stall or fly dangerously fast, causing a high-altitude break-up.

The French bureau leading the investigation into the AF447 crash, the BEA, said in a report last week that the airliner's defective speed sensors were a "factor but not the cause" of the accident.

The BEA also said that the plane did not break up in mid-air, explaining that it hit the water belly-first while moving at strong "vertical" speed.

AFP / Expatica

3 Comments To This Article

  • Tazz Tassone posted:

    on 14th July 2009, 07:53:22 - Reply

    No, I believe all these aircraft are just fine. Turned out the info I quoted was a hoax. I checked it out later, too late unfortunately, with and found it was stolen from an Episode of "Lost" a tv program I wasn't familiar with.
    When you think of the number of airlines who own and fly these aircraft ever day and have been doling so for several years and this is only the second suspected loss in all that time, that's a darn good safety record by any standards.
  • lillian reed posted:

    on 13th July 2009, 20:13:57 - Reply

    Are all 330's and 340's airbuses unsafe before "sensors" are relplaced? Iam concerned for my " safety" as Iam flying on an Airbus 340 to France in the near future' Please send me your reply
  • Tazz Tassone posted:

    on 12th July 2009, 09:30:07 - Reply

    Two Photos were found in a digital Casio Z750, amidst the remains of flight AF477. Although the camera was destroyed, the Memory Stick was recovered. Investigating the serial number of the camera, the owner was identified as Paulo G. Muller, an actor of a theatre for children known in the outskirts of Porto Alegre . It can be imagined that he was standing during the turbulence, he managed to take these photos. Just seconds after the tail loss the aircraft plunged.
    The structural stress probably ripped the engines away, diminishing the falling speed, protecting the electronic equipment a little.
    Paulo Muller leaves behind two daughters, Bruna and Beatriz.
    In the first photo, there is a gaping hole in the fuselage through which you can see the tail plane and vertical fin of the aircraft. In the second photo, one of the passengers is being sucked out of the gaping hole.
    If after seeing these photos you still believe the plane did not break up in mid-air, you're a better man than me Charley Brown. The size of the hole tells the story, it broke up in mid air. No question.