Air France fingers Airbus, Thales over 2009 crash

26th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Air France has told judges probing a 2009 jet crash that it was not to blame and indirectly accused manufacturers Airbus and Thales over faulty speed probes, a source close to the inquiry told AFP.

"No breach of rules can be established on the part of Air France," the airline said in a memo, after detailing events leading up to last June's crash of flight AF-447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, which killed all 228 on board.

The source said that the 15-page memo, obtained by AFP, was "recently" handed over to investigating magistrate Sylvie Zimmermann in Paris and to experts involved in probing the Airbus A330-200's crash.

The French transport ministry said on Thursday that it will conduct another search for the flight's wreckage from February next year.

Crash investigators have said in previous reports that the plane's Pitot airspeed monitors, manufactured by French company Thales, were giving false readings, but said this could not have been the sole cause of the disaster.

A series of automatic error messages were emitted by the onboard flight computer shortly before the plane disappeared from radar.

Other Airbus flight crews had reported anomalies with the probes ahead of the Air France crash.

"The chronological analysis shows that Air France was constantly proactive in trying to remedy events linked to the malfunctioning of the Pitot probes," the Air France document said.

"Airbus and Thales felt that these events were minor and without potentially catastrophic consequences," the airline said, in what the source said was an indirect criticism of the manufacturers.

But it added: "It is impossible to establish with certainty a cause and effect link between the Pitot probes' malfunctioning and the accident."

Air France's memo also clears the flight's crew of any responsibility in the crash.

An airline spokesman confirmed to AFP that the airline's lawyer Fernand Garnault had handed over to the judge and her experts a memo "relating the entirety of elements in its possession concerning the accident."

"This memorandum proceeds with a chronological factual description," he said. "It is for the investigating magistrate and not to be communicated to the press. As a result, Air France has no comment to make."

Lawyers acting for the families of the victims allege that the faulty Pitots, which were prone to icing and have now been replaced on other Airbus jets around the world, were to blame for the disaster.

© 2010 AFP

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